Day 29: Meet the BBS — Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

February 29, 2012

Wow, participating in the special celebration that is 28 Days Later has been such a wonderful honour for me. I am floored by how much I learn from the campaign every year, and it breaks my heart too — I should be hearing about these amazing authors and illustrators more often!

DAILY INSPIRATION: My debut novel, 8th GRADE SUPERZERO (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2010), has brought so many opportunities my way. I’ve loved meeting (in person and in the digital world) readers of all ages who have their own precious stories to tell, who are exquisite reminders of one of my biggest WHYs for this work: writing, telling stories, brings new opportunities to listen, to step outside of myself and my affinities into unknown people and worlds. I’m so grateful for your stories that make mine richer.

One of the challenges I think we face in today’s culture is a directing away from nuance, from complexity, from in-depth exploration and discomfort. I’m glad that we still hold on the stories. Stories give us room to ask the questions that have more than one answer, or don’t have any answers at all. While preparing for a conference talk, I found this, from the poet Wendell Berry: “In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter, war spreading, families dying, the world in danger, I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.” That’s what I want to do with my writing: sow clover. I write to honour the particular, and embrace the universal. To listen between the lines to your story, and mine. I wrote an essay about listening recently (my writing is all about what I listen to), and came to see that I write because I “cherish the magic and mystery of life, and I want to imagine, and remember, and share.” And even when I’m beyond frustrated, completely flummoxed, or bored to tears with my efforts — I love this work deeply. All my life, I’ve been grateful for the stories.

Day 29: Meet The BBS – Paula Chase Hyman

February 29, 2012

Day 29 is like being atop a mountain and looking out on the lay of the land, which are 28 great spotlights and knowing that readers and those who influence readers have the work of 28 more creative authors to consume. Pride and satisfaction are understatements to describe how that makes me feel.

But, making sure The Brown Bookshelf and 28 Days Later goes off like a well-oiled machine can be challenging. What gets lost in the mix is that we, the BBS members, are all authors as well. So thanks to Leap Year, we’re able to remind not only our visitors of that…but ourselves, as well. Promoting others and yourself, simultaneously, not such an easy thing.

So here I go…

The Journey After the Journey

You can check the About Us page or my bio to find out a bit more about me. What’s less known is what happened after my Del Rio Bay series was published.  Kensington published the five-book series between 2007 and 2009. My initial goal was to get the characters to graduation. Instead, the series ends at the end of their junior year. I still have readers write me and say – Noooo what happens next?! Tell me there’s another book coming. And those emails never fail to make me smile. I love that readers have bonded with Mina and the clique. But the will of the readers  is not always that of the industry.
drama-cover.jpg twisted.jpg
The series continues to  live on in libraries, in the online marketplace and wherever readers can get their hands on it. Meanwhile, I’m trying to find my way back to writing regularly.  From the time my series launched until now, writing has always been something that has to take place in between my full-time job and managing a busy family. So one day, my current Work-in-Progress will see the light of day. And if this article, about teens and ebooks, is right – sooner rather than later because ebooks opens up the opportunity for me to try free e-novellas etc…So watch out for me, I’ll be back in “print,” no matter the form.

The Buzz

The Del Rio Bay series was among the first contemporary YA books featuring a multi-cultural cast where the storyline wasn’t strictly revolved around race. I’m proud to say that because of books like mine Nikki Carter and Ni-Ni Simone were able to publish their YA books. The DRB series proved readers, of any race, were looking for books that portrayed a more diverse community. And it proved that readers of color were hungry for books that went beyond historical fiction.


Day 29: Meet the BBS — Kelly Starling Lyons

February 29, 2012

The Journey

I still remember the book that called me to write for children — Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet. Looking at that sweet cover of a smiling girl with the same kind of pigtails I used to wear moved me. I was an adult and that was my first time seeing a picture book featuring an African-American child.

Right then, I knew that I wanted to create stories that shared every-day moments and history that put African-American children in the center instead of the margins. I’m so grateful for editors at Just Us Books believing in me. They guided me and published my first two books, NEATE: Eddie’s Ordeal and One Million Men and Me.

I wasn’t looking for a story when I came across the cohabitation register that inspired my latest picture book, Ellen’s Broom (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), illustrated by Daniel Minter. I was researching family history in a North Carolina library. But maybe the story was looking for me.

I don’t believe it was chance that after telling a mentor at the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua about the record I found and the jumping the broom tradition, he encouraged me to find the story within. I think some stories are waiting to be told. I feel so blessed that this story chose me.  

Like Just Us Books, agents at Dwyer & O’Grady and then editors at G.P. Putnam’s Sons believed in me too. Putnam published Ellen’s Broom and bought two more of my stories. In December, Tea Cakes for Tosh, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, will debut. Shortly after, my picture book with BBS member Don Tate will hit shelves. So grateful for everyone who has helped me along this journey.

Being part of The Brown Bookshelf is one way I give back. I love shining a light on the wonderful authors and illustrators of color creating stories for kids. They inspire me to keep writing and pushing.

The Buzz on Ellen’s Broom

A Junior Library Guild selection

“Lyons’s homespun and heartfelt dialogue combine with Minter’s exquisite use of line, color, and composition to produce a story that radiates deep faith and strong family bonds.”

— School Library Journal

 “A spirited story filled with the warmth of a close family celebrating a marriage before God and the law.”


“A heartwarming story . . . Daniel Minter’s vividly colored block prints are brilliant.”

— USA Today

“Set during Reconstruction, this story bursts with one family’s joy as Mama and Papa, both former slaves, legalize their marriage . . . Minter’s vibrant, hand-painted block prints, filled with period detail, nicely enhance this testament to remembering the trials of the past and celebrating hardwon freedom.”

— Booklist

“Ellen’s Broom is entertaining and delightful. Enriched with amazing illustrations . . . this book celebrates the meaningful history of weddings for the African American community. This articulate, bright and cheerful story is a must for all families to read.”

— Black Bride and Groom magazine

Day 29: Meet the BBS – Gwendolyn Hooks

February 29, 2012

This is me, graduating from high school. I'm off to college to become a math teacher--my first passion. Years later, I discovered my second passion--writing for children.

WOW! I finished my first stint as a 28 Days Later blogger. After researching and emailing back and forth with five authors, I feel like I made lifelong friends.  Just reading about their accomplishments made me scurry back to my office and hit the laptop keys.

2011 was a great year for me. I had 10 early readers published, 11 if you count the Spanish translation of The Best Shoes. My Pet Club series of eight books was published by Stone Arch Books. They featured me on their website. I love writing early readers and kids seem to love reading them. I was ecstatic when a Lee Elementary teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma told me “Thank you for writing books my second graders can read successfully.” That’s when I knew I had done a good job.

Because of my early readers, I was invited to the Humboldt County Authors Festival in Eureka, California last October. I had an amazing time visiting with students, sharing my writing life, and learning about theirs. I visited three schools and one had only eight students! An apple orchard surrounded the school. Students picked apples and the teachers baked a pie for me. I can still taste the warm apples and smell the cinnamon. Delicious!

So far this year, I’ve finished a picture book biography and have sent it out to find the perfect publisher. I have lots of ideas for other books I need to start researching. That reminds me that I need to head back to my office and laptop and start thinking about the next 28 Days Later.



HOOKS, Gwendolyn. Pet Costume Party. illus. by Mike Byrne. 32p. (Stone Arch Readers: The Pet Club Series). Stone Arch. 2011. PLB $21.32. ISBN 978-1-4342-2513-9; pap. $3.95. ISBN 978-1-4342-3053-9. LC number unavailable.
K-Gr 2–Andy and his pet goldfish are having a Halloween party and need costumes. They move through various choices but the fact that Nibbles can’t talk complicates matters. Ultimately, Andy does all of the brainstorming and the fish uses creative nonverbal methods to add her two cents. Throw in the bow on the top of her head and how she deadpans her displeasure, and Nibbles steals the show. Byrne’s vibrant cartoon drawings offer gentle humor to Hooks’s giggle-worthy story. Basic vocabulary combined with dialogue and slightly more complex sentence structures will help stretch beginning readers while keeping them engaged with the familiar. An excellent addition to most collections.–Sarah Townsend, Norfolk Public Library, VA

Day 29: Meet the BBS — Tameka Fryer Brown

February 29, 2012

Me, somewhere around 2nd grade


I’m an achievement-oriented person, always have been. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that my journey to publishing Around Our Way on Neighbors’ Day didn’t really start out as a dream.

It was a goal from day one.

Yes, I made the rookie mistake of banging out a picture book story in three days, mailing it off to four of the top publishers in the industry, and waiting confidently for the offers to roll in because of my phenomenal, oft-commended writing skills.

Well. At least I had done enough research to make sure the manuscript was properly formatted and a SASE was enclosed.

Though that first book was certainly way…way…WAY off the mark, I do consider that first round of submissions to have been serendipitous. From those submissions, I received a form rejection letter (photocopied askew on the page) that informed me about The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Via SCBWI, I found out there was much I had no idea I didn’t know. I got straight to the business of learning it. The rest is ongoing history.




From Booklist: “[A]n African American girl bounces around her urban neighborhood celebrating Neighbors’ Day…happily surrounded by a multicultural crowd.… The acrylic art is saturated with rich color, energetic movement, and abstract figures and shapes, all reminiscent of Jacob Lawrence’s art. Most scenes are double-page spreads that, together with the words, demonstrate the size and diversity of a joyful world.”

From School Library Journal: “…The book’s lively illustrations and energetic main character lead readers to think about their own neighborhood, and the kind acts and community spirit that make good neighbors. This story in verse is sure to receive a warm welcome, and it might inspire youngsters to institute their own ‘Neighbors’ Day.’”

From Kirkus: “…In this lively and accessible poem, a multicultural community brings food, music and laughter to the streets to celebrate their neighborhood….”

From Children’s Literature: “…In rhythmic rhymes kids dance, jump rope, and eat ice cream…Nothing sits still on these double pages. The people, buildings, even the sidewalks seem to vibrate….”

From Multiculturalism Rocks!: “…The first lines set the tone: no cloud in the sky; if you were moody when you picked up the book, prepare yourself to smile. I like that I can sing the text. I am enjoying how fun it is to read it to children. I challenge the adult to remain seated during the whole reading….”

From ReaderKidZ: “…[A] celebration of good people, joyful times, and a community that honors and respects the traditions and culture of those who call this part of town home… lively, rhythmic language and bright, colorful illustrations…a celebration of families and neighborhoods and all that’s right in the world.”

From A Book and A Hug: “…[A] diverse, energetic, vibrant clan of people who live side by side and bring their uniqueness together to create a delicious melting pot…Great smiling energy beams out to you from the warm, bright pictures and the voice calls to everyone, ‘Hey, who lives in your neighborhood?’ Go find out!”

From K12Reader: “The book is a welcome addition to the growing body of multicultural children’s literature, offering a positive portrayal of a diverse community cooperating and having a good time together…a valuable addition to any classroom.”

From The Children’s Book Review: “…This is a fun, rhythmic read that showcases a multi-ethnic community joining together to share some laughs and more than a few servings of rice and beans, collard greens, mac and cheese, and grilled lime chicken—all contributed by various families in the area. Throw some dancing into the mix and you’ve got one heck of a party.”

Find out more about Tameka and her upcoming projects at her website: 

Day 29: Meet the Brown Bookshelf — Don Tate

February 29, 2012

I’ve been drawing since I was old enough to grasp a pencil. I’ve been illustrating children’s books and educational products for 27 years. But I’ve been writing for  just a few years. Writing always scared me. To me a writer possessed a 4-year college degree. Writers attended journalism schools. Had law degrees. A writer committed to memory the concept of conjugating verbs. None of that applied to me. I focused on  drawing and painting.

But, shoot — good thing I got over that or else I’d never had the opportunity to announce this good news: I am now a published author! In 2004, I shoved my drawing tools aside and began writing the first draft of a book that eventually went on to win a Lee & Low Books New Voices Honor award, . Next month, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, will publish with Lee & Low Books (April, 2012).

When I visit schools I always encourage kids to face their fears, don’t run from them. I faced my fear of words and discovered a whole new passion. I am a writer. Here’s a look at a teaser/trailer for the upcoming book.

What else am I working on? Well, I’m under contract to finish a book by our own Kelly Starling Lyons. Then it’s on to a book written by the wonderful Eve Bunting. And later this year, a collaboration with my good friend Chris Barton. So many good things on the horizon. I’m blessed.

Day 29 – Meet the BBS – Crystal Allen

February 29, 2012

The New Journey When my debut novel, How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy came out in February of 2011, I thought that was the biggest moment of my life in the world of publishing.  I now had a book that would hit the shelves of many bookstores and libraries around the world.

But that wasn’t my biggest moment.

It happened during my very first author’s visit.  I was so scared but I wanted to share the news to all children that they, too, could grow up to be a writer.  As I looked into the bright eyes of those children, some being introduced to a library for the first time (their library had been closed for five years because they didn’t have a librarian) it changed my motive from “Publish as many books as I can” to “Reach them,” especially when two African American fourth grade girls approached me and said, “We’ve decided we want to be writers.  We didn’t know Black people could write books.  We love to make up stories.”

The New Inspiration

My new inspiration is anchored in reaching reluctant readers.  I was one, but I didn’t know it.  Maybe back in the day it was called something else.  But a book was the last thing I was interested in picking up.  Now, as I do school visits and presentations, I get so fired up when a child approaches me and says, “After listening to you, I’m excited about writing.”

So I’ve created a spot on my website for them to write stories, show their talent and represent their school.  It’s called STRIKEWRITERS.  I’m inspired because they’re inspired.

The New Back Story

Even though I had the concept, I didn’t know how to get the word out.  But then I got an email, asking me to speak at a librarian’s conference in my area.  (I’ve just got to say ‘Thank You, Lord’)

I explained my idea to the librarians and how I wanted to reach reluctant readers and give students an opportunity to display their work on an actual author’s website.

I began to get emails like crazy.  Requests for full days, half days, career days, it was amazing.  But the most fulfilling piece came through the children.  During my visits, when I announced the opportunity to have a story displayed on my website, the response was phenomenal.

Now I know, beyond any doubt, that this is what I’m supposed to do.  As long as I can, I’ll write, just so that I can remind those children who had never thought of writing as a career, that they, too, can do what I do.