Throwback Thursday: Shadra Strickland

November 10, 2016

We’ve highlighted many illustrators during our 28 Days Later campaign, and Shadra Strickland‘s interview has always been a personal favorite. Since our interview in  2009, Ms. Strickland went on to illustrate many more books, including White Water (Candlewick Press, 2011); Please, Louise (Simon & Schuster, 2014); and Sunday Shopping (Lee & Low Books, 2014). A forthcoming book, Loving Vs. Virginia, written by Patricia Hruby Powell, has already garnered a starred review from Kirkus and is currently featured in the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show.



The title of her blog says it all: LIVING THE DREAM. A dream born many years ago, when she was just a child. A dream nourished by a supportive mother. A dream guided through instruction at Syracuse University. Polished at the School of Visual Arts. But Shadra Strickland’s dream didn’t end there.

Soon after graduation, she was offered an opportunity to illustrate her first book, an emergent reader called BIG OR LITTLE, written by Fonda Bell Miller. It was published by Lee & Low Books in 2002.

Her second book, BIRD, written by Zetta Elliott, published with Lee & Low Books in 2008. Following the success of BIRD, the dream began to collect awards.

In 2009, Shadra became the recipient of the American Library Association’s John Steptoe Award for New Talent, given by the Coretta Scott King Task Force, and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award.

Shadra was a contributor to the book Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change, published by BloomsbuyUSA in 2009, which has also received major accolades, including an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Literary Work for Children. With Our Children Can Soar, she paid tribute to Ruby Bridges, who became the first African American child to attend an all-white school in the South. Her illustrations are full of emotion and successfully capture the quiet strength of Ruby Bridges, using soft colors and delicate line work.

Please note: I interviewed Shadra about a year ago, and I just realized that most of my questions here are repeat (same photo and everything). My apologies, but don’t go away. New things are a-poppin’ in the land of the dream. Check it out:

Please talk about your most recent book.

My next book is called A PLACE WHERE HURRICANES HAPPEN. It’s the story of Hurricane Katrina told through the voices of four neighborhood friends.  “Hurricanes” was challenging for me for a couple of reasons. First, it featured four main characters, and second it was the story of Hurricane Katrina. I had never been to New Orleans before working on the book. I tried to be very careful not to make the images journalistic.

What is the primary medium used in your work?

Right now I primarily use watercolor and gouache. I studied illustration at Syracuse University where I experimented with a few different mediums, mainly oil and acrylic, but I didn’t learn how to “play” until years later in graduate school at SVA.

The next few spreads are from her upcoming book A PLACE WHERE HURRICANES HAPPEN:

Why did you choose to illustrate for children?

Storytelling comes naturally to me. When I was young my family (grandma, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.) would sit around my grandmother’s kitchen table and tell stories for hours on end.

Making picture books just made the most sense—I get to read great stories and create world for the characters in which to exist. I also need my work to function in some way. The idea of people learning from my work and living with the images for years and years amazes and excited me.

Are there any particular illustrators or fine artist who have inspired you, past or present?

I am a fan of many many artists. If I could visit anyone’s studio, I think I’d like to watch William Kentridge work on a film, Jerry Pinkney draw, Tom Feelings do anything, Pat Cummings paint, Jon Muth compose, and Walton Ford paint.

From Bird, written by Zetta Elliot, Lee and Low Books October 2008

With BIRD, you’ve collected many accolades, including the Coretta Scott King /  Johnsteptoe New Talent Award, and the Ezra Jack Keats (New illustrator award). What was the biggest change, unexpected result, or interesting observation you’ve noted since receiving the awards?

For me winning the John Steptoe and Ezra Jack Keats Awards for BIRD was surreal. The most interesting and unexpected result was the amount of work that came flooding in. I also underestimated the amount of celebratory cupcakes I could consume.

As an illustrator who happens to be African American, do you ever feel any special pressures, or unique challenges?

I try to pick projects that I connect to emotionally and that align with the way I see the world or wish the world could be. For BIRD I loved how Zetta portrayed her male characters. They were supportive and loving to each other so I just added to that in the imagery. I also try to be careful not to villanize people, even if they are making bad choices for themselves and the people around them.

I love painting different shades of African-American people. My family is made up of many different shades of black and I feel that’s important and true to life in painting pictures.

So, I guess, no, I don’t really feel any “special” pressure. I just try and make the work as sincere as I can and as strong as I can. The rest will fall in place.

From Our Children Can Soar, BloomsburyUSA April 2009

Please talk about your process of illustrating a book.

I start with an 8.5 x 11 “Cheap Pad”. As I read, I fill up the sketchbook with many many possibilities for the story. As I thumbnail, I scan each image, blow them up, and drop them into a mechanical. Once I am happy with the look of the rough dummy, I make a pdf and e-mail it to my editor and art director with any notes I may have embedded in the file. This is the most I do with a computer in making the books. Once the dummy is okayed, I print out the sketches to size and refine the drawing.

Unfortunately, my finishing process is never cut and dry. Each story is different and requires something different from me. For example, BIRD’s world was ballpoint pen and charcoal against some airier skies. HURRICANES paired the brightness and energy of New Orleans against an impending storm. In OUR CHILDREN CAN SOAR I needed to go back in time and make things look aged and bare.

I try and go straight to finish if I have a strong vision for a piece. Because I experiment a lot; sometimes…most times I have to do a piece many times before it’s right. For Bird’s rooftop scene I had to paint it eight times before I got what I wanted out of it.

If you could wave a magic wand and completely change professions, what would you be doing today?

I’d be Beyonce.

(Don, waving magic wand…zing!)

For our aspiring children’s book illustrators, talk about your path to publication.

My road, like my work process, was long and crooked. I stumbled many times, but I never gave up.

I finished my first emergent reader book with Lee and Low right after college. I was teaching with Atlanta Public Schools then. After the first project I worked on some smaller e-books and some projects with local authors. After three years of teaching art I applied to SVA. While in grad school I befriended three other illustrators and we showed our work to as many art directors and editors who would see us.

During that time I also worked at an after school program in Chinatown and interned as a design assistant with Penguin for a semester. After graduation all of my friends landed book deals, but I still kept getting close but no cookie. My graduate advisor, Pat Cummings, recommended me to Chris Myers and I became his assistant for a year. She also introduced me to an old student of hers who was leaving Bloomsbury and that connection turned into a four year freelance design position at the company. That first year after grad school I illustrated a book with a Korean publishing house, Tantani Media. I kept making work and sending it out to people who liked my work via e-mails and postcards and one night at the Society of Illustrators’ Original Art Show I ran into my very first editor at Lee and Low, Jen Frantz. She asked me in for a meeting and the rest is….history.

If you could do it all again, what would you do different?

I can honestly say that every experience I’ve had has contributed to the work I do now. I wouldn’t change a thing (except win the lottery).

From The Dancing Shoeshine Boy, written by Hae-Da Lee, Yeowon Media June 2008

What do you find most challenging about the book creation process?

The biggest challenge for me is balancing truth and fantasy. For a book like HURRICANES, I needed to stay true to the look and feel of New Orleans, but I also had to make art out of it. Learning how and when to take artistic license is a challenge.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I had a bunch of educational books and books with play along records that I’d read and listen to over and over again. My favorite “high art” picture book was THE SNOWY DAY. I can still remember the smell of the paper.

How do you find balance in your busy schedule?

I’m still learning how to balance everything. I recently moved back home to Atlanta for a few months after leaving my job at Bloomsbury and that has given me great peace of mind with more time to work. I go through cycles of getting everything done and not sleeping and getting very little done and not sleeping. Eventually I will clone myself so one of me can get some shut eye.

Do you visit schools? Is there any particular message you like to leave with children when you speak?

I love visiting schools. I try to give kids as much positive energy as I can about life. My main message for kids is that it’s okay to make mistakes. If you believe in yourself and what you want to do in life you can do it in spite of the small missteps along the way.

What would be your dream manuscript?

This may sound like a cop out, but my dreams are already coming true. I am a part of some truly phenomenal projects (that I hope I can live up to). My wish for the future is that I continue bringing outstanding stories to life alongside some of my own.

Who are your cheerleaders, those who encourage you?

My mom is my biggest cheerleader. She works in education so she gets to have bragging rights in her school. In addition to her are my friends, librarians, kids, and people who love art and books!

What’s on the horizon, what can your fans expect?

Ha! Fans. There are so many books in the works, which is amazing, but wow, I need to start taking my vitamins! My next book is with Candlewick, called WHITE WATER. It’s a story of segregation in 1950s Alabama.

********* Just For Fun **********

Favorite M&M color: blue

Favorite TV show: The big bang theory (when I get to watch it)

Favorite food: spinach

Favorite sport: football

Favorite ice cream flavor: rocky road

Favorite American Idol winner: *crickets*

Favorite Pop culture personality: Sheldon Cooper

Favorite Day of the week: the day after a great night’s sleep

Favorite social network:the book

Favorite genre of book: magical realism

***********GIVE AWAY***********

Here’s the thing: I have an ARC of Shadra’s newest book, A PLACE WHERE HURRICANES HAPPEN. I’d planned to keep it all to myself, but then realized it wouldn’t do Shadra much good buried here in my studio. So, I’d like to give it away. If you’re a librarian or teacher who’d like a sneak peek of Shadra’s newest work, and wouldn’t mind posting some nice comments (Twitter, Facebook, blog) after you receive it, then post a comment in today’s highlight. I’ll close my eyes and draw a name, then send you the copy.

Throwback Thursday: Walter Dean Myers

November 3, 2016


Very recently, a nephew came to live with me.  He’s quiet, stays in his room, and basically comes downstairs to eat and hang out in the backyard.  Most of the time, his earbuds are in, and therefore I believed he didn’t want to have a face-to-face conversation.  One day, he was sitting at the counter in my kitchen, eating lunch, when I noticed him staring at something.  He took his earbuds out, picked up a book and asked,

“You read Walter Dean Myers?”

I just shrugged, stuck in stupid, totally surprised on so many levels.

He grinned, “I’ve read all the books in my school library written by him.  SLAM, FALLEN ANGELS, SCORPIONS.  Have you read MONSTER?  Everybody says that’s really good.  I can’t believe he’s gone.  You have any more of his books?”

And so, our conversations began.  Thank you, Walter Dean Myers.

He has reached thousands of young people through his writings and teachings.  And in honor of his contributions to children’s literature, I would like to kick off our “Throwback Thursday” with The Brown Bookshelf’s 2008  28 Days Later spotlight of one of the most prolific writers of all time. — C.A.

*         *         *

Walter Dean Myers has had the type of career that most authors can only dream of. Since becoming first published in 1969, Myers has won five Coretta Scott King Awards, two Newbery Honors, and was awarded the first American Library Association Michael L. Printz Award for Monster. In 1994, Myers received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for “lifetime contribution to young adult literature,” and in 2008, the American Library Association chose Myers to present the 2009 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture–an honor given yearly to an individual of distinction in the field of children’s literature.

Street LoveNot one to limit himself to strictly novels, Myers has also excelled at both short stories and poetry. His novel  Lovein verse, Street Love (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2006), was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Kirkus Editor’s Choice, and was named to the Horn Book Fanfare List for 2006. Likewise, his most recent collection of short stories, What They Found: Love on 145th Street (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2007), was also hailed by critics, receiving starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Known for capturing the emotional and physical heart of Harlem in his novels, Myers returns to a familiar topic, basketball, in his new novel Game (HarperTeen, 2008). From the HarperTeen website: “Drew Lawson knows basketball is taking him places. It has to, because his grades certainly aren’t. But lately his plan has run squarely into a pick. Coach’s new offense has made another player a star, and Drew won’t let anyone disrespect his game. Just as his team makes the playoffs, Drew must come up with something big to save his fading college prospects. It’s all up to Drew to find out just how deep his game really is.”

GameKLIATT gave Game a starred review, saying, “Myers…clearly knows basketball, and he nails the court action… A great choice for sports fans.” School Library Journal adds, “As always, Myers eschews easy answers, and readers are left with the question of whether or not Drew is prepared to deal with the challenges that life will inevitably hand him.”

Countdown to our Tenth Campaign

October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween! At The Brown Bookshelf, we have another reason to feel festive. February will kick off the 10th campaign of 28 Days Later, our annual Black History Month celebration of 28dayslogounder-the-radar and vanguard black children’s book creators. To mark that milestone, we’re starting throwback Thursdays this week where we share a profile from our archive of more than 200 28 Days Later spotlights. Stay tuned for more special features and news throughout 2017.

Today, to begin our countdown, we’re reposting the first ever Brown Bookshelf blog entry. On October 31, 2007, Varian Johnson discussed why he and Paula Chase-Hyman started The Brown Bookshelf.

Our team has grown since its founding. The Brown Bookshelf began with five members. We’re now 10 strong. We’ve watched with pride as new voices have entered the field and books by black children’s book creators have won inspiring accolades. But nearly a decade later, we still have a long way to go.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s multicultural publishing statistics from 2006, for instance, showed that 153 out of about 3000 children’s books received at CCBC had significant African or African American content. As Varian shared in his post below, 87 of those books were by black authors and illustrators.

In stats from 2015, the CCBC reported that out of 3,400 children’s books received, “261 had significant African or African American content.” That gain may seem like reason to celebrate until you realize that just 86 of those were by Black authors and illustrators, almost the same number as in 2006.*

* The overall number of books by Black children’s book creators increased slightly. The CCBC noted that an additional 14 books by black authors and illustrators in 2015 did not relate to their cultural or ethnic background.

Nearly a decade later, some of the same questions linger:

Why are more children’s books being published about African Americans and Africans by creators from other cultures than by black children’s book creators?  Why do books by black authors and illustrators still struggle to get noticed? Why do some of our authors find it tough to get published even with a track record of honors and awards?

As Varian states in his post sometimes an author must be an advocate. We will continue to push for publishing parity alongside allies like The African American Children’s Book Project, Just Us Books, Lee & Low Books, We Need Diverse Books, American Indians in Children’s Literature, Cynsations, Latinxs in Kid Lit, Teaching for Change, AALBC and many more.

Nearly a decade later, we’re still here, shining a spotlight on voices that deserve to be heard.

Why The Brown Bookshelf?

by Varian Johnson

While speaking at a predominately African-American high school a few years ago, I asked the students to name some of their favorite books. I varianexpected the students to name novels by some of my favorite YA authors—perhaps Walter Dean Myers, Jacqueline Woodson, or Virginia Hamilton. Instead, the students named authors such as Eric Jerome Dickey and Zane. Don’t get me wrong–I like Eric Jerome Dickey a lot, and both he and Zane have worked hard to achieve their much deserved success. However, for some reason I just didn’t feel comfortable discussing the works of Zane or EJ Dickey with a bunch of tenth graders. I found myself thinking about this again as I reviewed the statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. According to the CCBC, out of the approximately 5000 trade children’s books published in the United States in 2006, 87 were written by African Americans. 87 out of 5000. That’s 2%, if you’re generous with the rounding.

2% isn’t a lot by any means, but if we could somehow highlight a few of these books—help readers to see that good book by good authors are out there—perhaps the publishing and book selling industry would take notice. Perhaps that 2% could grow to 3%. And then to 4%. And so on and so on.

Sometimes, being a writer means that you have to put your own books down so you can cheer for someone else. Sometimes, you have to be an advocate instead of an author.


You Can Fly: Guest Post by Jeffery Weatherford

August 16, 2016

jefferyYou Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen follows the training, trials and triumphs of the U.S. military’s first African American pilots. Set during World War II, the book pairs my scratchboard illustrations with poems by my mother, award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford. The title is our first collaboration and my publication debut. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen.

I first heard about the Tuskegee Airmen when I was a young boy. Perhaps it was during a visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington. Later, Iflycover saw an exhibit about the airmen during a family vacation to Tuskegee, Institute Alabama.

I brought to this project a lifetime fascination with flight. I have always had dreams where I was flying like a bird. On my first airplane ride at age four or five, I had a window seat. As the plane sped down the runway and lifted its nose from the ground, I said, “We’re blasting off!” I doodled my way through elementary and middle school, creating drawings of aircraft and weapons in my notebooks. I also played scores of video games featuring aircraft in futuristic, intergalactic battles.

For inspiration and historical accuracy, I researched documentary photographs from the Library of Congress, National Archives and military museums. I also watched the movie Red Tails. In some cases, I created digital collages as studies for my sketches. While researching picture references, I had some dreams of meeting Tuskegee Airmen.

flysonmom.jpgAfter I found picture references and chose the subject matter of a piece, I drew a graphite study to layout the composition. Once that was completed and approved by the publisher, I refined the image and transferred it to scratchboard. I used various nibs for different effects. I believe that scratchboard creates a graphic novel feel.

These illustrations reflect my gratitude for the veterans in my family. My great great great grandfather fought in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. My great grandfather was a mule skinner in the Army and my grandfather served in the Army in World War II. I’d like to think that my ancestors would be proud.

Like my mother, I am also a poet, although I lean more toward rap and spoken word. My two favorite poems in You Can Fly are “Head to the Sky,” which opens the book, and “Fight Song,” which was the actual fight song of the 99th Fighter Squadron.

I hope that young readers will embrace the book’s central message–YOU CAN FLY. Likewise, I hope that parents and teachers will convey high expectations to propel children’s dreams.

Here is some art from the book. Enjoy!

















About Illustrator Jeffery Weatherford

Jeffery Boston Weatherford is a multitalented artist, designer and poet. The son of a poet and a preacher, he was born in High Point, North Carolina with hands so large that his grandmother predicted that he would one day do important work. That turned out to be art. He earned a B.A. in Art and Design from Winston-Salem State University, where he was a Chancellor’s Scholar. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Howard University where he received the Romare Bearden Scholarship and received a presidential send-off from commencement speaker Barack Obama. Jeffery’s work has shown at galleries in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.



Preserving Langston’s Legacy

August 9, 2016

It’s always a pleasure to feature award-winning author Renée Watson. Her powerful books include This Side of Home, Harlem’s Little Blackbird, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, What Watson HeadshotMomma Left Me and the forthcoming Piecing Me Together. Today, we’re honored to share another side of her – visionary and advocate.

Renée’s dream is to lease and renovate the Harlem brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and transform it into a place for emerging and established artists. She has launched a crowd-funding campaign to help. Please spread the word and give if you can. There are lots of cool perks for donating including signed books – among the gems is a basket of books by members of our team – critiques and skip-the-slush pile passes, Skype author visits and more. By donating, you can help Renée give back to the community, preserve and build on Langston’s legacy and celebrate the arts.

Below, she writes about her inspiring mission. You can also see her and other artists talk about why the project matters in the I, Too, Arts Collective video here. Thank you for your support.

Guest Post by Renée Watson

In This Side of Home everything for Maya Younger is changing. The neighborhood she’s always called home is morphing into a place where she feels like a stranger. Abandoned storefronts are being renovated, houses are getting facelifts and new faces—white faces—are showing up more and more in her community. Maya isn’t so sure these changes are for the best but her twin, Nikki, is all for the urban renewal that’s taking place.

When I do author visits, students often ask me which twin is most like me. I cheat by thissidesaying that I see myself in both twins. I started noticing changes in my Portland, Oregon neighborhood my junior year in high school. Gentrification was not a word I knew at fifteen but I felt the effects of it. There was a knowing, even if unspoken, that the changes being made weren’t for the people who already lived in the neighborhood but for the people who were coming. Yet, even with that feeling, I still wanted to go out and enjoy these new places. So for me, I have both of their perspectives—I want the change, appreciate it even, but I question the push out that often comes with it.

Twenty years later, the Portland I grew up in no longer exists. Of course, this isn’t a new phenomenon. And maybe that’s the problem. This happens time and time again—people of color being pushed out of their neighborhoods, losing pieces of their collective history. As I tour the nation visiting young people in schools, community organizations, and libraries, I’ve learned that gentrification is happening everywhere—Austin, DC, Boston. As an author of young adult literature, I am moved by the real-life stories from young people who see themselves in the pages of my novels. To know the circumstances my characters are going through resonate with the reader is a gratifying experience.

But there is also sadness.

Part of the problem with gentrification is that it often erases a people’s history. Places hold stories and when we lose sacred places like churches, theaters, and the homes of black legends, we lose pieces of our collective story.

That is one of the reasons I am launching I, Too, Arts Collective. Harlem, like so many other neighborhoods in America, is changing. And once again I find myself feeling like both Maya and Nikki, loving all the new trendy restaurants and coffee shops but also feeling nervous about who will be able to stay and enjoy these new places.

langstonI see I, Too, Arts Collective as a space that will not only preserve the legacy of Langston Hughes but build on it. Our name, is inspired by one of Langston’s poem where he declares, “I, too, am America”, and talks about taking his place at the table. It is a statement that declares, “I, too, deserve a space, a voice, to be seen.”

We hope participants in our programs feel like they have a seat at the artistic table—that their existence is worthy of being showcased and remembered. Our offerings will have opportunities for beginning, emerging, and professional writers and artists to be involved. We will offer poetry workshops and creative writing courses for youth and adults. The space will also host creative conversations for the community, where guest artists (of all disciplines) will share works-in-progress and engage with the audience through discussions. One thing I am very excited about is our Artist-in-Residence program, which will be open to writers and artists across the country to apply to stay at Langston’s home so they can create and work in New York City. This is ideal for authors on a book tour, an artist who needs to be in NYC to work on a special project, or a visiting professor. Our Artist-in-Residence program will provide affordable space for visiting artists. What excites me most about this program is that it widens Langston’s home beyond New York City. Artists from the south, the west coast—even international artists—can be a part of this.

As I pursue this dream I keep at my desk a few of Langston’s poems. I have been holding on to this one, especially:

I Look at the World

I look at the world

From awakening eyes in a black face—

And this is what I see:

This fenced-off narrow space

Assigned to me.

I look then at the silly walls

Through dark eyes in a dark face—

And this is what I know:

That all these walls oppression builds

Will have to go!

I look at my own body

With eyes no longer blind—

And I see that my own hands can make

The world that’s in my mind.

Then let us hurry, comrades,

The road to find.

—Langston Hughes, 1930

I, Too, Arts Collective is committed to making; with our own hands, our own voices, the world that’s in our mind.

Renée Watson is the executive director of I, Too, Arts Collective and the author of This Side of Home (Bloomsbury 2015), which was nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults by the American Library Association. Her picture book, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills (Random House 2012), received several honors including an NAACP Image Award nomination in children’s literature. Her novel, What Momma Left Me, (Bloomsbury 2010), debuted as the New Voice for 2010 in middle grade fiction. Her one woman show, Roses are Red Women are Blue, debuted at the Lincoln Center at a showcase for emerging artists.

One of Renée’s passions is using the arts to help youth cope with trauma and discuss social issues. Her picture book, A Place Where Hurricanes Happen (Random House, 2010), is based on poetry workshops she facilitated with children in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and was featured on NBC Nightly News.

Renée has worked as a writer in residence for several years teaching creative writing and theater in public schools and community centers through out the nation. Her articles on teaching and arts education have been published in Rethinking Schools and Oregon English Journal. She is on the Council of Writers for the National Writing Project and is a team member of We Need Diverse Books. She currently teaches courses on writing for children at University of New Haven and Pine Manor College.

Renée has given readings and lectures at many renowned places, including the United Nations Headquarters and the Library of Congress. In 2015 she was honored with the STEAM award for her work in arts education by Inner City Foundation of New York, Inc.

Renée grew up in Portland, Oregon and currently lives in New York City. To learn more about Renée and her work, visit her at

About I, Too, Arts Collective

I, Too, Arts Collective is a nonprofit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts. Our first major project is to provide a space for emerging and established artists in Harlem to create, connect, and showcase work. Our goal is to lease and renovate the brownstone where Langston Hughes lived in Harlem as a way to not only preserve his legacy but to build on it and impact young poets and artists.

For more information & to donate, please visit us here:


Celebrating Diversity at ALA: Recommended Titles

June 25, 2016

Party People
Our sincere thanks to all of the ALA participants who joined The Brown Bookshelf in paying tribute to our favorite children’s books created for and by African Americans (and those of the African diaspora).

Below are the links to the book lists we promised:

BBS Nonfiction

BBS Fiction

BBS “Celebrating Diversity” Book Recommendations

Thanks again for all you do to support the mental, social, and emotional growth of our children. LIBRARIANS ROCK!


CORRECTION: During the statistics portion of the presentation, I erroneously stated that the percentage of children’s books in 2015 that contained significant multicultural content was 7.9%. That percentage actually referred to titles with significant African/African American content. The percentage of titles with significant multicultural content in 2015 was actually 14.9% of those received by the CCBC.  Using the same metrics (which exclude books by people of color with no discernible cultural content) this actually represents an increase over the prior year of 3.6 percentage points! Likewise, the 7.9% statistic for books with significant African/African American content represents an increase of 2.8 percentage points over 2014.

While there is still much work to do, our collective advocacy is making a difference! Let’s keep it going!


Call for Submissions

June 21, 2016

jadenA Brown Bookshelf reader let me know  that there are two Plum Street publishing companies – Plum Street Press, based in New Orleans, and Plum Street Publishers, based in Arkansas, which issued the call for submissions. So sorry for the mix-up. Lucky for us, both are open to new work:

Here’s what I wrote about Plum Street Press:

When I saw the cover for Jaden Toussaint, The Greatest, written by Marti Dumas, I was intrigued. Fly fro, ready for action, cool sub-title: The Quest for Screen Time. Loved it. Who gave that story a home? New Orleans boutique publisher Plum Street Press.

Along with the Jaden Toussaint series, they publish the Swift Walker science and geography series.

Here are the submission guidelines:

All our stories feature children of color as the protagonist, although race need not figure prominently in the story or at all. We are particularly interested in middle grade manuscripts (approximately 10,000-30,000 words targeting 8-12 year olds) but will also be accepting submissions for picture books and YA. Queries can be sent to:

plumstreetPlum Street Publishers, based in Little Rock, Arkansas, was the company that asked us to spread the word that they’re looking for authors and illustrators. It was founded by award-winner Liz Smith Russell. For almost three decades, she was Publisher at August House. She continues her commitment to multicultural children’s books at her new company.

Here’s the call for submissions:

Plum Street Publishers is seeking submissions for children’s, middle grade, and YA titles. We are also interested in viewing artists’ portfolio samples for our forthcoming picture book line. We are committed to publishing diverse voices and experiences and promote tolerance and understanding through books for young readers. Our submission guidelines can be found at

Get those portfolios and stories ready.