A Serious Honor for a Serious Book: Chris Barton on the Bluebonnet Master List
I love visiting a school or public library in Texas and seeing a shelf dedicated to the latest batch of Bluebonnet books. It’s a sign of the vital work that the Texas Library Association’s Bluebonnet Award committee has put into identifying a great, diverse selection of titles from among the stacks and stacks of books published each year.
But it’s also a reminder that librarians all over Texas take the tastes and opinions of young Texas readers seriously — seriously enough to make sure those readers have the opportunity to read and examine and deeply consider these selected titles and then weigh in on them with their votes. What a great way to engage young book lovers — and to instill the love of books in kids who develop their first close relationship with books because of this program.
During my entire life as a writer — going back to the skits and comic strips I wrote at Lamar Elementary in Sulphur Springs, Texas — creating stories with my friends has been one of my biggest joys. Don Tate has been a friend of mine since long before I ever heard of John Roy Lynch, so I’m just delighted that this book that Don and I made together has been honored in this way by librarians in my home state.
And I’m especially happy to know that because of the inclusion of The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List, elementary school students throughout this state will receive a basic, honest introduction to Reconstruction. Texas children have not been consistently well-served by their textbooks — witness the recent title that referred to slavery as “immigration” and to enslaved human beings as “workers” — and there is a role for books such as ours in furthering their education.
There has long been a big hole in our country’s collective understanding of why a March on Washington was necessary 100 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and why a Voting Rights Act was necessary a century after the end of the Civil War. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch helps fill that hole with a true account of the progress in civil rights and social justice that occurred during Reconstruction, as well as the violence and terrorism and indifference than turned back that progress.
In his later years, John Roy Lynch became a historian of the Reconstruction era, intent on setting the record straight about an era that was maligned, misunderstood, or just plain overlooked. I am thankful to the Texas Bluebonnet Award selection committee for believing that John Roy Lynch’s own story of self-improvement, ambition, and achievement has a part to play in continuing to set that record straight and in providing context for our ongoing struggles for civil rights, voting rights, and social justice.