#Nonfiction Monday #Cybils: Chris Barton’s Picture Book Bio of Barbara Jordan

Let’s explore some of the fantastic nonfiction children’s books that have been nominated for 2018 Cybils awards.

Today we have the inspiring new picture book What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton and illustrated by Ekua Holmes.

Barbara Charline Jordan was born in Houston, Texas in 1936. Before long, she was known for her oratory skills. She recited poetry and gave speeches in school. After she graduated from law school, her speaking skills led her into politics. Eventually, she was elected to the U. S. Congress where she fought against discrimination.

You can hear Barbara Jordan’s voice in the rhythm of Chris Barton’s brilliant text.

That voice
That big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice.
It caused folks to sit right up, stand up straight, and take notice.

The alliteration of the adjectives adds to the effect.

He also repeats the title throughout for emphasis:

“What do you do with a voice like that?

Ekua Holmes’s mixed media illustrations capture the time, which was the late 1960s and early 1970s. They are as bright and bold as Barton’s text.

The back matter consists of an author’s note and a two-page spread time line. In it readers discover that Barbara Jordan, who retired early from public service because she had multiple sclerosis, died too young at 59.

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? begs to be read aloud. Pull it out for Black History Month, for Women’s History Month, and for all the months of the year. Barbara Jordan’s voice should be remembered.

Activity Suggestion:

Check YouTube for some of Barbara Jordan’s speeches.

Sidebar:  How long does it take for a book to be published?

In the back matter, Chris Barton says he started writing the book in 2013. On his blog, he announced he had sold the text to Beach Lane Book in September of 2015. The book was published last month on September 25, 2018, the final step in a five year process!

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (September 25, 2018)
ISBN-10: 9781481465618
ISBN-13: 978-1481465618


Disclosure: The book was provided by my local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog. (Note:  this is a new URL for October 2018).

Can I See Your I.D.?: True Stories of False Identities

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be someone else? Can I See Your I.D.?: True Stories of False Identities by Chris Barton and illustrated by Paul Hoppe is an intriguing look at ten people who actually did pretend to be someone else, carrying out extraordinary deceptions. This book is nominated for a Cybils in the MG/YA nonfiction category.

Chris Barton’s book The Day-Glo Brothers won the Cybils for picture book nonfiction two years ago, and a Sibert Honor in 2010. Can I See Your I.D.? benefits from the same feeling of discovery of people with a unique lives that have been previously overlooked, and the same deep research into each individual’s deception, exploring their motivations and the outcomes. It is really ten short biographies under one cover.

Starting with a young man who manages to trick the New York City Transit Authority into letting him operate the A Train, to a high school dropout who serves as a navy surgeon, to a woman who passes herself off as a male soldier during the Civil War, it is truly amazing what these imposters are able to carry out. In fact, reading the book might entice someone to give it a try if Barton hadn’t included so much information about how stressful it was to pretend to be someone else. In many of the examples the deception was not voluntary, but a response to a desperate situation.

Barton uses a strong second-person point of view to tell these stories. Not wanting to sound like a hypocrite because I often use the second person voice myself, I still found the second voice a bit overpowering. It typically works best in a paragraph or two at the beginning to draw the reader in. Using it too much can interfere with getting to know the characters. Maybe Barton intended this, trying to recreate the feeling of disorientation that the people who were hiding their identities must have felt. In that case, it’s a brilliant idea, but I’m not sure it really worked.

That said, if you (couldn’t resist) are a teacher who is teaching point of view, here is an example of the strongest use of the second person I can remember reading. Students will certainly find it riveting reading and, as many of the individuals were young people, will be able to relate to them. For a young reader who is interested in learning more about one of the individuals, there is an extensive bibliography on each person separately, making it easy to find out more.

Overall, Barton has once again captured the imagination with a fascinating look into people that have been passed by in other historical accounts.

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Dial (April 14, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0803733100
ISBN-13: 978-0803733107