Day 15: Tiki and Ronde Barber

February 15, 2014

TikiandRondeBarberAlthough Tiki and Ronde Barber first came to fame through the hard-knocks life of NFL football, they’ve also become known for their books for young readers. The brothers collaborated on three picture books and are current working with author Paul Mantell on the Barber Game Time Books, a series of sports related books that mix the action and adrenaline of sports with themes of good sportsmanship and caring for teammates and the community. The series began with Kickoff, which found the twelve-year-old brothers getting ready for the start of ExtraInningsjunior high, when they can try out for the school’s football team. The latest novel in the series, Extra Innings, has the boys trying out for baseball. Booklist has praised the series, calling Kickoff, “an appealing story for football fans” and noting Red Zone for its “play-by-play football action”

Extra Innings is available now.

Day 14: Theodore Taylor III

February 14, 2014
photo (1)Today we’re especially pleased to highlight artist Theodore Taylor, who was recently honored with a Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe New Talent Award. He won the award for the book he illustrated, When the Beat was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop, written by Laban Carrick Hill, and published by Roaring Brook Press.
Theodore Taylor III studied Communication Arts (Illustration) at Virginia Commonwealth University, and he currently lives and works in Washington DC. He is inspired by a variety of subjects, including music, album covers, posters, animation, comics, and video games . . . and pizza!
Here is Theodore in his own words:
His Journey
 My steps towards becoming an illustrator started when I was very young. I distinctly remember drawing dinosaurs as a child and showing them to my mother. I soon moved onto imitating the styles of Looney Tunes, Ninja Turtles, Sonic the Hedgehog and other cartoons and games I enjoyed. Art class was always my favorite in school. I still have a large stack of sketchbooks ranging from elementary school to present day. During high school I decided I would pursue art as a major at Virginia Commonwealth University with a very helpful push from my art teacher Fletcher Nichols at Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke, Virginia.
After two semesters of what VCU refers to as the “Art Foundation” program, I was accepted into the Communication Arts (previously Illustration) department. My professors Robert Meganck and Sterling Hundley recommended me for an internship creating posters for Theatre IV, a children’s theater in Richmond, Virginia. Overall I did two series of posters for them during and after college.
Once I graduated I moved to DC and continued to freelance on the side while working full-time as a production assistant at a web design/PR firm now known as The Brick Factory. In my free time I designed and illustrated several album covers, many for a hip-hop music blog, Potholes In My Blog. This was enjoyable for me because it allowed me to combine my love of music and art which had ultimately been the goal for my work.
His Back Story
 A year or so after I graduated I was contacted by Colleen AF Venable, a designer at Roaring Brook Press, who saw my work on Flickr. She asked if I was interested in taking on a project about DJ Kool Herc that Laban Carrick hill was writing, noting the number of portraits I had done of musicians like Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Esperanza Spalding, Jay Electronica and others. I happily accepted the job and began planning how I would illustrate the text.
url-2His Inspiration
 I’ve taken inspiration from many sources. In terms of children’s books, from my childhood collection Maurice Sendak and his book “Where The Wild Things Are” has always stood out as a favorite. I also appreciate how he viewed his books as not just for children but for adults as well. Crockett Johnson’s “Harold and the Purple Crayon” also sticks out in my mind and may have helped push my interest in drawing. Although I didn’t read his books as a child, Kadir Nelson was the most inspiring African American children’s book illustrator for me while working on the book.
Japanese art and animation has been an important influence since my teenage years. I’m a big fan of the work of Hayao Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon and Taiyo Matsumoto. I also gained an interest in street art, especially what’s being done by Brazilian artists like Os Gemeos. Art nouveau interested me in college, enjoying the work of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Aubrey Beardsley and others.
As for illustrators, I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from my previously mentioned professors Robert Meganck and Sterling Hundley. Much of my digital drawing technique is taken from demos given by Meganck. This was especially helpful in a time when working digitaly wasn’t as prevalent in our school as I assume it is now. I had been working digitally since high school so it was helpful to have someone to follow as an example. Hundley’s work was helpful as he taught me the importance of displaying a human-ness in my work and allowing “happy accidents” and evidence of your process show through. I should also mention my professor Kerry Talbot who taught our Graphic Essay course in which we wrote stories and created illustrations to fit them. I referred to what he taught me when working on the book. Sadly, he passed away last year.
I could write for days about my musical influences. I am a self-proclaimed music nerd. I’ve spent years exploring hip-hop, electronic, jazz, soul, funk, rock, folk, Brazilian and many other forms of music. Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock are at the top of my jazz list. Madlib and J Dilla inform much of the hip-hop and beat-oriented music I follow. Most of the electronic music I listen to follows the likes of Flying Lotus and Squarepusher.
I also can’t forget my parents. Outside of his job my father, Ted Taylor, was a jazz guitarist who performed in and around the Roanoke area in a band called The Reflections. His music was a major part of my childhood and continues to influence me today. I also had the chance to play drums with him many times before he passed away while I was in high school. My mother, Leslie Taylor, played a major role in influencing my interest in books and writing. She was a writer and editor for many years at the Roanoke Times, where I spent a lot of time after school drawing in my sketchbooks.
 When the Beat Turntables-small
His Process
 Usually my illustration process involves creating a sketch that I scan into my computer to work on top of in Photoshop. On occasion I’ll also ink my drawings by hand. For my book I had to alter my process slightly. I avoided inking by hand as I expected having to make alterations based on feedback from the publisher. I avoided ‘inking’ in Photoshop as the drawings were fairly large and taxed my computer heavily. Instead I finalized the lines with pencil, which made it easy to erase and change certain elements. I then added color and textures in Photoshop as I normally do. When I do my next book I plan on finalizing linework fully in Photoshop using a recently purchased tablet monitor that I feel will improve my process greatly.
The Buzz
Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award for New Talent
Added to the 2014 CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People Reading List
Junior Library Guild Selection
NPR: “When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop looks at the early life of the deejay widely credited with creating hip-hop.”
New York Times: “Taylor’s illustrations bring out the enthusiasm and sense of community at the heart of this trend-setting sound.”
Publisher’s Weekly: “Whether Taylor is zooming in on Herc’s dexterous hands manipulating the turntables or pulling back for a birds-eye view of the first break dance performances, he makes readers feel like they’re present at hip-hop’s inception. “

Teaching For Change: “Theodore Taylor III’s colorful but not cartoonish pictures, give us a story that’s part history lesson and part warm earth tone landscape, capturing the wildness and the warmth of a culture that flourished in project parks and community recreation centers.”

Word Is Bond: “Laban Carrick Hill and illustrator Theodore Taylor III’s picture book about hip-hop’s early days in the Bronx is a must-read for both the way it pays tribute to Clive Campbell (“Kool Herc’s music made everybody happy. Even street gangs wanted to dance, not fight”) and its striking artwork.”
Granite Media: “I highly recommend this book for any young person (or not so young person ) interested in music or pop culture, whether Hip Hop or other genres.”
Waking Brain Cells: “This is Taylor’s first picture book and I hope he does more.  His images have a wonderful richness of color without being dark at all. “
Kirkus: “Hill and Taylor have accomplished something special with this picture book, capturing the energy of the early hip-hop movement and presenting it in a manner that is accessible for children.”
Booklist Online: “Theodore Taylor III’s illustrations in a muted palette are a great accompaniment to the story”
While not directly related to the book, last month the Kennedy Center requested permission to use one of my illustrations of Herbie Hancock for a short documentary shown at the Kennedy Center Honors. The program also aired on television. Herbie allegedly said my illustration was “very cool”.
Under The Radar
There were actually a number of great African American artists in my major. Two who’s work I’ve really enjoyed are Richie Pope and Chris Visions. Richie has an amazing and unique style that has been gaining a great following recently. Chris Visions has been doing a lot of great work, creating comic book covers as well as writing and illustrating a few of his own.
A few other artists I don’t know personally but am excited about include Ron Wimberly, a comic book artist who recently released the fantastic book “Prince of Cats” and Lesean Thomas, who’s done work for several animated TV shows including The Boondocks and Black Dynamite. While Ed Piskor isn’t African American I feel it necessary to mention his comic series “Hip-Hop Family Tree”, a masterful ongoing chronicle of hip-hop’s history that I’ve often looked to for inspiration.

Day 13: Daniel Beaty

February 13, 2014

Daniel.Beaty head shotDaniel Beaty has phenomenal acting, singing, composing, and writing skills and he has the awards and honors to prove it.
One of his solo plays, Emergence-See!, had an off-Broadway sold-out extended run in 2006. In 2008, the play retitled Emergency sold-out a seven-week engagement in Los Angeles and was awarded two 2009 NAACP Theater Awards including Best Actor.

His latest play, The Tallest Tree in the Forest is based on the life of Paul Robeson.

“ . . . Beaty changed characters, from the wife of Robeson, to Robeson, to a young Robeson and many others by use of voice, facial expression and body language,” said Steve Wilson of the Kansas City Theater Examiner.

The Book

No matter what form his work takes, Daniel considers himself a storyteller. His latest art form is a picture book, Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dreams for Me. In it, he tells the story of a little boy growing up without his father. It’s a personal story based on the knock-knock game he played with his own dad until the morning his dad did not knock on his bedroom door.

Knock Knock book cover

Daniel introduced Knock Knock in 2005 as a poem he wrote and performed for HBO’s Def Poetry. Watch it here: Knock Knock 

Although, Daniel’s dad was incarcerated, he decided not to explain the absent father in his book. This leaves the reason open and results in a story any child with an absent father will appreciate. 

In a Publishers Weekly podcast interview, illustrator Bryan Collier and Daniel discuss their collaboration. Listen to it here.  

The Buzz
“The text, powerful and spare, is well supported by Collier’s watercolor and collage art…there is a lot going on in the mind of any child who has been denied a parent, for whatever reason. In this book they will find comfort and inspiration.” (The Horn Book)

“By sharing his experience, explained in an afterword, Beaty lends his voice to children struggling with the absence of a parent and the grief that goes with it.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“A poignant [and] heart-wrenching tale of love, loss, and hope.” (School Library Journal)

“The desire for guidance encountering life’s experiences is told from a small child’s point of view with candor, as well as hope….” (Booklist)

“Challenging but ultimately uplifting, Knock Knock is a thoughtful meditation on grappling with the sometimes uneasy legacy passed down to us by our parents.” (The Huffington Post)

For more about Daniel Beaty visit his website:   Daniel Beaty

Posted by Gwendolyn Hooks

Day 12: Dream Jordan

February 12, 2014

Jordan, Dream.PHOTONormally, we like to give our honorees a luminous, sometimes lengthy introduction. The words of Dream Jordan are so substantial, however, I don’t want to stand in their way. Please share this post with the teens in your life. I’ll be sharing it with those in mine. Brooklyn native, NYU magna cum laude graduate, YA author–Dream Jordan.


The Journey:

“I really want to write a book, hopefully tomorrow…” begins a poem I wrote in fifth grade for my class’s gazette. Little did I know, publishing a book is no small feat, and it would take years of hard work, and dedication to actually fulfill my dream. During my elementary school years, I was a focused, straight-A student with ambitions of authorship. But once I made it to junior high, I lost interest in all things academic along with my aspiration to become a professional writer. Cutting class and dressing fashionably took precedence in my life. Ironically, however, it was my scholastic downfall that eventually led me down the yellow brick road to publication.

I had allowed peer pressure to destroy my potential as a teen, and I wanted to write a story revolving around this idea of wasted possibilities. I had never written a book for young adults before, so I took plenty of trips to my local library and studied my favorite writing magazine, “Writer’s Digest.” I also wanted to ensure that I had the right “voice” for teens, so I trolled the internet, searching for the latest slang, careful not to overdo it though. I observed and consulted with the teens around me to make sure my work was authentic and up-to-date – because, my, oh my, how the times have changed! And finally, I attended panel discussions and writing workshops to strengthen my knowledge of the publishing world in general. As a result, when the rejection letters for my first young adult book, “Hot Girl,” came pouring in, I was fully armed. Furthermore, I had landed an awesome editor and literary agent; and they acted as the voices of reason during times of self-doubt.


I’ve recently decided not to name specific books or people who have inspired me throughout my writing career. It’s heartbreaking when I forget to name key people, and my reading taste is quite eclectic, dating back to the nineteenth century. I am a big fan of “voice,” so the genre doesn’t matter. As long as I feel the narrator’s flow; I’m more than willing to embark on a literary journey with an author whose voice I trust.

The Back Story:images

HOT GIRL is the award-winning story of Kate, an at-risk teen in foster care who has turned her life around, only to be sidetracked by a fast girl who leads her down a path of self-destruction.  I decided to give my protagonist a background in foster care to show young people that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, or who you’re from, it’s where you’re “at” on the inside. There are so many gems who grow up in the so-called hood, and it’s important for me to demonstrate through my fiction that their possibilities are endless. And during my school visits, I emphasize this point, “repping” my hood of Brownsville, Brooklyn, proud to have gone from nearly dropping out of high school to graduating magna cum laude from New York University. My novel demonstrates that all things are possible with the right attitude and influences in your life.

BAD BOY is the award-winning sequel to HOT GIRL. Kate, known for her spunk, suddenly finds herself in an abusive relationship. Dating Violence was not my first choice of topics for my sophomore effort. But in recent news it had become apparent to me that abuse was on the rise, particularly for young girls. Growing up, I’ve thankfully never been abused by a boyfriend, and I didn’t have friends who’ve experienced being physically harmed either. Sadly, at present, when I ask a group of young girls if they’ve ever been exposed to dating violence, twelve year olds raise their hands high, completely unfazed, like, hey, just another day in a teen’s life. Therefore, the reason I felt that Kate was the best character to portray an abuse victim is because she is such a strong young lady; and it’s important for young girls to know that anyone can fall prey to domestic violence.

In short, I refer to the books I write as, “edu-tainment.” I want to entertain, as well as educate, our young people. This is my purpose. This is my passion.



The Buzz:


•2010 ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

•2009 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

•2009 New York Public Library Stuff for the Teen Age List



“Teen readers will relate to the smart, strong-willed protagonist, Kate….This novel has the makings of a YA classic, and every YA collection should have a copy.” – Vanessa J. Irvin Morris, Drexel Univ., Philadelphia – Library Journal


“Dream Jordan’s Hot Girl is a fantastic first novel…the content reflects the struggles and choices facing a young girl wanting to belong with her peers and also within a family. My students have showered accolades on Hot Girl.” - Amy Cheney – School Library Journal


“Librarians will be pleased with an urban fiction offering that does not drag its characters through melodramatic depravity but instead shows teens how it is possible to consciously choose the direction of one’s life.” – Reviewer: Diane Colson – Voya


“Characterizations are strong, and voices realistic….Jordan sends a message about doing the right thing.”- Emily Anne Valente, New York Public Library – School Library Journal


“With authentic dialogue and honest situations, [Hot Girl] will resonate with teens…Many readers will unconsciously absorb some of Kate’s grit, determination, and hope by the end of this realistic novel.” – Frances Bradburn – Booklist Online



•2013 YALSA’s 2013 Best Fiction For Young Adults

•2013 YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers



“Kate’s pitch-perfect voice raises the book above the level of a simple problem novel; once again, she is strong, vulnerable, witty and expressive in the face of misfortune and hostility. An engaging follow-up with a worthy message.”  Kirkus Reviews


“There are certainly some good lessons to be learned from “Bad Boy” and it’s a book I definitely recommend…Dream Jordan is definitely a talent I’m looking forward to reading more from.”  Portrait Reviews


“A compelling, believable story. Readers will be glued to the pages as Percy’s sweet words and deeds are followed by insults and controlling behavior…Jordan’s book can be an excellent resource to women young and old about what to look out for.” Leslie Frohberg, RT Book Reviews


“Bad Boy is an amazing book…The author does an amazing job of telling the story through Kate’s witty and funny words. The story is very believable and so are the characters. I recommend this book for lovers of realistic fiction. This is a book every teen should read.” Flamingnet Reviews


Learn more about Dream Jordan and her books here at Macmillan Publishers.

Day 11: Nana Camille Yarbrough

February 11, 2014

YarbroughPerhaps best known in the children’s literature world for her pioneering picture book, Cornrows (illustrated by Carole Byard), Nana Camille Yarbrough is an acclaimed singer, actress (co-starred in Lorraine Hansberry’s To Be Young, Gifted and Black), dancer (toured with Katherine  Dunham), activist, educator and middle-grade novelist. Her books, The Shimmershine Queens, The Little Tree Growing in the Shade and Tamika and the Wisdom Rings (Just Us Books) tackle tough issues including colorism and violence while reinforcing cultural pride and celebrating friendship, family and intergenerational relationships.

tamikaOn her website, she says: “The freedom of the African mind depends on us being re-educated about our history and our culture. As a griot, I am charged to do more than share stories but I must preserve the meaning and beauty of our culture. That work, with me as a keeper of our culture, transcends time and space. That’s why the themes of my books and my music are not bound to my generation. The ancestors ensure that my work has meaning for all age groups.”

cornrowsCornrows, a 1980 Coretta Scott King  Illustrator Award winner,  debuted more than three decades ago, and remains in print. Recently, Yarbrough launched an indiegogo campaign to fund the production of a Cornrows docudrama. You can learn more here where it reads in part: “Today it is just as necessary and important now as it was then. Cornrows is a story about our people, our culture, our family, and our heritage. Now, Nana Camille Yarbrough is taking Cornrows to the big screen with the production of a one hour docudrama that takes the viewers on a journey from America to Africa, the Motherland and back again.”

Her books are timeless, as relevant now as they were then. We are honored to celebrate Nana Camille Yarbrough as a vanguard author. Here, she talks about her journey:

I have written four books for children. It was not something I had planned to do, I had written songs, poetry, monologues, a play, a half page article, “Today I Feel Like I Am Somebody,” that was published in the New York Times Drama Section, all adult subject matter.

shimmershineThe books for children became part of my life’s work because of a poem and a friend. The poem Cornrows was actually a lyric to a song. The friend, who later became my best friend, was playwright, author Alice Childress.

Mrs. Childress and I met as guests on the television show Soul. It was a popular show on channel 13 in New York. I admired her work and told her I had acted in her play “Wine In The Wilderness.” After the show she told me my poetry was powerful and important and that she was pleased to be on the show with me. I felt it was really an honor to be on the show with her.

After that meeting I continued to do my other work as a performance artist, lecturer and community activist.

Several years later I received a letter from an editor at Putnam Publishing Group. The editor informed me that Mrs. Childress, at his request, had given him a list of names of young poets whose work she thought was good. She gave him a list. My name was on that list. He and I met in his office and he read the poetry I had brought to show him. The poem Cornrows was one of the poems he read. He asked me if I could write the poem as a book from the point of view of an eight year old girl. I had never written a book before but, I knew I could. That is how the book Cornrows came to be.

Cornrows is not a story only about hair. It is about the beauty and the skill of the art form.  It is the classic style for the coiled hair of people of African ancestry. The various designs traditionally symbolized honor, respect, courage, dignity and love. Symbols which for centuries had been taken from the lives of enslaved Africans until the designs were kept but, the meanings were lost. The book Cornrows was my effort to return the value system to the braids.

My other books for children: The Shimmershine Queens, The Little Tree Growing in The Shade, Tamika And The Wisdom Rings and all that I write are value driven to help restore respect, love, courage, wisdom, honor and dignity to people of African heritage and to all people who are in need of their restoration.

When I write I begin with the question, “How will this be helpful? What is needed? How can I entertain and inspire?

Then, I let it flow. I am first inspired myself by the subject and then by the development of the characters, the time, place and the destination. I know how I want to end it. I am inspired by just about everything and everybody.

The Buzz:


Winner of 1980 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

“This book is a Gem! Camille Yarbrough captures the warmth of family affection and the pride of our rich heritage in a story that’s superbly illustrated by Carole Byard.”

- Essence

The Shimmershine Queens

 Parents Choice Award winner

“A remarkable story about self-esteem and achievement”

- Publishers Weekly

Tamika and the Wisdom Rings

“Eight-year-old Tamika, her older sister, and their parents live in an inner-city apartment building where her father is the super. Although gangs and drugs are constant threats, Tamika works hard to keep her mind and body safe and strong. After Daddy is murdered by drug dealers (who threaten the rest of the family), the three are forced to move to another, much smaller apartment. That Tamika and her family are able to survive these terrible changes and move forward in their lives is a tribute to their inner strength . . . “


Find out more about Nana Camille Yarbrough at

Day 10: Eric-Shabazz Larkin

February 10, 2014

Eric_Larkin-AFarmer Will Allen and the Growing Table, is Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s stunning debut into the world of children’s literature. The book is written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and published by Readers to Eaters Books in 2013. It has received critical acclaim.

Eric-Shabazz Larkin a founder of the Creative School of Thought, a group of artists that  produce content for public art and social change.  A native of Virginia,  he lives in New York City.

Eric-Shabazz in his own words:

His Journey – Reclaiming a lost romance.

My first romance in the world was with illustration. I used to curl up with a pen and a pad and just go for hours on in. In the house. At the park. On the table. Under the table. Somewhere along the line, someone told me that artists don’t make money and I should choose another thing to love. I hate that I listened – but I did.Cover_Final_4-30-13

So, what does an artist with a financial complex do when they grow up? Advertising. I’ve worked in advertising for many years. I grew a deeper love for the craft of creativity. But it wasn’t long before my original love started calling my phone. Literally.

I got a call from a publishing company, Readers to Eaters. They had seen my illustrations online and asked me to do a book for them. I told them I was too busy. Somewhere inside, a little boy that used to be me, was disapproving of me. So when they were persistent about it, I caved. I’m a sucker for anything that sounds like a fun creative project.

I’m already working on a second book, with the same publishing company. It’s called, “A Moose Boosh,” a collection of poems to be read at supper to make dinner time special again.

Will Allen; photo from Wikipedia

Will Allen; photo from Wikipedia

The Inspiration – Will Allen

Will Allen and The Growing Table is a wonderful book about a man that deserves a hundred books. Will Allen is a real farmer that claimed his green thumb as a child, but went on to play pro basketball, moved to Belgium only to move back to Milwaukee and re-invent the way we do farming in urban cities.

Will Allen is known for his method of farming called, “vertical stacking,” which essentially means, his farms acres that are typical led spread out over miles are stacked on top of each other because to the limitations of space in cities.

I was really excited to find that he was a black man. It’s not ordinary for black men to be heroes in children’s books that have nothing to do with politics, slavery or civil rights. For that reason, I felt this project could truly be unique.


The Inspiration – The Farm

It was fun to see how a story is told over and over and over with every illustration decision I make. So, when illustrating this book I wanted to be sure to capture the textures and the colors of the farm. In particular, Will Allen’s farm called, Growing Power. Even though people come to visit his farm from all over the world, there is nothing really fancy to see. He uses, shipping pallets, old crates, worms, dirt and buckets.

So instead of using the same white paper texture, every page of the book was illustrated on a different texture you might find at the farm: wood, crumpled trash bags, old paper, burlap and more.

We also used color to help tell the story of Will Allen’s development throughout the story. He starts the book as a young boy that hates farming and grows to be a man that draws whole communities out to farm with him. The colors of the book reflect that, moving from these sad deep browns and greys to a very lush, vibrant, colorful book.



The Buzz

Here is a little video trailer I made for the book:

See Readers to Eaters website for a complete list of awards and honors

2014 ALA Notable Children’s Book

“Best Book 2013 Nonfiction,” School Library Journal

“100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2013,” New York Public Library

“Top 10 Sustainability Title,” Booklist

“Top 10 Crafts & Gardening Title for Youth,” Booklist

“15 Books for Future Foodies,” Food Tank: The Food Think Tank

“The idea of farming as a community builder…comes across clearly in the book.”

“Starred” review, Booklist

“Best Book 2013 Nonfiction,” School Library Journal

“Starred” review, School Library Journal

—“Recommended Book of the Week,” Cooperative Children’s Book Center



Under The Radar

There are two artists that I love and inspire me

The first is Kehinde Wile

The first time I saw one of his paintings, it made me completely rethink about the way I see myself, my race and my identity. His paintings brought me to tears. It was the first time that I realized that there was a place in the world for black art and place in the art world for black people. He made me want to be one of those people.

The second is Toyin Odutola

I watched a video of her talking about her work and she said that there is a lot of paintings that explore what it looks like to be black, but she wanted to paint what it felt like. There is something magical about her expression of blackness that makes me see my people differently.

Ultimately, artist like these inspired me to do a series of paintings called The Beautyfro Collection –

Follow Eric-Shabazz Larkin on twitter – @EricShabazz

His Portfolio –

His Company –


Day 9: Pamela Tuck

February 9, 2014

pamelatuckauthorPamela M. Tuck was born in Greenville, NC telling stories. As a child, Pamela entertained her family by recording her own voice and telling “made up silly stories.” She won her first poetry contest in elementary school and continued to write short stories and plays. Her picture book, AS FAST AS WORDS COULD FLY, was the Lee & Low Books New Voices Award winner in 2007. We at The Brown Bookshelf are proud to have her join us here for 28 Days Later. Welcome, Pamela!

The Journey
I grew up as an only child. So, books were more than just a source of entertainment, they became my companions. Before learning to read, I would climb into a loved one’s lap while they read to me and I’d become part of the story. I often requested to hear the story over and over again, until I could recite it back page by page. That was my version of “reading” a book. (Reading the pictures is what my family called it.). Some of my favorite books as a child were the Little Golden Books and books by Richard Scarry. As I became older, I read almost anything I could get my hands on. I just loved a good story. Fortunately for me, my grandfather was the master storyteller in our family. For years, I thought Bruh Rabbit, Bruh Bear, and Bruh Fox were his characters. Although I found out otherwise, I’m persuaded to believe the stories he told about them were original. As my cousins and I sat around his feet, my grandfather exploded into eye-popping, jaw-dropping stories. He turned storytelling into a performance. I often tried to imitate his technique by recording myself telling made-up, silly stories and using different voices for my characters. When I played those recordings back for my family, I was thrilled to see my grandfather and father bent over with laughter. That was confirmation that I too would be added to the list of family with royal typewriter

pamelatuckfamily picture

My writing journey actually began with a poetry contest in elementary school. I submitted a poem about my grandmother and won first place. I was convinced from that point that I was a poet. That experience taught me that I could win contests for my writing. So, poetry coupled with storytelling predetermined my life as a writer. Throughout my school years, I ventured into writing short stories and plays that received recognition from my teachers, friends and local newspapers. The encouragement from my family and community were the biggest influences on my writing.

As an adult, I found serenity in pouring my feelings out on paper. I often used poetry or inspirational compositions as encouragement for myself or gifts for close friends and family members. Once I became a mother, I enjoyed watching my children’s faces as they sat around my dad’s feet and listened to his eye-popping, jaw-dropping stories. It was a night of storytelling that prompted my interest in writing for children.

The Back Story
My husband, Joel, has always been a positive force in supporting my writing. Together, we read many books on writing and publishing books for children. During our research, we found out about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). We attended our first SCBWI conference in June 2007, and that’s when I learned the “rules” of writing for the mainstream market.

I was excited about all the valuable information I received from the authors, agents and editors, but I left the conference feeling discouraged. I felt that my lifestyle as a wife and mother of 8 children (at that time), did not fit the writing regimen of other authors. My husband served as the kindling to my inner writing fire. He assured me that I was a writer and I didn’t have to follow someone else’s schedule. He found out about the New Voices Award offered by Lee & Low Books, and urged me to write my dad’s story of desegregating the public school system in the 1960s. I was reluctant at first, but I decided to read several of Lee & Low’s titles to get a feel of what they were looking for. I eventually took my husband’s advice and submitted my manuscript in September 2007. In December 2007, I received a call from one of the editors telling me I had won the award!

I’m thankful to have my dad’s story honored with the Lee & Low Books New Voices Award, and the fabulous illustrations of award-winning illustrator, Eric Velasquez, which vividly capture the “spirit” of my family’s pride and determination. The publication of As Fast As Words Could Fly does more than serve as a long-overdue recognition of my dad’s accomplishments, it includes his story where it belongs: in African American history.

The Inspiration

I admire the work of several authors, but I think the one who inspired me the most at the start of my children’s book writing journey, is Mildred D. Taylor. I remember when I first discovered Ms. Taylor’s work. I had visited my local library to get books for my children and I noticed a poster of Newbery Award titles. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry seemed to have beckoned me to come closer. I checked out the book and was immediately drawn to the Logan family. Ms. Taylor’s family reminded me so much of my own. I was captivated by her dynamic writing style and her boldness in laying bare the realities of the time period she wrote about.

Ms. Taylor’s books inspired me to draw from my family’s stories of pride, oppositions, and triumph, as civil rights activists. Many of my friends and I learned about African American history in school, and we were exposed to the famous civil rights icons, but very few of us realized how many local unsung heroes walked those integrated hallways before us. That was all the more reason to write about my dad’s courage to take a stand against injustice by using his typing talent to help break racial barriers.

The Process:

I get a lot of my story ideas from life experiences, so in most cases, the story is already there. I just have to piece it together with “creative” glue. I try to find a plot point to work around and focus on developing it. I don’t formally outline my stories, but I create a mental or brief written outline that I use as a guide. If possible, I conduct interviews to find out the emotions surrounding the event, along with the dialogue for the time period. I do research to make sure I’m historically correct and accurate with my details, dialect and setting. By the time I’m finished with my interviewing, asking “what if” questions, and researching, I’m ready to write if I feel as if I can “walk” in my characters’ shoes.

My ideas flow more freely when I’m typing rather than writing them down on paper, and I require complete silence. That’s a lot to ask of a family of 13, so I generally isolate myself in my bedroom, send my children to a different part of the house, and give my husband the warning not to talk to me until I’m done (unless we’re writing together). Once everyone complies with my rules, I commence unto typing my first draft on my computer. When I’m done, I read out loud to test the flow of my sentences and how natural my dialogue sounds. I edit questionable spots and then I “sound the trumpet” for my audience. I enjoy bouncing ideas off my family, friends and fellow writers for their helpful critiques. I like to let my manuscript rest for a while before I work on it again so I can read it with “fresh eyes”. My next round of edits includes concentrating on more questionable spots, word economy, grammar, and checking the flow of events and details.

I’m grateful to my family for understanding my writing antics, and giving me the space and silence I need; in addition to being there as cheerleaders, making a lot of noise, for my writing successes.

The Buzz

    2013 Book Lists:

As Fast As Words Could Fly was selected as one of the Diverse and Impressive Picture Books for 2013 by IRA Reading Today Online.

Conversations Book Club also selected As Fast As Words Could Fly as one of the Top 10 Literary Finds with Young Readers in Mind for 2013.


School Library Journal:: “This well-crafted tale would be an excellent complement to overviews of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Booklist: “Told from a personal viewpoint and appended with a powerful author’s note, this is a story to share across generations.”

Publisher’s Weekly “Tuck lays bare the challenges that faced Mason and black students like him, but she also tempers the story’s cold realities with moments of hope, echoed by the pride and determination visible in scenes of Mason and his family.”

Kirkus: “A warm…title about the struggle for equality.”

Thank you, Pamela!

Find out more about Pamela M. Tuck at at her home on the Web.

Day 7: Zetta Elliott

February 7, 2014

IMG_1198When we first spotlighted Zetta Elliott during our 2009 28 Days Later Campaign, we were celebrating the release Bird (Lee and Low, 2008), her picture book with illustrator Shadra Strickland. A critical darling, Bird received a number of accolades, including winning a Lee and Low New Voices Honor Award, receiving a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustrations, and being placed on the ALA Notable Children’s Book List. Please welcome Zetta Elliott back to The Brown Bookshelf as she discusses her journey, her inspiration, and her latest works, including The Deep, just released in November 2013.

The Journey: I’ve been writing seriously since I was a teenager, though it took me a long time to publicly claim the title of writer. I finished my first adult novel in 1999 but couldn’t find a publisher so I started writing for kids. In 2005 I won the New Voices Honor Award from Lee & Low and my first picture book Bird was published in 2008. When I couldn’t sell any of my other manuscripts, I started my own press and self-published A Wish After Midnight in 2008; it was acquired by Amazon’s new publishing company the following year and rereleased in 2010. My second fantasy novel, Ship of Souls, was also published by them in 2012.

deep_comp_layout.inddThe Back Story: My first two novels were published by AmazonEncore and I was happy with that team; they didn’t offer an advance but had an “author first” policy that I loved and a quick turnaround time. When Amazon started its new YA imprint Skyscape, my titles were transferred to a new team that operates more like a traditional press. They continue to promote my novels here in the US and in the UK and Germany. But they wanted to release The Deep in 2015 and I wasn’t willing to wait that long so I opted instead to self-publish. I have so much unpublished material that I could easily publish a book a year for the next decade—but only if I do it myself. The Deep is part of my “freaks & geeks” trilogy, so I want to make sure readers aren’t left hanging. The third book, The Return, should be out by August 2014.

The Inspiration: Octavia Butler was the first Black speculative fiction writer I encountered; her prose is quite plain but her stories are always riveting. I’ve tried over the past ten years to focus more on developing my storytelling skills and less on “technical virtuosity” (I love when readers say, “That book was a real page turner!”). Writing plays for several years taught me to create compelling dialogue and since I’m trying to reach reluctant readers, pacing and length matter a lot. I want to write books that excite kids without being intimidating.

I often listen to Emeli Sandé and I once heard her say in an interview that she felt the people attending her concerts were outsiders; she was happy that her music served as a vehicle for creating community among people who often felt alone. I identify with that idea—I love that more and more Black people are openly identifying as geeks and nerds (or “blerds”). The Afropunk community creates space for so many different kinds of Black folks, and that didn’t seem possible when I was growing up. If you weren’t into hip hop, you weren’t Black—end of conversation. I’m drawn to artists who support the idea of Black multiplicity. We aren’t monolithic; here in the US and across the African diaspora we’re an incredibly diverse group and that’s a strength, not a weakness. I think young adult literature needs to reflect that reality.

Under The Radar: Haitian-American writer Ibi Zoboi recently joined me in discussing race in The Hunger Games. She’s finishing up her MFA at VCFA and I’m looking forward to seeing her fantasy novels on shelves soon.

The State of the Industry: After Nelson Mandela passed away last year, I took some time to reflect on his impact on my life and my understanding of Blackness and social justice. I had just self-published The Deep and my beloved aunt had passed away the week before; it was a really difficult time and I wondered if I should have waited to release the book once my semester was over. In my writing on race and publishing I often quote poet/activist June Jordan who asserted that our “urgencies” would never be truly understood by those outside our community. I’ve spent several years advocating for greater equity in children’s publishing and then last year I called it quits. I’m tired of all the people who pay lip service to diversity but take no further action to transform the industry; even established writers of color seem satisfied with the status quo. I thought about Mandela and the ANC, and the global response to South Africa’s apartheid regime. Mandela sat in that prison cell for decades before folks in the West sat up and took notice—and then took action. And one of the strategies to win his release and end apartheid was DIVESTMENT. Right now that word defines my relationship to the US children’s publishing industry.

The Buzz:

Check out the trailer for The Deep:

Lyn Miller-Lachmann review at The Pirate Tree: Social Justice & Children’s Literature blog: “The Deep does lead readers on “fabulous adventures,” and Elliott deserves applause and support for making this extraordinary story available now to fans of Ship of Souls and other readers at the middle and high school level looking for tales of ordinary kids who find themselves superheroes.”

Day 6: Michele Wood

February 6, 2014

Michele_Wood_photoMichele Wood is an award-winning artist, educator, and visual historian. She has been honored with the prestigious American Book Award for her first book, Going Back Home (Children’s Book Press), and is a 1999 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award recipient for her beautifully illustrated book I See The Rhythm (Zonderkidz).

Michele’s most recent book, I Lay My Stitches Down (Eerdmans), has received many awards, including a Parents’ Choice Honor Award; a Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year, and the list goes on.

 Michele Wood in her words:

Her Journeyi-lay-my-stitches-down

In April 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected to presidency while I was in Nigeria. I was stranded in Oshodi for two weeks. It was a poor section of town in Lagos, Nigeria. While there in Oshodi, I made friends and they played a great song titled “Sacrifice” by Elton John in a tin shack while we discussed South Africa’s election and Nigeria’s freedom. I was to be on a pilgrimage at the University of Ife for one year and to work with my mentor master sculptor Lamidi Olanade Fakeye. Lamidi had once given me objectivity by saying,” You have the ability to paint but not the subject matter”. My stay was cut short due to the fuel shortage that was in Nigeria and under the leadership of former President General Sani Abacha.

After being back, I received great news. First, my work had been selected for the cover of American Vision magazine. My gallery representative at the time had submitted my painting prior to my surprise. On the cover was the work that my mentor had finally commented that I found my subject matter. Days later and living in Jonesboro, Georgia, I got a call from a woman with a beautiful low voice inquiring about more paintings. She had seen my work on the cover of American Vision magazine. After talking, I discovered she was the award-winning publisher of multicultural books Harriet Rohmer. Wow! I scrambled and said sure I have more works of art. They were from a series of paintings I had begun in the 1991-1994 about my family and my journey through the south. Well, those paintings became my first book titled Going Back Home: an artist return to the south. It won the American Book Award.

Her Back Story

I Lay My stitches Down is the 2013 Gold Nautilus award winning book. I was contacted by my agent in regard to the manuscript. The art director at Eerdman Publishing remembered me from my first book and thought my style would be a great match with the first time author Cynthia Grady. After reviewing the manuscript she was right, I fell in love with her writing and it was a great match. ilaymystitchesdown_20-211

Her Process

I work in two ways. It depends upon whether the initial concept for the book is mine, or if I receive a manuscript written by someone else. When it is my concept for the book and the illustrations come first, I get visions for the idea and start to do drawings from that vision. GOING BACK HOME BOOK 001Then I proceed to do research to incorporate patterns and detail for that subject. I try not to work to close to the outline. I do not go in order. I jump around a lot. I have to be ready to attack a page. Books where the concept came from the artist and paintings came first is Going Back Home, I see the Rhythm, I see the rhythm of Gospel.

The second way is to receive a manuscript. I try to capture the essence first and then I do research on the subject, time period, clothing, colors, buildings and settings of that time period. I mainly work in my head more than paper. I don’t do a lot of sketches over and over again unless I am stuck or requested by the art director.

I work from my home/ office. I usually lay out my sketches so that I may see them in order. I do not do a detailed sketch because is locks me into that sketch. I like it flow more and let the unexpected happen when I paint.

I See the Rhythm 001

isrg book 001

The Buzz (I Lay My Stitches Down)

PEN/Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing, Shortlist (2013)

Parents’ Choice Award: Poetry category, Silver Honor (2013)

New York Public Library, Children’s Books 2012: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing

Bank Street College, Best Children’s Books of the Year, Starred for outstanding merit (2013)

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Big Picture Review (2012)

Capitol Choices, Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens (2013)

Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), Choices (2013)

International Reading Association (IRA) & Children’s Book Council (CBC), Children’s Choices (2013)

IRA Childrens Literature and Reading Special Interest Group, Notable Books for a Global Society list (2013)

The State of the Industry

Under the Radar: Cynthia Grady is an author and rising star. Her work is brilliant and distinctive due to her multi-layered use of language. She weaves patterns in her writings that is detailed and has hidden meaning. I had the pleasure of working with this amazing talent. I admire her work of art…(her poetry)

Day 5: Linda Trice

February 5, 2014

LindaphotoNot many people can say they learned from a literary star. But children’s book author Linda Trice received that honor twice. Sterling Brown, considered the Dean of Black poetry, and John Oliver Killens, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated novelist, were both her mentors. Their lessons about celebrating the beauty of black people and writing with love shines through in her acclaimed work. From middle-grade Charles Drew: Pioneer of Blood Plasma to her beautiful picture books, Kenya’s Word and Kenya’s Song, Linda shares stories that affirm, delight and empower.

Please join us in saluting Linda Trice on Day 5:

The Journey

I always wanted to be a writer but I didn’t know how to do it. If there were any books or classes about how to write I sure didn’t know about them when I was growing up in my Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. It’s where Great-grandfather Trice landed when he escaped from slavery in the South. I was lucky enough to be picked to be in a class for musically talented children when I was in junior high school. Some of us formed a literary magazine in our afterschool center and that’s where my first short story was published, along with an interview of Leonard Bernstein, the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

THE SAG HARBOR EXPRESS: My mother’s friend Mrs. Fraser learned about my interest in writing, read my published work and offered me her job for the summer. She was the society editor for our Black community in Sag Harbor, NY. The Sag Harbor Express is the oldest continuously published weekly newspaper in the United States. I got paid two cents a line and wrote about the teen parties I was attending and the parties that my parents went to. HOWEVER there was no byline and no photo of me. Mrs. Fraser wanted it this way for both of us. She hoped white people in town would read the column and realize that the people we were writing about were not much different from them.  That was one way we could fight against negative stereotypes of our people.

HOWARD UNIVERSITY AND STERLING BROWN: I went to Howard University and worked on the campus newspaper, The Hilltop. Years later I learned that my mother had worked on The Hilltop when she was a student at Howard. The only creative writing class at Howard was for seniors who majored in English. I majored in history so I had to find a way to learn how to become a writer.

Sterling Brown was a famous poet of the Harlem Renaissance era and a mentor to Stokely Carmichael and other leaders of SNCC. I often sat in his office on the top floor of Howard’s Founders Hall Library and talked with him. He taught me to find beauty and greatness in our people. He taught me to think for myself and not to easily accept negative portrayals of our people that others wrote.  Now I wanted not only to be a writer but an author of books that elevated our people.

Years later I learned that Sterling Brown had been named the Poet Laureate of the District of Columbia and was often called the Dean of Black Poetry. I am so appreciative that he took an interest in me and was willing to take time to mentor me.

NYU: As I approached graduation I looked for a job, anywhere, doing anything that would help me become a better writer. I got a job as a writer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (the public agency that built the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers) and took a creative writing class at New York University at night.


Linda Trice and Walter Dean Myers at the African American Children’s Book Fair.

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY AND JOHN KILLENS: My mother saw a notice in the Amsterdam News, New York City’s Black newspaper. The famous Black author John O. Killens was accepting students into his workshop. Killens knew and influenced just about every major Black writer of the last half of the twentieth century. He read my submission and admitted me into the program. I still hadn’t published a book. One of our classmates had, Walter Dean Myers, but it was a children’s picture book. We all wanted to write literary works for adults. At least half of us became published book authors- Wesley Brown, Delores Williams, Quincy Troupe and others. Brenda Wilkinson and the poet Nikki Giovanni eventually wrote books for children.

I graduated from Columbia University’s two year Master of Fine Arts writing program, moved to Connecticut and worked on the women’s page of The Hartford Courant, the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in the United States. I first applied to The Hartford Times but they openly told me that they paid male writers more than female writers. I also worked as a free-lance reporter for several weekly papers in the area.

Moving back to New York I ran magazines for Richard Clarke, the Black man who created the first employment agency for Black college graduates. There was great resistance by corporate America in those days against hiring us.

I also did free-lance work writing children’s stories and curriculum for the United Presbyterian Church and the United Methodist church. I had columns about children’s books in small newspapers, got short pieces about famous Black heroines published in small magazines and newspapers and continued to send articles, short stories and poetry to magazines. Some of them published me. Most rejected me. In those days you had to have clips- samples of your writing that had been published in order for a book publisher to consider your manuscript. I was working hard to get those clips.

GETTING AN AGENT: A television soap opera scriptwriter I met at a little girl’s birthday party told me about her agent, Sally Wecksler. Sally accepted me after reading some of my published material (those clips!) She got me a contract with McGraw-Hill and Bank Street Publishing Group. They wanted a docudrama, CHARLES DREW: PIONEER OF BLOOD PLASMA for ages 9-12. When it was published it was the only book for children about the founder of the first blood banks that had been written by a Black person.  It was a success and quickly sold out every copy. I’d finally had a book published!

My agent Sally Wecksler sadly died while I was trying to get a second book published. I wrote the new book Kenya’s Word without an agent and without a publisher. I sent it to every publisher in Writers Market and they all rejected me. One of my friends, Amy Elder from the National League of American Pen Women reminded me that I hadn’t sent Kenya’s Word to Charlesbridge Publishing.

I’d won the Eve Bunting Fellowship to attend a weeklong workshop given by the Highlights Foundation and heard Yolanda Scott, executive editor of Charlesbridge speak. I sent Kenya’s Word to her and reminded her that I’d attended the Highlights workshop.

While I waited to hear back from Charlesbridge I taught adults how to write for children at the Institute of Children’s Literature. I also wrote essays about writing and short stories for adults and children. Many of them were published then one day Charlesbridge phoned me. Yolanda said she loved Kenya’s Word and offered me a contract!

Charlesbridge assigned an editor to me, Elena Wright and we worked together, rewriting the book and polishing it. I remembered that Killens had taught me that a book should have a rhythm. This is especially true with something written for ages 4-7. Books don’t have to rhyme but they should sound lyrical when adults read them aloud to little children.

The illustrator George Ford, taught me at the Highlights workshop that a manuscript should make the illustrator shine. I realized that when people walk into a bookstore the first thing they notice about a book is the cover. Ford taught me how to create a great dummy, one that lets the illustrator create something wonderful on each spread.

Sue Sherman, Charlesbridge’s Art Director found Pamela Johnson, an illustrator who had done more than one hundred picture books. Pamela worked on Kenya’s Word for a year and finally it was done. It was shipped to the printer, then to the warehouse and finally the book came out to glowing reviews and awards.

Every copy of Kenya’s Word quickly sold. I was offered a three book contact to write more books about my confident character, Kenya and the loving, supportive people in her life.

KENYA’S SONG: Emily Mitchell edited my second Charlesbridge book. My previous editor had left to work at Harvard University. Working with Emily was wonderful. She easily understood what I was trying to accomplish with Kenya’s Song.  It was published in 2013 and people loved it.

kenyassongIn Kenya’s Song children whose grandparents are from the Caribbean are celebrated. I wanted to remind adults of the diversity of languages, music, foods and dance in some of the Caribbean nations. When I was doing my research I talked to seniors who lived in the Bronx and were from different Caribbean nations. Each person I talked to told me about their culture but always said, “Remember, it all goes back to Africa- the drum, the dance, the food.”

Since Kenya’s Song is read to little children between the ages of 3-8 I was happy that so many adults asked me to speak to their organizations. Just before I gave my first adult talk, The New York Times published an article about studies that showed that children who knew about their family history have great confidence in themselves and learn better.

Using that article as a springboard my audience and I discussed the best way to tell family history to children. We talked about using funny stories about parents and grandparents and relating incidents that showed the strength and bravery of an ancestor. Teachers suggested that they could talk about the traditions of their school and of their community. For instance some communities have a parade on July Fourth while others have picnics in the town park. Sunday school teachers wanted to tell children stories about the people who founded their congregations.

LindaandkidsI have since done school presentations to children in kindergarten and first grade. They loved talking about the culture and traditions of their family and their community. Their teachers and I learn a lot from listening to them.

I’m now working on the third book about Kenya, her family and Mrs. Garcia’s class. Kenya’s Art is scheduled to be released Spring 2016.


I write books, stories and articles about issues that I am passionate about and keep in mind the lessons I’ve been taught. From John Killens I learned to write with love about our people. From Sterling Brown I learned to focus on the beauty and greatness of our people. I try to think for myself and to question negative portrayals of our people that others have written.

For instance, my picture book for ages 4-7, Kenya’s Word is about a child who taught her classmates and her teacher Mrs. Garcia to think of all the beautiful things in the world that are the color black such as black patent leather shoes, the night sky and Mommy’s velvet party dress. When I give school presentations I ask my students to also suggest beautiful things that are the color brown.

Kenya’s Song shows the diversity of people of color in the New World and the ways we are similar. It also shows confident children who are eager to learn and create new things and are supported by the adults in their life.

The Buzz

Kenya’s Song for grades K-3 is a heart-warming story that celebrates the diverse music found in different cultures.”

-          International Reading Association (IRA)

“Kenya is having trouble with her homework assignment–choosing her favorite song. Her daddy, who plays jazz piano, takes her to the Caribbean Cultural Center. ‘There is music that you’ve never heard before,’ he tells her. What Kenya comes up with will surprise her classmates and the reader. Kenya’s Song shows a loving family living in a multicultural neighborhood full of children who are proud of their heritage. Kenya’s appreciation for the music around her and her loving relationship with her father makes this an appealing story for most libraries.”

-          School Library Journal

“Linda Trice’s Kenya‘s Song is written for children ages 4-8. Themes include: cultural awareness, music appreciation, creativity and father/daughter relationships.”

-          Jen & Kelly Read Amazing Picture Books

Linda Trice has written an enchanting children’s book for kids 4 to 7 years of age. Anyone who loves the variety of music available to everyone will appreciate the choice of Kenya’s favorite song.” 

-          Spirituality and Practice

The New York Public Library included KENYA’S SONG in their list of New Children’s Picture Books

Booklist recommended Kenya’s Song for Black History Month.

Kirkus included Kenya’s Song in its review of picture books with Caribbean themes.

Reading Rocket suggested Kenya’s Song for Women’s History Month.

Find out more about Linda Trice at


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