My favorite author in the whole wide world and I (and our favorite quadruped) thought we’d get you all caught up on what we’ve been up to this summer and what’s in store for us this fall.
When I visited with the fourth graders at Graham Elementary here in Austin this past April, they followed up with many questions — and artwork. Such as this recreation of one of Don Tate’s illustrations in The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:
That drawing of John Roy Lynch is just an example of the great stuff they sent. I believe I’m overdue in answering their questions. So…
Do you enjoy making children’s books?
Yes, I do. I think it’s the perfect job for me.
Do you like animals?
Not all of them, but I like a lot more animals than I dislike.
What inspired you to become an author?
My toddler son wanted me to tell him over and over the story of how I installed a smoke alarm in our house. I wrote that story down, and it was awful, but it got me going.
How long have you been writing?
Almost as long as I’ve been reading. The first story of mine that I know of is one that I wrote in second grade, “The Ozzie Bros. Meet the Monsters.”
Will you make chapter books?
I sure hope so. I’ve written a nonfiction book called Can I See Your I.D.? that had ten chapters, and I wrote a short story for a YA collection, and I hope that I will have more longer-than-a-picture-book fiction published.
How many books have you written?
88 Instruments, which was published just yesterday, is my tenth published book. I’ve written many more that have not been published.
Where do you get your ideas from?
All over. Things I see, things I read about, ideas that pop into my head while I’m running, suggestions from friends and editors — these are just some examples.
How old were you when you started to do books?
I was 29 when I realized I wanted to write books for kids, and almost 38 when my first book was published.
What inspired you to write the book “The Ozzie Bros. Meet the Monsters”?
Star Wars, the Muppets, and Abbott and Costello movies where they meet famous Hollywood monsters.
Do you have any books about your dog?
Not yet, but there are dogs in some of my manuscripts that sure remind me of Ernie.
Do you talk in a different language?
I’ve started relearning the Spanish that I began forgetting after my sophomore year in high school. Duolingo says I’m now 4% fluent.
Have you ever visited different countries?
I went to Mexico and Canada when I was growing up, and this past spring I traveled to Singapore to visit the Singapore American School. That trip included some time wandering around an airport in Qatar.
Have you been on tour?
Yes — to schools in Utah last December to celebrate my nonfiction book The Nutcracker Comes to America, and to cities in Texas and Oklahoma this past spring, in support of my book Mighty Truck.
Have you ever experienced difficult, frustrating times?
I sure have. I’ve been lucky to have family and friends to lean on during those times.
How many awards have you won?
I don’t know how many, but I can tell you the biggest: My first book, The Day-Glo Brothers, won a Sibert Honor from the American Library Association.
And that’s it! Thank you for the great questions, fourth graders — now FIFTH graders! — at Graham Elementary.
The author bio for my picture book being published today, 88 Instruments, says: “Chris Barton doesn’t have a favorite instrument, but his favorite piece is Rhapsody in Blue because it has everything there is to love about music.”
But I don’t mean just ANY recording of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. I mean THIS version, by Marcus Roberts. I think you’ll absolutely love it.
Yesterday morning marked the debut of a new presentation with a longtime friend.
As you may know, Don Tate and I have created two picture books together: The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch and Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions.
Yesterday, we got to present about our journey “From Critique Partners to Collaborators” at the monthly meeting of the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, after which Don received the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for his book Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. (Congratulations, Don!)
Preparing for this presentation meant plunging into our electronic archives as well as the memories stored up in our heads, and the process was a lot of fun for us both.
The big takeaway of our presentation was a set of ten tips equally applicable to critique partners and collaborators alike, based on our own experiences with each other over these past 11 years. But we opened with this timeline, which we thought might be of interest to folks who weren’t able to attend yesterday’s meeting.
First (documented) contact!
First manuscript critique
First lunch together
First road trip together
Chris suggests Don write about George Moses Horton.
Don critiques unfinished first draft of Chris’ manuscript, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers acquires The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.
Chris recommends Don to Eerdmans as candidate to illustrate The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.
Charlesbridge Publishing agrees to publish biography of Lonnie Johnson written by Chris.
Don is announced as illustrator of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.
Chris recommends Don to Charlesbridge as illustrator of Lonnie Johnson book.
Peachtree Publishers acquires Don’s biography of George Moses Horton.
Don is announced as illustrator of Whoosh!
Chris and Don make first in-person appearances as author-illustrator team.
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is published.
Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton is published.
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions is published.
And that’s just the high-level version — the nitty-gritty could take up a month of blog posts. But if you’re involved with a conference or organization that would be interested in hearing more of the story, well, maybe we’ll just have to update our timeline to include you.
Or, more formally, “A Comprehensive List of U.S. College- and University-Sponsored or -Hosted Children’s and Young Adult Literature Conferences, Festivals, and Symposia.” (All of them that I could find, anyway).
A few years ago, I was looking for such a list, wondered why I couldn’t find one, and decided to just go ahead and make one myself.
Since then, I’ve periodically updated and reposted it, and I plan to continue doing so. If I’ve missed any, or included some that no longer exist, won’t you please let me know in the comments section?
University of Arizona Tucson Festival of Books
University of Redlands Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival
Metropolitan State University of Denver and University of Colorado at Denver Colorado Teen Literature Conference (I’ve updated the post to include this one. Thank you for the suggestion, Angie Manfredi!)
University of Connecticut Connecticut Children’s Book Fair
Stetson University M. Jean Greenlaw Children’s Literature Conference
University of South Florida 2017 Children’s Literature Association Conference (ChLA 2017)
Kennesaw State University Conference on Literature for Children and Young Adults
The University of Georgia Conference on Children’s Literature
Chaminade University of Honolulu Conference on Literature and Hawai’i’s Children
Anderson University Elizabeth York Children’s Literature Collection & Festival
Northern Kentucky University, Thomas More College, University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University Ohio Kentucky Indiana Children’s Literature Conference
Kansas State University Conference of Children’s Literature in English, Education, and Library Science (I’ve updated the post to include this one. Thank you for the suggestion, Priscilla Mizell!)
Framingham State University Swiacki Children’s Literature Festival
Lesley University What’s New in Children’s Books Annual Conference
Simmons College Children’s Literature Summer Institute
The University of Southern Mississippi Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival
Concordia University Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival
University of Nevada, Las Vegas Gayle A. Zeiter Young Adult and Children’s Literature Conference
Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival
Montclair State University New Jersey Council of Teachers of English Spring Conference
Rutgers University One-on-One Plus Conference
Stony Brook University – Southampton Southampton Children’s Literature Conference
Bowling Green State University Literacy in the Park
Kent State University Virginia Hamilton Conference
The University of Findlay Mazza Museum Summer Conference and Weekend Conference
Youngstown State University English Festival
Kutztown University Children’s Literature Conference
Middle Tennessee State University Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival
Texas A&M University – Commerce Bill Martin Jr Memorial Symposium
The College of William and Mary Joy of Literacy and Literature Conference
Hollins University Francelia Butler Conference
Longwood University Summer Literacy Institute and Virginia Children’s Book Festival
Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference
Western Washington University Children’s Literature Conference
I spent this morning delving into various archives to piece together a chronology of the relationship Don Tate and I have enjoyed as friends, critique partners, and collaborators. Our history stretches back to way before the publication of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch in 2015 and of Whoosh! earlier this year.
I know this exercise sounds like sheer entertainment and everyone’s idea of a good time, but there’s also a practical reason for this exercise: Don and I are presenting to Austin SCBWI on August 13 about our experiences as a manuscript-critiquing and book-creating duo.
As far as I can tell, our initial communication was in a comment Don left on my brand-spanking-new blog in July 2005. And I can tell you that it then took us about 4 1/2 months of talking about having lunch before we actually got around to having lunch for the first time, in December 2005. He picked up the check at Brick Oven Pizza.
Don and I got our acts together somewhat and managed to pull off a road trip to San Antonio a mere month later for the 2006 midwinter meeting of the American Library Association. Here’s the account I wrote about that event, which also happened to be the first time I met my literary agent, Erin Murphy, in person. It was a great weekend that looks even better in retrospect.
To get Bartography Express in your inbox each month — and to have a shot at the August giveaway of 88 Instruments, my new book with illustrator Louis Thomas — you can sign up on my home page.
“[W]hen every man, woman, and child can feel and know that his, her, and their rights are fully protected by the strong arm of a generous and grateful Republic, then we can all truthfully say that this beautiful land of ours, over which the Star Spangled Banner so triumphantly waves, is, in truth and in fact, the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.'”
Spoken by John Roy Lynch in 1875. He was talking about the future.
Still true in 2016. And it’s still the future that we’re talking about. Not the present. Not yet.
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions was among the Notable Children’s Books Nominees discussed by the Association for Library Service to Children during the American Library Association’s annual conference in Orlando last month. I’m not sure how nervous I would have been while hearing my book discussed in such a public setting, so it’s just as well that I had to leave the conference earlier that morning.
Publishers Weekly‘s PW KidsCast features this 17-minute conversation with me about Whoosh! (among other things).
The July/August issue of The Horn Book Magazine reviews Whoosh!, remarking on the book’s straightforward approach to Lonnie Johnson’s ups and downs, the “upbeat, you-can-do-it attitude,” and Don Tate’s eye for period detail in his illustrations (“from pegged jeans to bell-bottoms to cut-off shorts with knee socks”). The issue also includes a Q&A — literally, one Q and one A — with me about writing about a living person.
Shelf Awareness says, “Barton’s clean, lively prose and Tate’s boldly composed, often comical illustrations–including a dramatic gatefold capturing the Super Soaker’s mighty trajectory–make Lonnie Johnson’s story of passion and persistence whoosh to life.”
First Book, which provides access to new books for children in need, calls Whoosh! “perfect for budding scientists and engineers” and has listed it among Our Five Favorite Books this July.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science includes Whoosh! in Summer Reading: Invention and Innovation (“Our list of books to spark creativity for kids of all ages!”).
The National Science Teachers Association points out that Whoosh! “focuses on an unlikely character who is not privileged, but has a persistence and patience that will act as a role model for all young inventors. A great depiction of an inventor with the ‘right stuff’!”
The Nonfiction Detectives say that “Whoosh! is an inspiring story that will make children delight in what is possible.”
Alcalde, my college alumni magazine, notes the book’s “appeal to young inventors everywhere.”
The Booklist Reader says that “For elementary schools and public library collections, [Whoosh!] is a must.”
The Toledo Blade calls Whoosh! a “story of dreams and perseverance.”
Sonder Books says, “It’s hard to imagine a more kid-friendly picture book biography.”
And finally, here’s what Here Wee Read had to say about Whoosh!:
This book teaches kids things like: creativity, problem-solving, tenacity, grit, patience, rejection, and hard work. I’d highly recommend this book for kids who have a love for rockets, inventions, water guns, and a mind for creativity. Also great for studying Black inventors. I think they will enjoy learning about the many challenges Lonnie faced and how he solved his problems. A fun summertime read!
Thank you all who have embraced this book. I sincerely appreciate it. I hope you all have a blast this summer — and I can recommend just the toy to help you with that…
Before Lonnie became known as the inventor of the Super Soaker water gun, he worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Galileo orbiter and probe. Here’s a piece of the spread where Whoosh! goes into some detail about Lonnie’s contribution to that mission:
Lonnie’s backup system had Galileo‘s back. “Much of what we know about Jupiter could have been at risk in a power failure if not for Lonnie,” explains the full text.
Sounds like we’re about to learn a lot more about Jupiter. Remember to save your files frequently, Juno!