Mock Coretta Scott King Book Awards

October 28, 2010

Each year, awards are given to authors and illustrators of outstanding children’s books,  Newbery, Caldecott, Siebert, Coretta, among them. And each year about this time, people try to predict who might win those awards. Some in the kidlitosphere have noted a lack of interest in discussions of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards by holding their own mock discussions. But I wanted to point out some other folks who do take interest.

In an attempt to become familiar with recent literature for children and young adults that meet the Coretta Scott King Award’s standards, the Children’s Services department of the Fort Wayne, Indiana Allen County Public library hosts the ACPL Mock Coretta Scott King Book Awards and Election program. The actual in-person discussion is held on December 5th, along with a presentation by Frederick McKissack, Jr. They also host a running short-list of titles on their blog.

So after you’ve nominated an author and illustrator for 28 Days Later, jump on over and nominate a book for the ACPL Mock Coretta Scott King Book Awards, too. And if you know of any other mock Coretta Scott King Books Awards, let us know so we can mention here.



Javaka Steptoe On The Sounds of a Rainbow

October 19, 2010

Javaka SteptoeJavaka Steptoe is an award-winning, eclectic artist, designer, and illustrator. His debut work, In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers, earned him the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, a nomination for Outstanding Children’s Literature Work at the 1998 NAACP Image Awards, and countless other honors. More accolades followed for his work on books including Do You Know What I’ll Do? by Charlotte Zolotow, A Pocketful of Poems by Nikki Grimes, and Amiri and Odette: A Love Story by Walter Dean Myers.

Once a model and inspiration for his late father, award winning author/illustrator John Steptoe, Javaka Steptoe now utilizes everyday objects, from aluminum plates to pocket lint, and sometimes illustrating with a jigsaw and paint, he delivers reflective and thoughtful collage creations filled with vitality, playful energy, and strength. His latest work, JIMI: Sounds Like All The Rainbow, written by Gary Golio, is the latest example of Steptoe’s vibrant and multi-layered style.

cover image
The art has so much texture and movement, and is wonderfully vibrant. Can you tell us a bit about the materials you used, the decisions you made, and how you put it all together?

I use materials that make connections to the subject matter of the story, with the goal of speaking to the viewer on many levels. I used wood because:

1. Guitars are made out of wood.
2. When learning about Jimi I found him to be very spiritual, so I tried to make my process spiritual. To help capture the feel and energy of Jimi’s hometown, I bought recycled wood at a construction store in Seattle. This wood (probably around when Jimi was alive) was a part of Seattle before it became art. So, besides taking images, research, and memories back to NY, I was able to bring back a physical piece of Seattle to live with, listen to and create from.

I love textures, color, and movement—they are design elements I inherently use in my work. Jimi Hendrix was a complex person, quiet and sensitive, yet when it came to his music he was very dynamic and even over the top. This book let me push that side of myself in order to capture the essence of this duality.

How did you and Gary collaborate? What were some of the challenges on the path to publication of this book? What were some of the sweeter moments?

I actually did not meet Gary until late in the process. We spoke on the telephone but historically most book companies do not like authors and illustrators to talk. Part of the reason is that publishers want to give the illustrator the same freedom and autonomy to create as the author had when creating the story. The other part is that they don’t want the author and illustrator to make decisions on their own, and not be in the loop themselves.

Some of the challenges in illustrating this book were keeping the story visually authentic. There is a lot of pressure in knowing that there are about 50 billion Jimi fans who all knew him better than me, watching and waiting to see if I know my stuff, and ready to send me hate mail if I don’t.
Sweet moments were in going to Seattle, seeing one of Jimi’s childhood houses, visiting and working with the children at the elementary school he attended, and talking with the Seattle natives who knew him or family members. There is still a real excitement about Jimi and his music, and people were very willing to share.

JIMI explores the creative process, which is different for every artist, often different for every project. What in your research of his process and work inspired you? Did you have any surprises along the way? How did you make the connections between sound and color?

One of the most important things that I learned about our geniuses is that they are open to knowledge. They listen, read and watch, they consume information and don’t say “I don’t listen to country music,” or “I only eat hamburgers.” They are interested in all experiences. Because of their openness they are able to make profound statements about life in whatever way they best express themselves.

The process of creating the illustrations for this book has also prompted me to redefine my relationship to creating children’s books. During the process I created a residency program called Exploring the Creative Process with Javaka Steptoe™. This is a cross-disciplinary residency that explores the creative process in an experiential way from many points of view.

What is a “typical” work day like for you? What is your work space like? (photos welcome!)
On a typical work day I get up about 5 am and meditate for an hour. Then I take a shower, eat and go to the library or a coffee shop, and work on my computer until about 1 or 2. After that I take a break for about an hour or two, then work on art until about 7 or 8, eat dinner, drink tea and listen to audio books until it’s time to go to sleep.

At the moment my studio is under construction, so there’s lots of sheetrock and exposed brick, and also lots of tables.

What have been some of the most helpful people, resources, etc. along the way in your work as an illustrator? What are you looking forward to working on? Is there anything that you haven’t yet done that you’d like to do/work with?

Besides my mother and father being the most helpful people, along the way have been my editors. I have lucked out and had really great editors. Though we have not always agreed, they have all been really smart, passionate, very helpful and supportive.

Something that I haven’t yet done that I’d like to do is illustrate a sci-fi book. There are a lot of great black sci-fi book writers like Steven Barnes, Sheree Thomas, Samuel R. Delany, Charles R. Saunders, Tananarive Due, Jewelle Gomez, Ishmael Reed, Kalamu ya Salaam, Robert Fleming, and Nalo Hopkinson, and they are living. (You’re all welcome for the plug—now send me something, guys!)

I read in an essay in Sheree Thomas’s book, “Dark Matter,” that if we don’t see ourselves in sci-fi we don’t see ourselves in the future…so I don’t know about you, but I am not quite ready to disappear—are you?

Thank you!

And I thank you, for sharing a bit of the story behind your work, and adding new layers to our understanding of this legendary artist! Visit Javaka Steptoe online to see and learn more about his fabulous work. For more on the book, visit the Facebook page, and the blog tour all this week. JIMI: Sounds Like A Rainbow is available now at your local bookshop and online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Remembering One Million Men in October

October 5, 2010

October 16, 2010 marks the 15th Anniversary of the Million Man March, an event where African-American men from all over the country came together in the spirit of atonement, reconciliation, and responsibility.

BBS’s Kelly Starling Lyons attended the march and is the author of the picture book, One Million Men and Me—a tender story told from the perspective of a girl who accompanies her father on the trip to DC. Kelly’s lyrical prose renders a wonderfully accessible tale for young readers.

Beginning October 5, Kelly will be on a blog tour (see schedule below). She’ll also feature interesting facts about the Million Man March and/or her picture book, each day through October 16 at her blog, Kuumba.

The fifteenth anniversary is a milestone…and an opportune time to educate children about this historic event. One Million Men and Me is a perfect book with which to start.


October 5         Together AsOne

Multiculturalism Rocks!

October 6         The 3 R’s – Reading, ‘Riting and Research

The John T. Wills Book Tree Radio Show

(evening interview)

October 7         Multiculturalism Rocks!

Literary Nation Talk Radio with Patrick Oliver


October 8         Ripples from the Tide Pool

October 9         Bronx Latino

Tribute to Novello  — featured panelist

October 10       Laurie J. Edwards – Author, Artist and Dreamer

The Susquehanna Writers

The Antique E Show

(6 p.m. interview, along with illustrator Peter Ambush)

October 11       Devas T. Rants & Raves!

(interview with illustrator Peter Ambush)

Carrboro Book Beat Radio Show

October 12       Scribbly Katia

October 13       Mitali’s Fire Escape

October 14       Kristi’s Book Nook

October 15       Bowllan’s Blog

All Booked Up Used Books & Collectibles

(4:30 p.m. Reading & Meet the Author event)


                          International Civil Rights Center & Museum 

(11 a.m. Storytime & Reading Hour)

October 18       August Wilson Center for African American Culture

6 p.m. March Anniversary Program


 THE BUZZ ON One Million Men and Me:

CCBC 2008, Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s best-of-the-year list

2009 Youth Top Ten pick, Detroit Public Library’s African American Booklist

2008 Bronze Moonbeam Book Awards Medal, Multicultural Picture Book category

Accelerated Reader and Scholastic Reading Counts! Title


“[Lyons]  begins, ‘My cousin, Omari, said no girls were allowed. But Daddy took me.’ …The description of the faces as ‘a rainbow of chocolate, graham cracker brown and cream’ is accompanied by a spread depicting men of different ages, dress styles, and color, but their expressions of pride and hope are the same… An author’s note includes additional historical facts about the march. This story might prove useful as an introduction to black history or to engage students’ interest in social issues.” – School Library Journal

“One Million Men and Me… is a moving tribute to the Million Man March told through the shared experience of a father and daughter…the touching story is an insightful read for parents who want to teach their children about the historic march on Oct. 16, 1995.”—Ebony Magazine

“One Million Men and Me should be placed in every school around the world so children can see a page in Black history that is not so far in the past…It would be a great buy for educators and parents alike.” –New Pittsburgh Courier

“…The tone is strongly inspirational, and Ambush’s realistic double-page spreads, which make particularly good use of close-ups, portray the child and her daddy against the big scenes of the crowds “united and strong.” Words and pictures celebrate the diversity of individual black men… The sense of tradition is apparent….” –Booklist

“… Readers can feel the excitement and solidarity as they read and soak in the illustrations… Her use of imagery, with terms like “cotton candy clouds”, is the perfect complement for the warm illustrations of Peter Ambush.”—RAWSISTAZ Reviewers

“…Kelly Starling Lyons’ book One Million Men and Me, is a special peek at the relationship of a father and a daughter. It celebrates that special relationship while also celebrating an important gathering of African American men. With riveting illustrations and straightforward prose, this is a book that will bring history home to a youngster, but will also make a grown up smile.”—Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Economist and Author

It’s In There…

October 4, 2010

Totally dating myself here, but remember that old Ragu commercial where the grandma was making spaghetti sauce and one of her new- school grandchildren comes up and starts making all these suggestions of what she should put in the sauce to make it better? And everytime the grandchild mentions an ingrediant, Grandma says (with all the love and patience of a granny), “It’ssss in thereeee.”

Well, we’ve gotten some great submissions so far (keep them coming, please!!!!!!) but a few suggestions were like ingrediants in Ragu – they’re in there. In other words, we’ve already featured them.

But if people are mentioning them, it means their spotlight deserves a re-feature. So here ya go:

Sundee Frazier (2008)

Derrick Barnes (2009)

Marilyn Nelson (2009)

Tonya Hegamin (2010)