Bartography Express, July 2020
Hey there,
I'm tickled that my mom read about this in The Dallas Morning News before I got a chance to tell her myself, but now she and you and the rest of my subscribers can hear directly from me the news that I'm making a book with music great and American icon Willie Nelson.

And not just with him. As you may know, Willie is 87 now. As you probably don't know, the piano player in his band, Family, is still his older sister, Bobbie Nelson. And as I've long hoped, Willie and Bobbie are at last telling the story of their life together in music, in a memoir for adults that's coming out this September.
I've been involved in adapting that memoir into a picture book, tentatively titled Sister, Brother, Family: Our Childhood in Music and scheduled to be published by Doubleday Books for Young Readers in fall 2021.

Jennifer and I got to visit backstage with Willie and Bobbie when they performed near Houston this past November. Now that so casually gathering and chatting and posing with folks has become such a rarity, the photos from that occasion mean all the more to me.

Sister, Brother, Family , however, won't be the first time that Willie's music and my writing have intersected. When I was 17 years old and editor of the Sulphur Springs High School Cat's Tale , he performed at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center, and I got to interview him on his bus before the show. So, we can say that this book has been more than 30 years in the making, which will really do a number on my per-book average.


Other fiction and nonfiction projects have kept my brain active this past month. One of the most fun undertakings was collecting images and videos of Ernie to share with Sarah Horne, the artist who is illustrating another upcoming picture book of mine, How to Make a Book (About My Dog) .

Once I started pulling all those materials together, it was hard to stop, which is just how it goes for research and me. At one point, though, I felt a little guilty that I was spending hours with Ernie's digital likenesses and not engaged much at all with Ernie himself, even though he was flopped out on the floor just a few feet from my desk.

So, I gave him a little attention  —  and then took this photo (including his beloved squeaky plush carrot) to share with Sarah:

The role of children's books in the work of anti-racism has received considerable attention these past several weeks, and it's been an honor to see some of my titles included in lists of recommended reading:

I have also greatly appreciated some recent shows of support for my work from my home city and state.

The Texas Council on the Arts has named me to its Texas Touring Roster , resulting in the availability of grants to schools and others hosting me in person or online during the next two years.
And I'm thrilled to be participating in the Mayor's Book Club Read Local campaign , which will feature my picture books Fire Truck vs. Dragon and All of a Sudden and Forever along with 40 or so other titles — for readers of all ages — out this year from my fellow Austin authors.

Mayor's Book Club programming will begin this fall, but in the meantime, I'll be working with libraries in other Texas cities on virtual events. Without leaving my home, I'll get to visit with the Patrick Heath Public Library in Boerne, Texas, on Thursday, July 23.

One week later, on Thursday, July 30, my virtual self will be talking with the Harris County Public Library . Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to coax Ernie up off his quilt for a canine cameo...

Now it's time for my monthly Q&A and new-book giveaway. My guest is Rita Lorraine Hubbard, author of The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read , which was illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Oge Mora.

This picture book tells the incredible-but-true story of formerly enslaved Mary Walker, who realized her lifelong dream of literacy during her twelfth (!!!) decade.

If you’re a Bartography Express subscriber with a US mailing address and you want to be the winner of The Oldest Student , just say so in a reply to this email before midnight on July 31 , and I’ll enter you in the drawing.

In the meantime, please enjoy my two-question Q&A with Rita .