Day 22: Gwendolyn R. Hooks

I met future Brown Bookshelf sisters Gwendolyn Hooks and Crystal Allen in 2005 at the Highlights Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. We were all early in our children’s book writing journeys. At Chautauqua, we found mentoring, lessons on the art and craft of writing for kids and each other. The three of us became friends. Seemed like it was destined.

From the start, Gwen’s warm spirit and heart for creating meaningful stories for children drew us in. Her meticulous research, beautiful writing and hard work earned her contracts and honors too. Her accolades include winning a NAACP Image Award for her picture book, Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, illustrated by Colin Bootman.  “His life and work are vivid in the pages of this picture book biography, in which Hooks details how his youthful work in fine carpentry, paired with his desire to become a doctor, propelled Thomas in his pursuit of his goals.” Kirkus calls it “. . . a rousing tribute to a man unjustly forgotten . . .”

Gwen, a former seventh grade math teacher, has written more than 20 books that have been enthusiastically received by kids, educators and reviewers. Nonfiction is one of her favorite genres. Among her acclaimed books, she has written poignant bios about opera singer Leona Mitchell and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Wangari Maathai. Gwen is a teaching artist with the Oklahoma Arts Council and has presented at schools and conferences around the country.

About Planting Peace: The Story of Wangari Maathai (from Simon & Schuster site):

A bold and brightly colored illustrated biography of Wangari Maathai who founded the Green Belt Movement and was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

This picture book tells the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, women’s rights activist and one of the first environmental warriors. Wangari began the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in the 1960s, which focused on planting trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights. She inspired thousands across Africa to plant 30 million trees in 30 years and was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

“An inspirational, essential work … A thorough and colorful introduction to a world icon … Carpentier’s bold, colorful illustrations evoke the beautiful land that Wangari was so passionate about, and help create a sense of place for readers.”

School Library Journal, Starred Review

“The book covers aspects of Maathai’s life with clarity, explaining how she went from schoolgirl to biologist to an important environmentalist … Vibrant colors and patterns, along with people playing, working, and planting among the Kenyan landscape, create a strong look … A worthy addition to all biography collections.”


About Gwen

Gwendolyn Hooks is the author of the NAACP IMAGE AWARD winning picture book biography, Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas and Block Party, a Junior Library Guild Selection. Her books include The Garden, If You Were a Kid During the Civil Rights Movement, and the popular Pet Club and Confetti Kids series. She writes both fiction and nonfiction, early readers, and chapter books from her home in Oklahoma. An advocate of diverse books, Gwendolyn shares their beauty by encouraging young readers to explore the world through them. For more information about her, please visit

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