Bartography Express, April 2020
Hi there,
Their stories would keep alive those they had lost. Those stories, told and retold, would make sure the past had a place in the present. 

Many learned to piece their lives back together, even when important parts were gone forever. Some needed lots of help, and they received it from lots of people.

When I wrote those words in All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing , I was thinking about the events of a spring day 25 years ago this month.

But maybe those words can bring some comfort, some understanding, some reassurance in our very different circumstances this April.

This edition of Bartography Express is unusual in a few ways. For one, my focus this time is narrow as can be: I'm appearing in your inbox today solely to talk about All of a Sudden and Forever , which was illustrated by Nicole Xu (above, that's some of her artwork from the book) and published earlier this year by Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing.

Also, as I did last month with Fire Truck vs. Dragon , I'm giving away not one but five copies — one each, signed by me, to five different Bartography Express subscribers.

Finally, to minimize my trips to the post office, I'm going to mail books simultaneously to the March and April winners. And because I want to do that in time for All of a Sudden and Forever to reach recipients by the anniversary on Sunday, April 19, there will be a much briefer window than normal for entering the giveaway. Details are at the end of this email.
There's a lot I can say about this book.

There is much I'd like to express about the responsibility that I've felt to accurately reflect the varied experiences of those whose lives were altered by the Oklahoma City bombing, and to honor the trust of those who have shared their stories with me.

But for the next few minutes, I'd like to let All of a Sudden and Forever speak for itself.

As you see and hear in that reading, All of a Sudden and Forever is not so much about the bombing itself as it is about the recovery from and memorialization of a public tragedy and about the ways we experience and — collectively, perhaps — move through our grief.

This past November, an editor at School Library Journal invited me to contribute an essay on writing about grief and tragic events for an elementary-age audience. They wanted me to offer up some insight into being sensitive, respectful, and honest when writing for kids about some pretty tough stuff.

(This may come as a surprise to anyone who mainly knows me as the author of Shark vs. Train .)

So, I did. I submitted the essay to SLJ in the first half of February, when for most of us the world still looked very different from how it looks now. The piece came out just last week, in the thick of our adjustments to a new way of living, and I hope you or someone you care about might find my essay helpful.

Here’s how it begins:

The first time I ever visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, I came away in awe of the complex web of tragedy, grief, suffering, heroism, recovery, remembrance, and community spun by the stories it told.

So, of course, I thought, “Picture book!”

Part of that response, I’m sure, stems from the fact that picture books are what I primarily write. As the adage goes, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” and picture books do have a prominent place in my toolbox.

But as I expect will be the case for many who encounter my new picture book All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing , the themes explored by the memorial and museum have resonance in lives not directly affected by the tragedy that occurred 25 years ago this April.

These lives include those of young readers.

Please read the rest here . And if you think that what I have to say — in the essay, or in the book — might resonate with clergy, counselors, or classrooms of any sort, will you please share the SLJ article or this newsletter with them?

I know, I know. Authors are always asking readers to share. To post on Facebook or tweet about something of ours that you've read. To Instagram a photo of the cover. To write a review online. To let your public library know about the book so they can add it to their collection. To buy a gift copy from a new online bookstore trying mightily to support local, independent booksellers at a time when their doors have been forced shut and their futures are in peril.

You don't have to do any of that. It's enough just to read and appreciate our books and the stories of those characters — real or fictional — that mean so much to us that we couldn't keep them to ourselves. But each additional bit that you are able to manage truly does help us.
In my email last week about resources for at-home learning with my books, I closed with an image of the Survivor Tree seedling that I brought home from the Remembrance Ceremony in Oklahoma City in April 2019.

If you've watched the readaloud video, you now know more about the significance of the Survivor Tree, and you can imagine how much it has uplifted me to see that leafless stick burst back to bright green life these past couple of weeks. The photos above show just seven days' worth of growth (as well as a back patio in desperate need of some powerwashing).

But you can also imagine how painful it will be for lots of people to know that the 25th anniversary Remembrance Ceremony , by necessity, will not have the in-person sense of community that has meant so much to so many for so long.

Perhaps, though, you'll be able to tune in from where you are. Perhaps you'll observe those 168 seconds of silence. Perhaps, when someone asks why you're doing that, you'll share All of a Sudden and Forever with them.

If you’re a Bartography Express subscriber with a US mailing address and you want to be one of the winners of the signed copies of All of a Sudden and Forever , just send me your mailing address in a reply to this email before midnight tomorrow, April 2 , and you'll be entered in the drawing.

Let's all help each other be well,