Chris Barton's
Books & More
June 2014

For the past few months, while working on getting my next few books written and revised and ready to greet the world, I've been plotting away behind the scenes on a secret project with Austin, Texas, independent bookseller BookPeople. In recent weeks, we've let a few local authors in on our plans, and since then we've gone on to enlist the help of a handful of authors and illustrators from across the country. Now, you and other subscribers to Bartography Express will be the first ones besides these authors and illustrators to learn what BookPeople and I have been up to.

And so, we're pleased to announce BookPeople's Modern First Library. Here's what the store has to say about the program:

"We all know and love the classics. Books like Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Harold and the Purple Crayon are favorites for a reason. But there's a whole canon of books out there that we think deserve a place on kids' shelves. These stories broaden kids' horizons, provide fresh perspectives, and open windows to new experiences: all the things that great children's books should do.

"So we have put together some modern library starter kits to pair classic picture books that will never go out of style with a selection of other favorites that reflect the vibrant, global society of the 21st century. Perfect for baby showers or special occasions, we think these bundles make wonderful gifts for young readers ready to expand their collections or little ones just getting started. Come check out our display in the children's section."

Our hope is that by leveraging the longstanding popularity of Margaret Wise Brown, for instance, Modern First Library will get more great new books representing an increasingly broad swath of our society into more homes and into more readers' hands. If this grassroots approach works, we hope that other booksellers will emulate it in their own communities and that it will encourage publishers to create and support more books reflecting the diversity in our world.

To help us launch this new program, those local and national authors and illustrators I mentioned will be posting their own selections for Modern First Library through July and August. They'll also be sharing their thoughts about the importance of building diverse, interesting first libraries for the kids in our lives. Starting in just a few days, you can join this discussion at BookPeople's blog.

In the meantime, how about a sneak preview of my own selections of new and recent picture books that I'd include in a modern child's first library? My choices are:
  • Big Snow (Farrar Straus Giroux), by Jonathan Bean
  • The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred (Charlesbridge), by Samantha Vamos and illustrated by Rafael Lopez
  • The Little Little Girl with the Big Big Voice (Little Simon), by Kristen Balouch
  • Monday Is One Day (Scholastic), by Arthur A. Levine and illustrated by Julian Hector
  • Ni´┐Żo Wrestles the World (Roaring Brook), by Yuyi Morales
  • Pat-a-Cake (Candlewick), by Mary Brigid Barrett and illustrated by LeUyen Pham
  • Phoebe & Digger (Candlewick), by Tricia Springstubb and illustrated by Jeff Newman
  • Rain! (Houghton Mifflin), by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Christian Robinson
  • Same, Same but Different (Henry Holt), by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
  • Tap Tap Boom Boom (Candlewick), by Elizabeth Bluemle and illustrated by G. Brian Karas
  • Wild Berries (Simply Read), by Julie Flett
What titles would you include? I'd love to hear from you.

What else has been going on lately? Well...

Illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and I have been adapting Shark Vs. Train for a board book version to be published next spring by Little, Brown. We had to make a few cuts, but fans of the original version's nods to Star Wars and the Fonz can breathe easily.

Shark Vs. Train and The Day-Glo Brothers have both been included on this year's summer reading lists provided by the Association for Library Service to Children. Not only that, but Shark Vs. Train is also among the titles the ALSC included on its updated home library recommendation lists. Thank you, ALSC!

The first review I've seen of One Death, Nine Stories (Candlewick), the upcoming assembly of interrelated stories that includes my YA fiction debut, is a good one: "Complex and emotionally demanding, this collection aims for and will resonate with serious readers of realistic fiction."

If you -- or kids that you know, or their parents -- are as interested in video games as they are in books, keep an eye on my blog. As the October launch of my book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer's Alphabet approaches, I'll soon begin featuring interviews with children's authors and illustrators about their gaming experiences, as well as interviews with professionals from the gaming world about their favorite, most influential books while growing up. If there's anyone you'd like to see among my interviewees, will you please let me know?
There's lots you could have been reading these past few minutes, so thank you for spending that time with Bartography Express -- and thank you, especially, if you also take a moment more to share this month's news with another reader you think might be interested.

I'll be back in touch soon, 

This Month's Giveaway Is...

This month, one Bartography Express reader will win a copy of The Great Greene Heist (Arthur A. Levine Books), the middle-grade debut from accomplished YA novelist Varian Johnson. If you'd like it to be you, just reply to this email, and I'll enter you in the drawing.

"With its fun cover, great premise, and kicky writing complete with twist, this book fulfills the childhood desire for autonomy while also knocking down stereotypes left and right," says reviewer Elizabeth Bird. This smart, engaging, fast-paced book speaks for itself -- but that won't stop me from asking my friend Varian to say a few words on its behalf.

CB: What drew you toward the story you tell in The Great Greene Heist?

VJ: I've always loved heist movies, and after watching Ocean's Thirteen, I knew I wanted to tackle a caper in novel form. Of course, it's one thing to want to write a caper novel, and other to figure it all out and get it on the page.  It look seven years from when I first got the idea for
The Great Greene Heist to when it was finally available in bookstores, and a lot of that time was spent working on the outline. (But as Jackson Greene says, "Always plan before you act!")

I also wanted a story with swagger and sophistication. More specifically, I wanted to show people of color with swagger and sophistication. So as I crafted Jackson's crew -- Gang Greene -- I tried to reflect the diversity I saw in most of the middle and high schools I visited, and to celebrate it in a fun way that showcased the characters' differences without being explicitly about those differences.

Finally, I wanted to write something that made me laugh. I wanted to write a novel featuring characters that I really liked; people I would have wanted to hang out with. (It's no coincidence that Hashemi and Megan are huge
Star Trek fans.)

CB: Tell me about the kind of kid you think your book will appeal to the most.

VJ: I think any kid that loves a mystery will enjoy The Great Greene Heist. There are lots of twists and turns, and I do my best to outwit my readers just as much as Jackson tries to outwit Keith Sinclair, the bully Jackson and his crew are up against.

In addition, I think the novel will appeal to kids that love fast, funny reads. There's a lot of humor in the book, and I hope that readers have as much fun reading
The Great Greene Heist as I did writing it.
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