The Window’s Closing

October 28, 2008

Hard to believe, but November 1st is literally around the corner. 

Please continue to nominate books for the 28 Days Later campaign.  Though I’m not surprised, I’ve noticed that many of the noms are for picture books.  We could really use a good influx of YA and MG noms – as this is the area where representations of young African Americans is least diverse.

If you know of any authors writing for young readers ages 10+ please submit them for spotlight consideration.

February will be here before we know it!

Receiving advanced author copies: Just as exciting today as it was 20 years ago

October 21, 2008

I recently received advanced copies of Ron’s Big Mission (Dutton, 2009), my most recently illustrated book! It is written by Corrine Naden and the late Rose Blue. I was just as excited last week opening the mail, as I was 20 years ago when first received advanced copies of a book I’d illustrated.

My first books were for the educational market — books as part of reading programs, teacher’s guides, workbooks (though I still do those). Then there was Retold African Myths, written by Eleanora E. Tate, and another book about a Kinte Cloth teddy bear written by my wife.

Finally, after many rejections and almost giving up, I received my first trade picture book contract — Say Hey! A song of Willie Mays, written by Peter Mandel and edited by the great Andrea Pinkney. My longtime dreams had come true.

The book received mixed reviews — some panned it, others praised it. Regardless, I’d done my best. And now seven books later — six publishers, ten authors, seven editors and many, many, many better reviews — I’m still in the business and still loving every minute of it.

Now, please excuse my shameless plug, I’ve got more books to illustrate.


What’s New in YA Releases II?

October 17, 2008

It’s that time again, time to celebrate more young adult books published this year.  Since May, several new titles have come out that are just waiting for you to pick up and read.  Some of our favorite authors are back with their second or third book, inviting us to resume the next saga in their series.  And we are eager to check out Deborah Gregory, the author who bought us The Cheetah Girls, return to the scene with the drama filled Catwalk.

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June 1
The Pact (Kimani Tru) by Monica McKayhan

June 24
Catwalk by Deborah Gregory

July 1
That’s What’s Up by Paula Chase

August 1
Shrink to Fit (Kimani Tru) by Dona Sarkar

August 5
The Ashleys:  Birthday Vicious by Melissa de la Cruz

September 1
Drama High: Courtin’ Jayd by L Divine
Chasing Romeo (Kimani Tru) by AJ Byrd

September 30
The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

October 1, 2008
The Pledge (Kimani Tru) by Chandra Sparks Taylor
Kendra by Coe Booth
Hotlanta:  If Only You Knew by Denene Millner and Mitzi Miller

Those Reader Girlz

October 8, 2008

Oh, those Reader Girlz…where do they find the time?

I’m telling you, these ladies have clearly found time in a bottle and are not sharing it with the rest of us.  Justina, Mitali, Dia and Lorie Ann, what’s your secret?

What I’m raving about is Reader Girlz upcoming chat series.

In honor of Teen Read Week, my favorite time of year, they’re hosting Night Bites, nightly chats from October 12-17 on their Myspace forum at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST.

The first chat will be October 13th: MultiCultural Bites featuring Coe Booth, a 2008 28 Days Later author (Tyrell), An Na (The Fold) and Mitali Perkins, Reader Girlz Diva (Secret Keeper).

I attended last year’s 31 Flavors chat with Nikki Grimes.  It’s a lot of fun hanging out with authors and the readers who love their books.  So stop in and say hey to Coe and her fellow guest chatters on the 13th to talk the Brown Bookshelf’s fave topic – multicultural books!

Other chats include:

Verse Bites (Oct. 14)

Contemporary Bites (Oct. 15) – I plan on checking this one out, too.

Fantasy Bites (Oct. 16)  & Gothic Bites (Oct. 17)

Brown…(but not) like me

October 3, 2008

Last year, a debate of sorts launched surrounding our name, The Brown Bookshelf.  Not just among those visiting our site, but among BBS members as well.

Why hadn’t we called the group The Black Bookshelf? After all, the founding members are African American and our primary focus is on books by and for African American readers.

And since we’d chosen Brown instead of Black, did that mean we were going to embrace all brown books – Latino, Middle Eastern, Native American, those of African descent but not American citizenship?  It really got involved, moreso because the answers to the questions is so frustratingly political.

We didn’t call it Black in part because the color itself is an extreme.  Yes, it would have definitively expressed what type of books we were representing, but it would have also excluded so many others and essentially locked us into a box.

Much like the word “mainstream” is too broad a term used to indicate, for the most part, the tastes and flavors of white Americans, using the word “black” to convey what this group is about would have been too narrow. Mainstream and Black are extremes that are now throw-away descriptors that sometimes causes someone outside of that descriptor to shut their eyes and ears to what you’re saying.

By choosing Brown we’re able to truly look at uplifting multi-cultural fiction with a special emphasis on African American children’s literature. We may soon welcome a brown author who is not of African American heritage as a member.  We may one day regularly uplift books by brown authors who are brown, but not brown like the founding members.

Every day that I’m involved with The Brown Bookshelf, the kinship I feel toward all authors grows. Yes, I want to promote brown books and authors, like me, because it’s not my imagination that these books and authors – in the children’s lit realm – are quite unsung.

But we’re all working toward the same goal – brown, black, white and as some say, purple, so as not to leave anyone out. We want readers exposed to good, diverse, inclusive reads.

Today I want to shine the light on a small sampling of other brown authors writing for children. Most featured below are writing exclusively in the YA realm. 

Two of them, Kim and Caridad, are my sisters in writing. Dona, of Indian descent, and I have pal-ed around over at her blog and Cynthia, of Native American descent, is a dear friend of The Brown Bookshelf, championing our efforts from day one. 

While Cynthia’s books range in tone from picture books about native traditions to gothic young adult novels, the other authors represented are writing popular fiction with a primary focus on brown characters. 

I’ve read a few of these books and can tell you, a good fiction read is a good fiction read no matter the character’s race. I’m sure there are some young readers who woud love to be pointed in the direction of these books.

Kim Flores

 Caridad Ferrer

Dona Sarkar






Cynthia Leitich Smith






Diana Rodriguez Wallach







 Melissa De La Cruz

Alisa Valdes Rodriguez

The 9 Faces of Cybil(s)

October 1, 2008

Mmmm…smell that?

It’s the scent of rubber burning as life in the literary lane speeds up. Before you know it, there will be talk of Caldecotts, Printzes and Coretta Scott Kings. There is no better time to be an author than when the rubber meets the road and people are talking books.

Whew, I almost shed a tear.

But no time for that. Today, the window opened for Cybils submissions.

What are Cybils you say?

They’re web awards, nominated by you and decided by a panel of literary pundits and all-around lovers of kiddie lit.

Here’s the scoop on the process:

*Individuals may nominate books now through October 15th (hurry!!!)

*Only one nomination per person per genre

*There are nine genres: Easy Readers, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels, Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, Young Adult Novels.

*The book must be published between Jan. 1 – Oct. 15 this year.

* English or bilingual books only (the second language doesn’t matter).

So you know what this means, right?

Go on over to the site and nominate a book either by an African American author or one revolved around the African American experience, which fits the criteria.

We pride ourselves, here at The Brown Bookshelf, on working with like-minded sources and organizations in the kidlit blogosphere. And The Cybils, much like ReaderGirlz, serve as an inspiration to us.

We want to make sure brown books are represented within the Cybils awards or among those books appealing to strong female readers of the Reader Girlz. We know you, our readers, feel the same way.

A good book is a good book no matter what.

So dig through your book stash and nominate those brown books you feel deserves a Cybils honor.