The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch


The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
by Chris Barton
Illustrated by Don Tate

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Illustrator Interview

Related Activities & Resources:

Author Information:
Chris Barton Home Page:

Chris Barton bio:

Frequently Asked Questions:

Chris Barton’s Blog – Bartography:

Interview with Chris Barton:

Interview with Chris Barton (46:13):

Interview with Chris Barton:

Interview with Chris Barton:

Interview with Chris Barton:

Interview with Chris Barton (1:12:11):

Chris Barton on Twitter:

Illustrator Information:
Don Tate home page:

Don Tate blog:

About Don Tate:

Five (or Twenty) Questions with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Interview with Don Tate:

Activities and Resources:
From the Editor’s desk: Reconstructing The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch:

Interactive United States Map Puzzle:

Brief History of Steamboats:

Information about Picking Cotton and the Life of a Slave:

Crafts and activities using cotton balls:

History of slavery in the United States:

Ten facts you should know about the Civil War:

Timeline of the Civil War:

Abraham Lincoln’s assassination:

Civil War Jigsaw:


Civil War Word Search:

Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation:

History of Photography for Kids:

Photo Projects for Kids:

The Right to Vote:

Make a voting booth:

A ballot template:

House of Representatives:

Image of the first printed edition of the Star Spangled Banner combining words and music:

The Star Spangled Banner Lyrics:

Discussion Questions:

How do you think Patrick Lynch, John Roy’s father, justified being kind to his “slave” family but mistreating other slaves?

What is your favorite thing you like about school? Now suppose you were forbidden to learn to read and write and if you tried and were discovered you would be severely punished. Would you have had the courage to try to escape? Why or why not?

How do you think Catherine felt when she knew that her husband had planned to buy their sons and her freedom, but when he died his trusted friend kept them enslaved and actually sold them to new owners? Did she have any say in the matter?

You are the eldest son of a southern plantation owner in the mid-1800’s. Your family’s cotton crop depends on the work of many slaves. It’s the only system you’ve ever known. Would it bother you to own slaves and see them mistreated? Why or why not?

What did the author mean when he wrote – “John Roy might have been free by the time he was two. But he was not. Precious time — years of would-be freedom — were lost”?

When Mr. Davis asked John Roy what he thought about Mrs. Davis’ sister never lying, why do you think John Roy answered the way he did, knowing his reply would displease them?

At the time of this story why were slaves so important to the south, but not the north?

Was it a smart move for the U. S. government in 1868, to appoint a Yankee general to be governor of Mississippi? Why or why not?

How do you react to this line in the story – “Mr. Davis and others fought for their freedom to deny John Roy his freedom”?

What did the author mean when he wrote – “For John Roy, true emancipation came the summer he turned sixteen.”

Why did the author use the word ‘united’ four times when he described the reaction of John Roy and the sailors to President Lincoln’s assassination. Was this effective?

Why do you think Mr. Davis took his slaves to Sunday school?

Was John Roy just lucky that he found opportunities for jobs and education? Why or why not?

Why do you think President Lincoln thought the Union would be strengthened by declaring that slaves would be free?

Do you think there was any significance that John Roy bought property on Homochitto Street? Why or why not?

Why did the author choose the title for this book?

As Justice of the Peace, do you think it was difficult for John Roy to treat blacks and whites equally? Why or why not?

Do you agree with the author when he wrote -“In a way, the Civil War wasn’t really over”?

If John Roy was still alive today would he be pleased with the strides blacks have achieved? Why or why not?

Book Talk Teasers:

Read the first page.

Begin on page one and continue until John Roy’s dad dies.

Read Alikes:

Biography; History books; Narrative nonfiction for kids and teens; Picture books for children; Inspiring; Attention-grabbing; Folk-art style:
Rockwell, Anne F. Only passing through: the story of Sojourner Truth. Presents a biography of the woman who was born a slave with no status and became one of the most powerful voices in the abolitionist movement. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; History books; Narrative nonfiction for kids and teens:
Jurmain, Suzanne. Worst of friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the true story of an American feud. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson have differences, but put them aside in the name of friendship. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; History books; Narrative nonfiction for kids and teens; Poetry for kids and teens; Inspiring; Patriotic; Lyrical:
Weatherford, Carole Boston. Voice of freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Presents a collage-illustrated treasury of poems and spirituals inspired by the life and work of civil rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; History books; Narrative nonfiction for kids and teens; Inspiring; Moving; Attention-grabbing:
Cheng, Andrea. Etched in clay: the life of Dave, enslaved potter and poet. The life of Dave, an enslaved potter who inscribed his works with sayings and poems in spite of South Carolina’s slave anti-literacy laws in the years leading up to the Civil War. Includes afterword, author’s note, and sources. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; History books; Picture books for children; Inspiring; Moving; Realistic:
Sherman, Patrice. Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation. Young Benjamin Holmes, a slave in Charleston who has taught himself to read, reads Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to his fellow slaves in prison. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; History books; Picture books for children; Attention-grabbing; Realistic:
Moss, Marissa. Nurse, soldier, spy: the story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War hero. A story of a nineteen-year-old woman who disguised herself as a man to avoid an unwanted marriage and who distinguished herself as a male nurse during the Civil War, and later as a spy for the Union Army. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; History books; Moving; Attention-grabbing; Colorful:
Schroeder, Alan. Minty: a story of young Harriet Tubman. Young Harriet Tubman, whose childhood name was Minty, dreams of escaping slavery on the Brodas plantation in the late 1820s. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; History books; Emotionally intense; Moving; Attention-grabbing:
Hamilton, Virginia. Anthony Burns: the defeat and triumph of a fugitive slave. A biography of the slave who escaped to Boston in 1854, was arrested at the instigation of his owner, and whose trial caused a furor between abolitionists and those determined to enforce the Fugitive Slave Acts. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; Narrative Nonfiction for kids and teens; Picture books for children; Sports and recreation; Inspiring; Colorful:
Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Satchel Paige. Examines the life of the legendary baseball player, who was the first African-American to pitch in a Major League World Series. (NoveList Plus)

Hubbard, Crystal. Catching the moon: the story of a young girl’s baseball dream. A picture book biography highlighting a pivotal event in the childhood of African American baseball player Marcenia “Toni Stone” Lyle Alberga, the woman who broke baseball’s gender barrier by becoming the first female roster member of a professional Negro League team. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; Narrative nonfiction for kids and teens; Character-driven; Moving; Attention-grabbing:
Lasky, Kathryn. Vision of beauty: the story of Sarah Breedlove Walker. A biography of Sarah Breedlove Walker who, though born in poverty, pioneered in hair and beauty care products for black women, and became a great financial success. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; Narrative nonfiction for kids and teens; Inspiring; Realistic:
Grimes, Nikki. Talkin’ about Bessie: the story of aviator Elizabeth Coleman. A biography of the woman who became the first licensed Afro-American pilot. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; Government and Politics; Narrative nonfiction for kids and teens; Picture books for children; Attention-getting; Cartoony:
Kerley, Barbara. Those rebels, John and Tom. A dual portrait of two American founding fathers shares introductions to the many ways they helped a young United States in spite of their disparate views, tracing how they overcame interpersonal differences at key points in the nation’s early history. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; Government and politics; Picture books for children; Upbeat; Attention-grabbing; Colorful; Inventive:
Krull, Kathleen. Lincoln tells a joke: how laughter saved the president (and the country). A biography of one of America’s greatest presidents, focusing on his use of wit and humor, and his love of language. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; Culture and customs; Picture books for children; Sports and recreation; Feel-good; Upbeat:
Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Bill Pickett, rodeo-ridin’ cowboy. Describes the life and accomplishments of the son of a former slave whose unusual bulldogging style made him a rodeo star. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; First person narratives; History books; Picture books for children; Moving:
Cline-Ransome, Lesa. Words set me free. Words Set Me Free is the inspiring story of young Frederick Douglass’s path to freedom through reading. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; Picture books for children; Inspiring; Serious; Realistic:
Slade, Suzanne. Friends for freedom: the story of Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass. Discusses how a former slave and an outspoken woman, who came from two different worlds, shared deep-seated beliefs in equality and the need to fight for it. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; Picture books for children; Inspiring; Inventive:
Krull, Kathleen. Wilma unlimited: how Wilma Rudolph became the world’s fastest woman. A biography of the African-American woman who overcame crippling polio as a child to become the first woman to win three gold medals in track in a single Olympics. (NoveList Plus)

Biography; Collective biographies; Government and politics; Picture books for children, Amusing, Attention-grabbing, Cartoony:
O’Connor, Jane. If the walls could talk: family life at the White House. Provides a look at the personal lives led by the leaders of the nation and their family inside the walls of the White House. (NoveList Plus)

Art and music; Biography; Narrative nonfiction for kids and teens; Picture books for children; Inspiring; Easy-to-understand; Big and bold:
Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Alvin Ailey. Describes the life, dancing, and choreography of Alvin Ailey, who created his own modern dance company to explore the black experience. (NoveList Plus)


Book Reviews:

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch.
By Chris Barton. Illus. by Don Tate.
2015. 50p. Eerdmans, $17 (9780802853790). Gr. 3–5. 328.73092.
First published April 1, 2015 (Booklist).

The fascinating story of John Roy Lynch’s life from slavery to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives at age 25, gets a stirring treatment here. Barton has a lot of territory to cover, from slavery to the Civil War to Reconstruction and beyond, along with Lynch’s personal journey. Because of this, the information at times seems clipped, though it’s consistently incisive. The complete time line at the end of the book helps fill in the gaps, and the story generates interest that will encourage additional research. Tate’s often expansive illustrations emphasize important incidents in the text. A reference to harsh laws passed by whites is coupled with a dramatic two-page spread of whipping, a potential lynching, and lots of angry white faces in the foreground, fists clenched. A small African American boy covers his eyes at the scene. A scene of the horrors of a school burning shows praying figures overshadowed by masked attackers with burning torches. The emphasis in other illustrations is on faces, full of emotion, which adds to the power of the telling, and the rich, soft tones of Tate’s palette welcome the eye to linger. Pair withMumbet’s Declaration of Independence, by Gretchen Woelfle (2014), for another story of a unique and relatively unknown figure in African American history. —Edie Ching


School Library Journal:
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
Gr 2–5—In this inspiring picture book biography, Barton recounts how John Roy Lynch went from teenage slave to state representative in just 10 years during Reconstruction. The author describes how Lynch was born to an Irish father and an enslaved mother, making him “half Irish and all slave.” Lynch learned to read and write and developed into an eloquent speaker, eventually becoming a justice of the peace and being elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. The vocabulary-rich text may be difficult for younger students, but Tate’s illustrations, rendered in mixed media, ink, and gouache on watercolor paper, are extraordinary and carry the lengthy story well. The excellent cartoon-style paintings soften potentially disturbing details, such as the Ku Klux Klan burning a church. The book concludes with a thorough historical note. VERDICT Teachers will find this remarkable story of hope and perseverance a valuable supplement to social studies lessons on the Civil War and Black History Month.—Jennifer Simmons, Anderson County Library, SC


The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Barton, Chris. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. Illustrated by Don Tate. Eerdmans, 2015. hb  9780802853790

John Roy Lynch, son of an Irish overseer and a slave, lost his first shot at emancipation when his father died and the man to whom he’d entrusted his wishes failed to manumit John Roy and his family. Nor did John Roy consider the end of the Civil War as the beginning of his personal freedom: “It came instead when he sold a chicken for a dime to a Yankee soldier and bought himself a boat ride across the river back to Natchez.” There the sixteen-year-old would quickly improve his fortune, expand his meager education, and assume a role in Reconstruction politics. In 1868 he became a justice of the peace at twenty-one; a year later he was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives, becoming Speaker two years later. Then it was on to the U.S. House, where he served for two terms, championing a civil rights bill that became law but wasn’t enforced. As the title implies and Barton’s closing note affirms, this is as much about the era of Reconstruction as the remarkable man who experienced both its promise and its ultimate dissolution. Readers, however, are bound to be somewhat disappointed that Barton’s account stops abruptly after Reconstruction, with only the sketchiest of information included in an appended timeline to describe the subsequent life of a very interesting subject. Nonetheless, the storytelling is spirited and Tate’s line and watercolor illustrations are lighthearted yet respectful. This title makes a useful contribution to a period of American history largely unexplored in picture-book format, and it might pair well with Nelson’s Bad News for Outlaws (BCCB 1/10), another story of a former slave’s rise to lawman. Review code: Ad –Additional. Gr. 3-5. Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, June 2015 (Vol. 68, No. 10))