Chris Barton

Heather Gallagher Photography

Chris Barton is the author of acclaimed nonfiction picture books including Dazzle Ships, Whoosh!, and What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?. His books have won several awards including a Sibert Honor for The Day-Glo Brothers and an Orbis Pictus Recommended for All of a Sudden and Forever. Chris lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.


What was your favorite book when you were a child?

The book(s) I read the most – over and over and over – were those in John D. Fitzgerald’s The Great Brain series. They’re not widely known today, but I’ve never met anyone who’s read those books who doesn’t love them.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

From this profile of musician Louis Armstrong (who died the day I was born) in Warning, Writer at Work: The Best Collectibles of Larry L. King: “‘Listen to it, Pops,’ he said in his low, chesty rumble. ‘Whole world’s turned on. Don’t you dig its pretty sounds?’”

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

#1, by a mile, is my wife, author Jennifer Ziegler (Revenge of the Flower Girls; Revenge of the Angels). My favorite author to whom I am not married is fellow Texan (and NOT the talk-show host) Larry L. King (see above). And my favorite illustrator? It’s a multi-way tie among the many terrific illustrators who my texts have been paired with, including Tony Persiani, Tom Lichtenheld, Paul Hoppe, Joey Spiotto, Don Tate, and – of course! – Cathy Gendron.

Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?

I completely stumbled into it. When my first son was nearly two, he began asking me again and again to tell him the story of how I had installed a smoke detector. I used drill sounds and alarm sounds, and he couldn’t get enough. One morning, as I was getting dressed for work, it struck me: If I could delight him with that story, I could make up some other stories and write them down. And I did, and they were horrible, but they got better.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?

First, never be without some paper and something to write with so that you can capture your ideas whenever they come to you. Second, get lots of exercise, making sure your mind is free to wander while you do it – I’ve gotten lots of ideas and solved lots of problems with my stories that way. And finally, find a writing community, even if it’s just one other person who looks forward to reading what you write and sharing with you what they write so that you can help each other get better and celebrate even the smallest of successes.