Author Chris Barton speaks at the the Southern Miss’ 48th Annual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival about his new book, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. The children’s picture book about Reconstruction was launched on April 1st, 2015.
Each year, Southern Miss hosts the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival. The festival, which brings out over 400 teachers and librarians from around the country, consists of authors, illustrators and field experts sharing their expertise.
In addition to the concurrent sessions and workshops, this year’s festival includes panels featuring author Chris Barton, managing editor at Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Kathleen Merz, author and illustrator Don Tate, author David Levithan and author Deborah Wiles.
Barton, Tate and Merz kicked off the first of two panels Tuesday afternoon in the Thad Cochran Ballroom I with a breakdown on their book, “The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.”
Barton is the author of the novel, whereas Tate served as the illustrator and Merz as the book’s editor.
“The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch” is a children’s book about the life of John Roy Lynch, a childhood slave in Mississippi whose circumstances transform with the historic Emancipation Proclamation. The book aims to present slavery and the era of reconstruction to children in an accessible manner.
“Ultimately, the book is about the peace we are still fighting for,” Tate said. Throughout the session, the trio discussed the making of the book. Barton revealed he became familiar with story of John Roy Lynch after viewing a documentary on election fraud.
The coincidental documentary led him to the story of Lynch, who went on to serve as a justice of peace and was eventually elected into the United States Congress, becoming one of the first African-American congressmen.
“He’s one story I truly wanted to tell,” Barton said. “The era is very important and there are not a lot of stories about reconstruction.”
Barton also revealed that alongside his detailed writing, the illustrations play an enormous part in overall success of the novel.
Tate’s vivid illustrations were done in a way that the scenes would present greatness for students in the classrooms.
“Don was right at the very top of my list and I was so glad Eerdmans agreed,” Barton said.
Toward the end of the session, a Q&A took place where the audience inquired about a second book or follow-up. Barton revealed that his next project will speak on segregation and NASA.
Attendees of the festival can look forward to a second panel Friday at 1:45 p.m. in the Thad Cochran Ballrooms.
The festival is being held in the Thad Cochran Center and will last until Friday.
For a tentative schedule of all events, visit the Children’s Book Festival information page.