Patricia Ann Bauer shares the story behind her story …
I know that people sometimes wonder how it came about that I wrote a non-fiction book about the Civil War. They can understand why my husband, Dave Geister, illustrated it. After all, he’s a guy, and aren’t they all supposed to be fascinated by war? Well, I place the “blame” squarely on the books I read when I was young.
As an eleven or twelve year old, I vividly remember reading Irene Hunt’s Across Five Aprils, slipping it under the table so I could read just a few more lines about Jethro and his war-torn family while I ate supper, surrounded by my many siblings. It was so hard to let go of those stories, even for a few minutes!
And what in the world was a seventeen-year-old girl, who wore mini-skirts and protested the Vietnam War, doing with MacKinlay Kantor’s Andersonville, devouring this grim, but beautifully-written novel? It’s the power of story! I think that I became a history teacher, and eventually an author, largely because I was “sucked in” by the historical novels that I read, and it made me want to learn more about the facts behind the fiction.
Dave has a similar story. His most lasting influence was MacKinlay Kantor’s Gettysburg, first published in 1952. (I guess we both owe a great debt to Mr. Kantor!) His grandma bought it for a dime at a neighbor’s garage sale when he was about seven years old. He was fascinated with the few illustrations that were in the book, but reading it was beyond his ability. So his dear grandma read this story of the battle aloud to him, and he was hooked! From then on, he drew forage caps and soldiers with muskets in the margins of his school papers, not because he was a warmonger, but because the stories and images captured his imagination. This book remains his greatest treasure.
We were very fortunate to do B is for Battle Cry together. When we first proposed the idea to Sleeping Bear Press, for whom Dave had already illustrated several books, they didn’t think it was such a good idea. Eventually, they came around, but by then there were other authors who were also interested. Fortunately, we took a chance and made a Powerpoint slide proposal, illustrating the top ten reasons why we should do the book . . . and they gave us the thumbs up!
Sleeping Bear Press is known for its alphabet books, and they have a standard format that includes a poem, which is accessible to young children and good to read aloud, and text that is more difficult and appropriate for older children and adults. I decided to write the poems to fit into Stephen Foster’s popular 19th century song, Hard Times Come Again No More. I am a musician who often uses music to teach my middle school students, so this came very naturally. (See www.davidgeister.com for music downloads and YouTube video.) One of the most difficult things for me was to fit the text into the amount of available space. I often say that I had to “slash and burn” because there was so much that I wanted to include, but couldn’t.
Dave and I love to work together, and this project was no exception. He read my words and offered comments and I did the same with his paintings. This is not standard procedure for picture books, where authors and illustrators often don’t even meet each other. We think that this interaction, along with a great deal of research and passion, helped to make B is for Battle Cry a book that is a great Civil War resource for people of all ages.
Learn more about Patricia Ann Bauer…
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