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PIERCETON, IN — Chris Barton is a New York Times Best Selling Author, who has published 16 children’s illustrated books and on Monday (10/1), Barton visited Pierceton Elementary School. Throughout the day all six grades at PES had an opportunity to listen to Barton’s presentation consisting of a brief introduction about finding his gift for writing, listening to Barton read one of his books aloud, and then a fun Q&A where the students were given free reign to pick Barton’s mind. 

Author Chris Barton in background with Mighty Truck, his book, positioned on a PES bookshelf in front
Author Chris Barton in background with Mighty Truck, his book, positioned on a PES bookshelf in front.


Much of Barton’s childhood was spent story-telling. He explained that he became aware he had a gift for story-telling when he was simply at play with his Star Wars action figures as a child, but by engaging his imagination, he began to pursue his love of story telling through writing. “When I was in elementary school, I was into collecting postage stamps, and I loved the music of the country singing group called The Oakridge Boys,” he mentioned jokingly before shedding light on his philosophy for students who are nurturing their passion for writing: “Write what you know” illuminated the white board behind him. For instance, if he had been given that advice, he may have written a story about The Oakridge Boys. 

For most of Barton’s books, he admitted he rarely follows his own advice on the subject of "writing what you know," but instead he prefers to write about what he doesn’t know about. During his presentation he explained how research into topics that interested him became springboards for books that he later would write. For instance, he wanted to know “how a rocket scientist by the name of Lonnie Johnson became the inventor of the super soaker water gun, one of the greatest toys of all time,” which led to his writing of the book Whoosh! 

For the younger grades, Barton read his book Mighty Truck: Muddymania, while for the upper grade levels he read his newest work What Do You Do With A Voice Like That? Mighty Truck, is a fictional account about a truck who finds he has super powers after going through a special car wash, and it quickly garnered participation from students as Barton encouraged them to make sound effects and hand motions with him. Meanwhile, the non-fictional account of What Do You Do With A Voice Like That? shared the biography of Barbara Jordan, an African American woman from Texas who went to law school, the Texas State Senate, and then became a United States Congresswoman in the 1960's. According to Barton’s website, “Throughout her career, she persevered through adversity to give voice to the voiceless and to fight for civil rights, equality, and justice.”

Image of Mary Helen Gensch (left) Christ Barton, and then Hilary Stouder (right).
Image of Mary Helen Gensch (left) Christ Barton, and then Hilary Stouder (right).

The self-deprecating humor of Barton lended well to the young readers and authors of tomorrow at PES. He encouraged students to embrace failing as a part of a process to reach their best versions of their own creations while using vocabulary words to which he introduced them. “Revision!” he explained with a fist pumped in the air, was how Mighty Truck got his powers. Barton's original intent was to call the book Super Truck, but another author had already written that children’s book. Much like revision, Barton sees himself as a “writer, a re-writer, and a re-writer, and a re-writer, and a re-writer,” which ultimately helps him to create some of his best books. 

After each session, the students of PES were each given an opportunity to meet the author, thank him for his visit, and if they had brought a copy of his book along with them they could request an autographed from Barton during a private book signing done in the school foyer. 

This was Barton’s first speaking engagement in a public school in Indiana. But according to his schedule it certainly won’t be the last. For Pierceton Elementary, another author visit marks the continuation of a tradition years old now that includes authors Troy Cummings of the Notebook of Doom series (coincidentally Cummings illustrated Mighty Truck for Barton's books) and Jarret J. Krosoczka (also known to his fans as JJK) of Star Wars Jedi Academy The Principal Strikes Back. Next week, Author John David Anderson visits PES' sister-school within Whitko Community School's district on October 9th to present his book Posted to South Whitley Elementary students. 

Speaking to students, Barton presents how he became a writer.
Speaking to students, Barton presents how he became a writer.