Bartography Express, October 2019
Hey there!
After a summer spent largely on researching and writing, last month I happily resumed another major part of my work as an author: visiting schools. Once I saw this photo from my first presentation of the school year —
— I couldn't help but feel extremely fortunate that I get to do this for a living. (Thank you, Sycamore Springs Elementary, for hosting me and capturing that moment.)

My schedule for this fall is almost entirely full, but one of my first trips in 2020 will be to Mobile, Alabama, and I am available to visit a school or two while I'm there in January. So if you know of any elementary school librarians or other educators in the Mobile area, would you please consider mentioning me to them?

Often, my travels mean having to spend time away from My Favorite Author in the Whole Wide World , but I'm glad to say that Jennifer and I get to travel as a duo quite a bit this fall.
We both participated in the Oklahoma Book Festival a few weeks ago, which gave us a chance to appreciate up-close some of Oklahoma City's lovely public art, which you can see for yourself right here.

In the weeks ahead, we'll visit Texas students from out in Midland all the way to Beaumont, 560 or so miles to the east. In preparation, we've worked up a new presentation comparing and contrasting our childhood selves and our work as authors. That one's going to be fun to do.

And later in the fall, we'll enjoy Louisville, Kentucky, in tandem. It will be my first-ever trip to the Bluegrass State, which is exciting enough. But I'm even more thrilled knowing that some Bartography Express readers will be there at the same time. If you'll be attending the AASL conference — or have a friend or colleague going that you'd like us to say hello to — please holler.

Back here at home, I not only shamelessly posed Ernie with one of my advance copies of Fire Truck vs. Dragon
— but I also got to share a copy with the personal hero of mine to whom I dedicated the book . I'm pleased to note that she was considerably more excited about the whole deal than Ernie was.

October in Austin means the Texas Book Festival, where I'll receive a Writers' League of Texas Book Award for What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and raise a plastic cup with other winners and honorees and as many festival-goers as we can attract with our writerly charms.

A couple of evenings before the festival, illustrator Ekua Holmes and I will participate in the "Voice and Vision" celebration at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission . Ekua and I haven't seen each other since before she began illustrating What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? , and I cannot wait to share the stage with her and my longtime friend and (previously featured in Bartography Express) fellow Texas author Michael Hurd.
I've had Barbara Jordan on my mind quite a bit these past few weeks, and I'm not the only one .

I don’t know what resources educators might have used in 1973 and 1974 to try to put Watergate into some sort of context for their students, or to what extent they even tried. Perhaps in that era before round-the-clock marination in media coverage, the subject of a president’s misdeeds and Congress’ obligation to investigate and address them could be easily sidestepped during the school day.

But as so many of us are reminded each hour (at least) that we’re awake, times have changed. One way that they’ve changed is that Watergate now is the context — or at least some of the context — for viewing the current impeachment inquiry by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Another change is that, thanks to the increasingly expansive view within children’s publishing of what stories can and should be told for young readers, there are age-appropriate resources for a variety of difficult topics. Topics including presidential abuse of power, Constitutional violations, and impeachment.

When I began writing What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? in 2013, I could not have imagined how relevant it would be in 2019.
I viewed Congresswoman Jordan’s story as essential history, and in my main text as well as in the timeline at the back of the book (both excerpted here), I strove to not only show her timeless significance but also explain the momentousness of her specific times.

How I wish that we, as a nation, had made different choices — choices that would have kept What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? from being quite so timely, quite so relevant.

But here we are, and here’s my hope: that educators will put Barbara Jordan’s story to use, so that maybe we won’t need it quite so much a generation or two from now when the young readers of today are leading our country.

Now it's time for my monthly Q&A and new-book giveaway. My guest is illustrator and author Beth Mills, whose debut picture book, Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen , was published last month by Carolrhoda Books.

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

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