Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Happy Birthday, Chris Barton - July 6

Happy Birthday, Chris Barton - July 6

At the Mazza Museum, Chris Barton talked about acting upon your ideas and not keeping them to yourself. As I was gathering up materials for the activity described in this blog post I said to myself, "Maybe this isn't going to work. The kids would be so disappointed if it doesn't. Maybe I shouldn't do it at all." Thankfully, I had the support of my wife who was excited about the idea. In the end, the idea worked and my kids loved the activity. So, Chris Barton is indeed right. Don't waste those good ideas. Act upon them. You will be glad you did!

Chris Barton is the author of over ten books for children including Shark Vs. Train, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, and Mighty Truck. He loved writing at a young age and knew that some day he wanted to become a writer. (Austin SCBWI). In high school, he enjoyed writing for the student newspaper and later in college at the University of Texas at Austin he wrote for The Daily Texan. (Chris Barton). After graduating with a degree in History, Chris thought he would work in the magazine industry having had an internship at Sassy Magazine (Cynsations), and a desire to work as an editor at Rolling Stone Magazine. However, it was writing for children that called his name one day when he was just being a good dad.

Chris would probably tell you that the day his life changed was when he installed a smoke detector. Yes, a smoke detector! His son was so interested in the smoke detector that he asked Chris to tell the story over and over again about how he installed it. This got Chris thinking, Maybe I could write for children. (Mazza Museum Keynote Summer 2016). "If I could make him happy with that story, I could come up with other stories, and maybe other kids would like them too." ( But, it was a long road to publication from that moment. It was eight and half years until Chris would sell his first book, The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors. (Bartography).

Chris read his book 88 instruments at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2016
Now, Chris's writing career is on a roll. He is bouncing back and forth between writing nonfiction and fiction. "It feels like I've lucked into having the best job in the world, and I love that I haven't had to choose between writing fiction vs. writing nonfiction, because they both make me happy." (Bartography). Additionally, Chris is an advocate for diversity in children's books. He is responsible for igniting BookPeople's Modern First Library. A program which believes in "pairing beloved picture books that will never go out of style along with other favorites that reflect the diverse, global society of the 21st century." (Read more about how this program is changing the way we buy books for very young children.) Chris described the first time he saw a Modern First Library display, "Seeing it makes me glad all over again that I reached out...rather than assume I had no part to play in addressing the dearth of diversity in children's literature." (Cynsations, 2014).

The book that inspired our family reading experience and birthday celebration for Chris Barton was Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions. This is a nonfiction biography of Lonnie Johnson the inventor of the Super Soaker, a toy water gun enjoyed by children for over 20 years! Listen to Chris Barton and illustrator, Don Tate talk about the book in this short video from Junior Library Guild:

From the moment I heard Chris Barton describe Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference I knew it would be the perfect book for Chris's summertime birthday. However, we couldn't just have a Super Soaker fight. We could do that any ordinary day of the summer. What would be memorable for my kids? I had an idea, but I wasn't sure it was a good one.
I set up four targets in our backyard (actually they were pillowcases). 
I had many unopened containers of dye that were in a cupboard for quite some time that were just begging to be used.
Of course, I needed Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions and a Super Soaker (I found this one at a garage sale for a buck!).
We read Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions on our playset and we learned how the Super Soaker was invented.
After the book, we practiced our aim with water. This worked out well because the pillow cases needed to be wet before adding the dye.
Then, we squirted the dye directly into the Super Soaker chamber.
Wow! Her face was complete joy. If you would have seen my face it was one of relief. It actually worked!
After each color we rinsed out the Super Soaker to make sure it was ready for the next color.
It looked so cool!
My five-year-old daughter was a Super Soaker markswoman.

They were so excited with how each pillowcase looked.
We wrapped the pillowcases in a garbage bag.

We let them set overnight just like this.
Meanwhile, my son went crazy decorating a bed sheet with the leftover dye.
We did get messy!
But, the dye on our hands and the splotches on his face washed off.
The next day I rinsed the pillowcases and washed them in the washer.
I am so happy I acted upon this idea.
Now grab your Super Soakers, dye, a copy of Whoosh!, pillowcases, and enjoy a fun summertime activity!
Chris, it was great to meet you Mazza! Thank you for writing such SUPER cool books! We hope you have a wonderful birthday!

Are you ready for more books from Chris Barton? We are! Pre-order Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion (September 1, 2017) and Book or Bell? (October 17, 2017):

1. Chris Barton's Website
2. Follow Chris Barton on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram
3. Interviews - Austin SCBWIUSA TODAY, PTO Today, Cynsations (2009), Laurie Ann Thompson's Blog, Eerdlings, Life and Letters
4. Audio Interview - PW KidsCast, Let's Get Busy Podcast

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