Meet the New “Kids” On Our Block

Brown Bookshelf Expands Membership

There comes a time in every organization’s existence where it must take inventory and ask what could it do to operate more effectively? The time for The Brown Bookshelf arrived several weeks ago, when inaugural member Carla Sarratt resigned from the group due to time constraints. “Losing Carla was a real blow because she was a go-to member when it came to juggling the details and legwork,” says founding member, Paula Chase Hyman. “And The Brown Bookshelf is a lot of details and legwork. But we’d been thinking about expanding for a year now, so Carla’s departure was the impetus to consider it more seriously.”

Rounding out membership meant identifying authors of color who were not only actively writing and publishing children’s works, but willing to take on the group’s volunteer efforts to showcase other children’s authors of color. “It’s a double-edged sword because you’re recruiting an author while they’re immersed in writing new books and/or promoting them,” says founding member, Varian Johnson. “You’re asking them to add one more, very time consuming, thing onto their plates. There are plenty of viable candidates, but only a select few are willing to manage the additional workload.”

The select few who answered the call were debut middle grade author, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and debut Picture Book author, Tameka F. Brown, two very active members of The Association of Children’s Authors and Illustrators of Color (ACAIC). “Sometimes things work out picture perfect. We’ve needed another dedicated middle grade writer on the team for some time now,” says founding member, Kelly Starling-Lyons. “And the insight of another Picture Book author is essential because the bulk of our submissions for 28 Days Later are picture books. Olugbemisola and Tameka’s backgrounds matched our needs and, fortunate for us, they believed in our mission enough to join us.”

A long-time mentor and advisor to youth, Rhuday-Perkovich’s debut, Eighth-Grade Superzero (Arthur A. Levine) will debut January 1, 2010. She’s also written for a variety of lifestyle and pop culture magazines including American Baby and Word Up! “In a short time, The Brown Bookshelf established itself as a precious and dynamic force in the publishing world. From the beginning, they were unstoppable,” says, Rhuday-Perkovich. “They’ve maintained a commitment to quality and education that I have long admired and am so grateful for. I’m truly honored to be offered this opportunity to join them in highlighting the diverse array of work by Black authors and illustrators across the Diaspora.”

Brown also has an extensive background mentoring young people, both professionally as a Teacher’s assistant and through her church as Sunday School Teacher and Youth Counselor. While she awaits her Fall 2010 debut of, Around Our Way (Abrams Books for Young Readers), she’s been busy with AuthorsNow, a marketing co-op of children’s authors debuting in 2010. Of being a part of the group, Brown says, “It was an honor to receive the invitation from The Brown Bookshelf. In the two years of its existence, BBS has done a phenomenal job of enhancing the visibility of many prolific authors and illustrators. I’m excited about making my contribution to this important endeavor.”

Brown and Rhuday-Perkovich join as the group burrows deep into submissions for the third annual 28 Days Later. “It’s akin to baptism by fire,” says founding member, Don Tate. “The best way to understand what the Brown Bookshelf is about is to jump right in and get your hands dirty. They’ll feel like they’ve run a marathon, come March, but we’re excited to have Tameka and Olugbemisola in the trenches with us.”