Day 7: Ekua Holmes

February 7, 2016


Photo credit: Clennon L. King

Before making her debut as a children’s book illustrator, Ekua Holmes was already an accomplished and award-winning fine artist. She was the first African American woman to be appointed a commissioner on the Boston Arts Commission. She was the recipient of a 2013 Brother Thomas Fellowship from The Boston Foundation for her contributions to the Boston arts community. In addition, she was the creator of a 2015 Google Doodle honoring the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday!


Last year, Holmes took the children’s book world by storm with her illustrations in Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, written by Carole Boston Weatherford. The book went on to receive numerous awards, including a Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrator’s Original Art exhibition, four starred reviews, a Sibert and Caldecott Honor, and a Coretta Scott King New Voices Award.

Holmes is a painter and collage artist who uses news clippings, photographs, vibrant gunnamed[1].jpgcolor and skillful composition to infuse her work with energy.

Presenting Ekua Holmes:

Tell us about your path to publishing. How did you get that first trade contract?

My path to publishing seemed to appear out of the blue. One day I got a call from a woman who had seen my work at an Open Studios event in my hometown of Roxbury, a neighborhood of Boston, MA. They asked would I be interested in working in Children’s literature. Would I ??? YES! I have always loved Children’s books and in the back of my mind held it as a possible path for my work. At exhibitions of my work people would say, “Have you ever thought about doing Children’s books.” I believe children’s books introduced me to art through the illustrations. Long before I went to museums and galleries, I went to the library. At the time of the call, I didn’t know if anything would come of it but I was pleased that there was interest.

Tell us about your most recent book, “Voice of Freedom.”

Months later the same woman called to say that her company, Candlewick Press, had a manuscript for me to consider—a manuscript about Fannie Lou Hamer. I knew about her role in the Freedom Summer, and her signature statement, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” I admired her and was honored to be asked to illustrate her story. I said YES! What a blessing.


Talk about the research process for the book.

Well first things first—reading the manuscript— again and again! Then images began to come into my mind – colors, patterns, shapes, faces.  After that, I started doing online searches. One search led to another and I was able to find images of Ms. Hamer from the 60s. The manuscript is so rich! It chronicles her life from the age of six to her 70s. Of course there were no early photos. Her family was too poor for that. So for the early years, I had to imagine her as a child. What did she look like? How did she wear her hair? What was her demeanor? Where did she live? I read books and articles about her. I read comments written by people who had worked with her in the movement. I listened to tapes of her speaking and singing. I looked at photos of her hometown. I immersed myself in her world.  Another smart thing I did was engage a college student to help me collect the books and information from various sources. She was so helpful (thank you Chianta).


Google Doodle by Ekua Holmes

Talk about the medium you use in your work

I primarily use collage techniques with acrylic paint. Collaging is basically glueing things onto a surface – photos, newspapers, lace- whatever helps to tell the story. My work is made of cut and torn paper and paint. I am also a proud and committed thrifter. I am always at the flea markets and thrift stores picking up things that speak to me. Just as I was about to work on the image of the doll Fannie Lou Hamer’s mother bought for her, I ran across these two old handmade dolls at a thrift store in Salem, MA. They seemed to be just the kind of dolls that Fannie Lou Hamer would have received from her Mother. They were so authentic! It was as if the universe had provided just what I needed.

Was there anything especially interesting that you learned about the subject while researching the book?

Fannie Lou Hamer was 45 years old when she started her Voting Rights work. Because of her upbringing, experiences and intellect, she was ready when it was her time to step onto the world stage. She was a devoted mother and daughter, committed wife and staunch believer in the word of God. She knew the battle was bigger than her, bigger than any human being. It was a righteous struggle and right had to win.  She never said, I’m too old, too tired, too poor- I’m inspired by that.

If you could spend one day in a studio, working with any artist — past or present — who would that be, and why?

What I would really enjoy is going thrifting with them, so artists like Whitfield Lovell, Radcliffe Bailey, Rene Stout or Bettye and Alison Saar. Oh and Nick Cave! They have the same affinity for the power of found objects. WE could spend the entire day (or days) driving through the South (or new England) visiting garages and barns, finding just the right items to inspire our work.

What would be your dream manuscript?


I like to think it’s on its way to me right now. Stay tuned.



Your dream author to work with?


Its funny, there is not as much communication between author and illustrator as you might think. Generally the publisher selects the illustrator (but does get the writer’s approval, I think). So I feel very fortunate to have worked on this book by Carole Boston Weatherford, who has written over 30 books and won many awards. Now I’m working on a book of poetry created by Kwame Alexander – another powerhouse writer/poet and winner of the 2015 Newberry Award. I couldn’t be happier.




Can you talk a bit about your process of illustrating a book?


This was my first time illustrating a book but I think it’s much like working on my personal collages. Research is crucial. I saturate myself in the author’s words (or subject) and allow images to rise to the surface. I sketch and revise, sketch and revise. Each time hoping to get closer to what I feel is the right composition. There is a lot of looking, thinking and moving things around.




Who are your cheerleaders, those who encourage you?


My partner and I are both artists (he’s a filmmaker). We give each other a lot of high fives. He is very proud of me right now.  Also my 8-year old granddaughter introduces me by saying “…and this is Nana, my artist.” Once she patted me on the head while saying this. I couldn’t have been more amused or flattered. If I can work on books that she and her generation will cherish, I will have everything I need in this world as an artist.




What’s on the horizon, what can your fans expect to see from you?


Winning a Caldecott Honor, a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award and a Robert F. Sibert Award for “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” is a hearty and magical welcome into the world of Children’s literature. I look forward to illustrating many more books. Folks can expect me to do my absolute best on each story, striving for creative excellence so that the illustrations I make will complement, illuminate and enhance the texts —it’s a collaboration. And after all—my granddaughter is watching.

–Don Tate

Day 6: Renée Watson

February 6, 2016

Watson Headshot cropped

In 2011, The Brown Bookshelf celebrated Renée Watson as an up-and-coming voice in the world of children’s literature, with two titles debuting the previous year: A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, a picture book illustrated by Shadra Strickland and published by Random House; and What Momma Left Me, a middle grade novel published by Bloomsbury. Since that time, she has become a celebrated author who has gone on to produce other stellar titles, including the picture book Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills (illustrated by Christian Robinson, Random House 2012) and her first YA novel – which happens to be today’s featured title – This Side of Home (Bloomsbury 2015).

this side of home smaller cover


In This Side of Home, twins and high school seniors, Maya and Nikki, find themselves in the unusual predicament of being at odds over the gentrification of their neighborhood. Nikki is excited about the new changes—pretty shops and boutiques replacing abandoned storefronts—while Maya is disturbed by all the “upgrades” that seem to be only for the benefit of the new people coming in, as opposed to the residents who have been there all along. For the first time, the sisters must, as the publisher puts it, “confront their dissenting feelings on the importance of their ethnic and cultural identities and, in the process, learn to separate themselves from the long shadow of their identity as twins.” Complicating matters even more, Maya finds herself becoming attracted to the new white boy who has moved in across the street, which understandably creates a sense of internal conflict.

Watson’s timely and conversation-provoking young adult novel has been well received, garnering starred reviews by Booklist and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (BCCB). Please join us in celebrating This Side of Home on Day 6 of 28 Days later!


Read what Renée Watson has to say about This Side of Home:

Home is a Complicated Place 

Book Page Interview on This Side of Home


Listen to Renée Watson speak about This Side of Home and writing for children:

Black Book Talk

Schomburg Live: Renée Watson and Tracey Baptiste on Diversity in Literature

NPR Interview & Jacqueline Woodson and Renée Watson, Photographed in Brooklyn




Day 5: Johnny Ray Moore

February 5, 2016


Johnny Ray Moore realized at an early age that writing was in his future. Thank goodness for his readers, he followed his passion. Share his literary journey and if you haven’t read his work, February is the perfect month to add his books to your collection.

The Journey

As a child, I was shy, and I spent a lot of time daydreaming. When I got into school, I loved reading, especially, reading poetry. I wrote my first poem while in the third grade. I don’t recall the name of the poem. In high school, I took creative writing classes. Years later, while in the

Army, I received two checks from Aim Magazine for two poems I had written. Getting paid to write felt good. Because I had studied and written so much poetry, to eventually write children’s books became my destiny. Thanks to poetry, I can say what I want to say with

very few words. And, my books, A LEAF, only 88 words; and, HOWIE HAS A STOMACHACHE, only 100 words, are both proof that I can communicate with very few words.
The Inspiration

As for writers and illustrators who inspire me, I am inspired by all writers and illustrators who are true to their profession. Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Alex Haley, Eleanora Tate, Kelly Starling Lyons, Don Tate, Carole Weatherford, and Tameka Fryer, to name a few, are blessed and creative people who inspire me. What I know of the few authors and the one illustrator that I have listed is that they were and are committed to their work. And, that is inspiration enough for me.




The Back Story

One of my children’s books that was a blessing for me and a struggle was THE STORY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., a 200-word board book biography. My former agent, Etta Wilson, informed me that Ideals Publication wanted someone to write a board book about Martin Luther King, Jr., in about 300 words, that would speak to young children. I thought about what I was being asked to consider, for a day or two. I struggled with what I could say about Dr. King that would be of interest to young children. Well, after musing over the opportunity at hand, then praying, I started to write. After about 10 rewrites, I emailed the manuscript to my agent. And, it was accepted.


HowieThe Buzz

As for the good things THE STORY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. has caused, I have gotten a few emails from teachers expressing how their young students could not get enough of it. I have gotten similar responses from parents.

The mentioned board book has gotten pretty good reviews, in general. And, in December of 2015, I was informed by the publisher, Worthy Kids/Ideas, that THE  STORY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. has sold well over 100,000 copies, is still selling well. Furthermore, the book has been reformatted to a slightly larger size. I am elated and blessed, to say the least.

The State of the Industry

As time goes on, I want to see more African-American children’s book publishers come on

the scene. I want to see more African-Americans write for children, period.

Why? Because, our children must be prepared to shine for us in the future as we have done and

are doing for them.

A LeafWe must make sure that WE TELL OUR OWN STORIES. If

you are not African-American, you cannot write about the black experience, convincingly. GOD

knows we are intelligent, creative and gifted enough to inspire, teach and support our very own,

first. So, let’s continue to INSPIRE; TEACH; and SUPPORT our children by writing and creating

the very best children books that we can.

Read more about Johnny’s fascinating journey here.

Day 3: Mélina Mangal

February 3, 2016

MélinaMangalMedia specialist, mother and author, Mélina Mangal writes to fill a void and inspire. Her books include biographies on award-winning authors like Virginia Hamilton, Mildred D. Taylor and Rita Williams-Garcia. They’re stories she didn’t see in bookstores or on library shelves, so she created them herself.

Her writing ranges from celebrating unsung trailblazers to giving voice to the experiences of African-American children. On her SCBWI page, she says, “My writing focuses on youth in nature, especially those whose voices are rarely heard, and the people and places that inspire them to explore their world.”

We are proud to feature Mélina on Day 3. Here’s her story:

The Journey

My writing began with letters: to my father in Vietnam, my grandmother in France, my pen pal in Jamaica. Around sixth grade, I discovered Langston Hughes and shifted my attention to diary writing. That’s when I first thought of becoming a writer.

It wasn’t until after college, working as a textbook production editor, that I tried to publish my work. My first published piece was a journal entry in an anthology. When the beautiful book arrived featuring luminaries like Alice Walker and Audre Lorde, I was both inspired and humbled. How could my unpolished debut appear alongside their work? I didn’t submit anything for five years after that. I couldn’t. I had to become a better writer.

Through a move across the country, graduate school, and a new career as a school librarian, I kept writing and reading and attending workshops. When my short story “Georgia’s View” (inspired by a Jonathan Green painting) was published in a literary journal, I was hooked. Writing short stories was addictive. So was children’s literature. My short stories began to feature children, and were published in anthologies such as Milkweed’s Stories From Where We Live series. After a writing retreat with editor Patricia Gauch, and a week with Rita Willgarciabioiams-Garcia at the Highlights Writing Workshop at Chautauqua, I was inspired to craft longer works. I moved back to Minnesota, got married, and started writing biographies of the inspiring people lacking from my library shelves, like the trailblazing author Virginia Hamilton, which became my first book. Rita Williams-Garcia and Classic Storytellers: Mildred Taylor came next. I wished their books had been available to me when I was a kid.

After the birth of my daughter, I became even more engrossed in picture books, and in delving deeper into my stories. I’m now spending more time exploring the visual images conjured by my words, after studying with Maya Cristina Gonzalez. My poem “Black Is” will be published in a collection by Reflection Press this spring.

taylorbioI spent the last couple of years researching and writing a picture book about the groundbreaking scientist Ernest Everett Just, which is due out in 2017. I can’t wait for young readers to learn about this inspirational man and his contributions to science.

The Inspiration

Although I had no problem reading, I became a Reader the summer before sixth grade when my family moved from a small town in Wisconsin to the ‘big city’ of St. Paul, Minnesota. I could walk to the library, and there I found books featuring all kinds of people—including people who looked like me. That’s where I discovered Langston and Maya Angelou. I read poetry, biographies, mysteries, and historical fiction, all of which I still turn to for inspiration.

Books by Jacqueline Woodson, Vaunda Michaux Nelson, and Tonya Bolden open my mind, while Tracey Baptiste and Jewell Parker-Rhodes fuel my love of nature, magic, culture, and spirit.

The Process

Ideas come easily to me. I don’t experience writer’s block, but I do suffer from what I call ‘dreamer’s deluge.’ I often have too many thoughts competing for attention. I typically have at least three projects of varying stages in the works. An idea starts with an image, or maybe a voice. I keep a notebook with me and jot it down. I write first by hand, capturing everything I can. I continue fleshing out details of characters by creating a character sketch. Poetry pops up when I try to get inside a character’s head. Later, I revise on the computer, then write by hand again when adding or changing scenes. Full-fledged stories take a long time to percolate.

The Industry: Under The Radar

It’s encouraging to see the work of writers and illustrators like Zetta Elliott, Kathleen Wainwright, Janine Macbeth, and Jerry Craft, who are paving a new way with Rosetta Press, Willa’s Tree Studios, Blood Orange Press, and Mama’s Boyz. Illustrators like Keturah Ariel Nailah Boo, Melodie Strong, and Peter Ambush are creating fresh, vibrant work, highlighting the significance of images in young readers’ lives.

Learn more about Mélina Mangal here.

Day 2: Damian Ward

February 2, 2016

damian profile picAs the lone illustrator on the Brown Bookshelf, I especially look forward to hosting the artists during our 28 Days Later campaign. Today I interview Damian Ward, who is a critically acclaimed illustrator of both trade and educational books for children. Some of the books he’s illustrated include “Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat,” (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2008), written by Nikki Giovanni, and “Bottle Cap Boys Dancing On Royal Street,” (Marimba Books, 2015), written by Rita Williams-Garcia. His digital artwork is lively and vibrant, and successfully brings to life the books that he’s illustrated. Ward studied illustration at the Columbus College of Art and Design.

Don: Tell us about your path to publishing. How did you get that first trade contract?

Damian: Craigslist, believe it or not. I got lucky to work with some talented people who 51n2WNzf5+L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_[1].jpghad experience writing for film, and they wanted to try something different. There was one particular picture in my portfolio that got their attention and after some emails, I was off to New York city to get things moving. It was a great first book experience for me because it was so open for me to interpret while also being on a very tight deadline. I could do just about whatever I wanted so long as I got it done super fast.

Don: Tell us about your most recent book.

Damian: “Bottle Cap Boys Dancing On Royal Street” was a joy. I had so much fun with the challenge of depicting such a distinct place and the people there. I got good guidance from the author and publishers, and that helped to make it feel like it had a real local New Orleans flavor.

Don: Can you talk about the research process for the book?

Damian: I live on the other side of the planet from New Orleans, so I used lots and lots of Google Street view. It wasn’t all high tech new-fangled intel gathering though, I was able to rustle up a few old books from various sources. New Orleans is un-aging in many respects so having a few older images to reference and read about helped to reinforce the classic feel of the locale, at least I hope so.

Don: What primary medium do you use in your work?

11a151dd73b9543a42c9ae35f0a1bf50[1].jpgDamian: I work digitally, primarily using the oil pastel brushes in Corel Painter.

Don: If you could spend one day in a studio, working with any artist — past or present — who would that be, and why?

Damian: I’ve always had a soft spot for Kandinsky. I liked that he seemed to be trying to develop a specific visual language in abstract colors and shapes.

Don: What would be your dream manuscript? Your dream author to work with?

Damian: Hmm, a dream manuscript for me would probably involve insects and or fish. I just like getting up close and drawing the little critters. I also like for there to be a message in there too though, almost hidden away, not beating anyone over the head.
An author I’d like to work with would be someone venturing way out of their comfort zone. I think if Ta-Nehisi Coates wanted to write a children’s book I’d love to take that challenge on.

Don: Can you talk a bit about your process of illustrating a book?

Damian: I start off with lots of thumbnail sketches. Many times I read something and think, I have to draw it this way. I know just how I want this to look, but if I can patiently explore a few options with thumbnail sketches I usually stumble across a better angle or depiction I can try. Sometime it is that first instinct in the end but it pays give yourself options. After that, I start tightening up the line drawings and doing some color studies before finalizing the illustration.

Don: Who are your cheerleaders, those who encourage you?

Damian: My wife and family have been there at every step to try and keep my head on straight (not always an easy task). They keep the orange juice refills and apple pies coming.

Don: What’s on the horizon, what can your fans expect to see from you in the future?

Damian: It’s time for me to start pushing myself to be an author/illustrator. I’ve been my own worst enemy in this regard but hopefully the next couple projects will feature the coveted ‘written and illustrated by…’ line on the cover.

–Don Tate


Day 1: Maya Angelou

February 1, 2016

Maya-Angelou crop

We commence this year’s 28 Days Later Celebration with Vanguard Honoree, Dr. Marguerite “Maya” Angelou (1928-2014).

Maya Angelou is one of our nation’s most important literary voices. From I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Phenomenal Woman, to And Still I Rise and On the Pulse of Morning, the collective writings of Dr. Angelou reflect some of the most horrible and praiseworthy aspects of human nature and American culture.

But did you know she also wrote books for young children?

Here are four titles perfect for introducing young readers to the work of one of our country’s most treasured authors:


Life Doesn’t Frighten Me (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 1993) life doesnt frighten me

A unique book that combines the words of a renowned African-American poet laureate and the primitive, modern paintings of a young Haitian-American artist. With lines of verse that shout exuberantly from each page, a young voice rails against any and all things that mean to do her harm. Whether they are “Shadows on the wall/ Noises down the hall” or even “Mean old Mother Goose/Lions on the loose”-to one and all she responds- “they don’t frighten me at all”…A powerful exploration of emotion and its expression through the careful blend of words and art. — School Library Journal


my-painted-house-my-friendly-chicken-and-meMy Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me (1994; Crown Books for Young Readers, Reprint ed. 2003)

A superb portrayal of Ndebele village life and art for young children. “Hello Stranger-friend” begins eight-year-old Thandi as she stands in front of a brightly painted house. In a thoroughly child-true voice, she tells about her beloved chicken, her people’s ideas of “good” (which is as close as they come to saying “beautiful”), their ways of making designs in paint or beads, her brother, and going to town. Courtney-Clarke’s full-color photographs are stunning…A unique book that honors Africa by projecting images that are true and honors American children by giving them the very best.—School Library Journal


kofi and his magic

Kofi and His Magic (Knopf, 1996)

A young Ashanti boy invites readers to visit his West African village, famous for fine kente cloth, and to share his “magic”—a masterful imagination. Artistic typesetting composition is accompanied by appealing color photos that bring the lyrical text into sharp focus…will speak to children everywhere and present them with a clear vision of [Kofi’s] beloved West African world.—School Library Journal




poetry for young people

Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou (2007; Sterling Children’s Books, Reprint ed. 2013)

A collection of 25 poems written by Maya Angelou, including the inspirational Still I Rise and Me and My Work.





To learn more about Maya Angelou, visit her website here.

24th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair

January 31, 2016

martin regusters 0336 webEach year, the African American Children’s Book Fair in Philadelphia celebrates the beauty of literature by black children’s book creators. Founded by literary publicist and advocate Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, it is known as “one of the oldest and largest single-day events for children’s books in the country.” Thousands of parents, children, teachers, librarians and book lovers come to see an all-star line-up of award-winning black authors and illustrators. It’s a moving testament to the power of affirming images and good books. We welcome Vanesse back to The Brown Bookshelf and thank her for her vision, commitment and incredible work:

Congratulations on the 24th anniversary of the African American Children’s Book Fair! Please share how the annual event has grown over the years and why it has staying power.

The event started as a Black History Month event at a major department store with 10 authors/illustrators. EB Lewis, Tonya Bolden and Jacqueline Woodson participated in that first event. Over 250 people attended. Today, on average, over 3,500 people pass through our doors for the book fair. People don’t come to browse — they come to buy. We sell more books on the first Saturday in February than any other African-American retailer in the country.

Our Literary Row is legendary. This is a great promotional tool to get them in the door. Once I’ve got them in the door, they buy. Seeing a long line of consumers buying books is such a beautiful sight. I set up the room in the same manner as traditional retailers.

Yet, even with all of our success every year, I still have to convince some in the publishing industry what we are doing is valid.

Why does the event have staying power? THE NEED.

Who are you featuring this year? Why is it important for children to meet black authors 2016Poster - African American Children's Book Fairand illustrators?  

The best and the brightest. It sounds a like a cliché, but it is truly a talented group of African-American authors and illustrators who have produced some of the best books of our generation.

To participate is highly competitive. From September to the closing date of December 31, I got over 150 requests. When I preview the books, I look to find the right mix for the book fair. I’m like a child in a toy store. The added value is the participants are really nice people who share my passion about books and know how to interact with their fans. Yes, these are the book stars of the industry.

We’ve got the best group of illustrators on the planet — Eric Velasquez, Shadra Strickland, Floyd Cooper, Nancy Devard, James Ransome, Theodore Taylor and EB. Lewis — who all just so happen to be American Library Association (ALA) past winners of various awards from Caldecott Honors to The Coretta Scott King.

The 2016 ALA Coretta Scott King best book winner, Rita Williams-Garcia, author of Gone Crazy In Alabama, will showcase the third book in her winning series. Ekua Holmes, who won the ALA John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator award, will be in the house. Ekua’s bold and vivid strokes in Voices of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer Spirit of The Civil Rights Movement shines with Carole Boston Weatherford prose, which won a Randolph Caldecott book honor. The book also won The Robert Sibert Informational Book.

Representing non-fiction are two of the best children’s historians from the literary community — Tonya Bolden and Carole Boston Weatherford — who both have won awards up and the down the literary landscape. 

When describing these groups, I didn’t use the word African American because these books have African-American themes or protagonists but are designed to include all readers.

Rounding out the group are my fiction divas — Crystal Allen, Sundee Frazier, Renée Watson, and Denise Lewis Patrick.

In the African-American publishing community, it is a family affair. James Ransome, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Wade and Cheryl Hudson, G. Todd Taylor and his wife Tiffany who owns the imprint are bring it strong in the fiction lane.

Picture books always take center stage at this event — Pamela Tuck never disappoints her audience with her storytelling skills.

Linda Trice, Tiffany D. Taylor and Veronica Chambers remind us in their picture books that in every problem there is a solution that brings happiness.

David Miller, whose first chapter book was about bullying, takes a spin in the picture book lane.

One of the hallmarks of this event is the support of corporate America. They show up in a big way at the event.

NBC10-TELEMUNDO62 is the sponsor of the Reading Circle. Our Educators Book-Give is sponsored by Wells Fargo, Tierney, Always Best Care Senior Service, Health Partners Plans, Health Partners Foundation and Universal Companies. PECO, which is the local electric company, sponsors a Literary Salon, which features our workshops.

All of these things set the stage to opening up the doors to a life-long love of reading.

What do you want people to take away from the experience of attending?


We are selling the joy of reading. People who read for pleasure use it as a coping skill. I have heard over and over again of people who read to relax. I believe the love of reading starts early. Every time I read, I learn something more about the past, present and future of who I am.

We have signs posted around the room that say, “PRESERVE A LEGACY, BUY A BOOK.” 

What’s next for the book fair? What’s your dream?

The book fair will continue to grow here in Philadelphia (tristate region). I have adults who attended as children bringing their children. My son just had a daughter Giuliana Isabella Sgambati so I’ve got to make sure she never says these words “There Are No African American Books In My Community.”

Also to expand nationally. I’m developing plans to take the book fair on a nationwide tour. I’m in conversation with national corporate partners. So if anyone in this radar has an interest please reach us at

We are a resource center – use us.

I’m also planning the children’s platform at BookExpo.

As always, my dream is to have the President of The United States host African American authors/illustrators in the White House. Having the president acknowledge the talent from the African American Children’s Book Community would be the icing on the cake. He knows best that “A Book Opens Up A World Of Opportunities.”


Saturday, February 6, 2015, 1-3 p.m.

Community College of Philadelphia (Gymnasium)

17th & Spring Garden Streets

Free and open to the public.

Details here:



























Contact Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati at or call (215) 878-BOOK.



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