Day 26: Eloise Greenfield

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I knew that Eloise Greenfield loved me. As a child, I pored over HONEY, I LOVE over and over again, and could hear the words of her poems just as if she were right next to me, speaking to me, chatting with my mother and grandmother, reminding me that I was special, powerful, beautiful, and fully LOVED.

We featured Ms. Greenfield back in 2008; she was born in 1929, in segregated North Carolina. She studied piano as a child, trained as a teacher and worked in civil service at the U.S. Patent Office. She had her first poem published in the Hartford Times in 1962 and her first book (a biography of Rosa Parks) was published in 1972. Her bio notes that she’s won the Coretta Scott King Award for Africa Dream, and a CSK Honor for The Great Migration: Journey to the North (which was also an…

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Day 26: Jacqueline Woodson

jackiejpegI remember the first time I read Jacqueline Woodson’s Visiting Day. Early in my publishing journey, I was exploring the magic of picture books when I spotted one with a black father and daughter embracing on the cover. James Ransome’s beautiful illustration and the title called to me, saying, “This is something special.” The opening  delivered on that promise: “Only on Visiting Day is there chicken frying in the kitchen at 6 a.m. and Grandma, humming soft and low, smiling her secret just-for-Daddy-and-me smile . . . ”

I was there.

Jackie’s words transported me into the world of a little girl who loved and missed her father. I felt her longing, her anticipation. I rode the bus with her and Grandma to visitingdayvisit Daddy. Then I learned he was away because he was “doing a little time.” The page became blurry as I blinked away tears. This. Was. A…

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Day 25: Rosa Guy

Most people have never heard of Rosa Guy (rhymes with “key”), but she has been influential in developing the careers of many writers despite her relative obscurity. Guy was born in Trinidad & Tobago and raised in Harlem from age 7. After the death of her father, and because her older sister was ill, Guy left school at age 14 to take on factory work. She studied acting at the American Negro Theater in the 1940s before she turned to writing.

In 1950, she was one of the founders (the only woman) of the Harlem Writer’s Guild. Their mission to develop works by writers of the African diaspora helped literary greats including Ossie Davis, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, Sidney Poitier, and Walter Dean Myers. In 1977, the group was honored by the United Nations Society of Writers, and by 1986, founder John Oliver Killens estimated that their members “had produced…

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Day 24: Andrea Davis Pinkney

Andrea Davis Pinkney is a superstar in the publishing industry. Thank you for sharing her story.

adp-photoIn the 1990s, I was new to the art and business of writing. I dappled in adult magazine articles, then articles for young readers. I discovered early readers and found editors who thought they were worthy of publication. Then, I decided to write something else, something different, but I couldn’t put my finger on it or the words on paper even if I knew what I wanted to write. Not until I discovered picture book biographies. Not until I discovered Andrea Davis Pinkney’s BILL PICKET: RODEO – RIDIN’ COWBOY at my local library.

I live in Oklahoma and knew about bulldogging Bill Pickett and the 101 Ranch. I never saw his story presented quite like hers. Reading it gave me permission to try something new with fun words like yip-yapping. It showed me how to tell a fascinating story with words and pictures. Pinkney’s book opened a world of…

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Day 23: Javaka Steptoe

Love, love, love Javaka! I like that his stories and art capture the spirit of his characters, especially in Jimi Hendrix and now in Basquiat. Javaka is a cool person to talk with, too!

Javaka Steptoe(c) Gregg Richards.jpgAs a young child, Javaka Steptoe served as a model and was the inspiration behind much of the artwork created by his esteemed father, the late John Steptoe. However, the young model went on to establish himself as an outstanding book creator in his own right.

Javaka Steptoe’s debut picture book,In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers (Lee & Low Books, ), earned him a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, in addition to a nomination for Outstanding Children’s Literature Work at the 1998 NAACP Image Awards. Since that time, Steptoe has illustrated and/or written more than an dozen books for youth readers, collaborating with some of the top names in the business—Walter Dean Myers, Nikki Grimes, Karen English.

This past January, Steptoe won the 2017 Caldecott Medal for his picture book biography Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Little, Brown), more than thirty years after his father won two Caldecott Honors. The…

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Day 23: Jason Reynolds

Love, love, love Jason Reynolds! My students love his books too!

403685768_th.jpgAward-winning author and poet Jason Reynold offers a plan for “people, young, old, and in-between, who hate reading.” His plan: NOT WRITE BORING BOOKS. Since entering the field of youth literature in 2014, he has kept to his plan.

Reynolds is the author of critically acclaimed When I Was the Greatest, for which he won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent; the Coretta Scott King Honor books Boy in the Black Suit and All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely, also the winner of the Walter Dean Myers Award); As Brave As You, his stunning middle grade debut that was a Time Book of the Year and winner of the Kirkus Award; and Ghost, the first book in his middle grade Track series, which was also a National Book Award finalist.

He lives in Brooklyn, New York and is working harder than ever to make good “bad gifts”…

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Day 22: Salva Dut

Wow! A very important and moving story. Thank you for sharing this.

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More than two decades of civil war in Sudan caused much trauma, displacement, and destruction. Children were forced to flee the country, and many of the boys became known as “The Lost Boys of Sudan”. In the midst of the pain, stories like Salva Dut’s shone. From the Water for South Sudan website: “As an 11-year old Dinka from Tonj in southwest Sudan, Salva fled first to Ethiopia. Then later, as a teenager, he led 1500 ‘Lost Boys’ hundreds of miles through the Southern Sudan desert to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. That courage and heroic perseverance continue to this day. Relocated to the United States in 1996, he now leads Water for South Sudan, Inc., the non-profit organization he founded in 2003.”

Salva’s story was told in Linda Sue Park’s bestselling and award-winning 2010 novel, A Long Walk To Water. Park combines Salva’s true story with the…

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Day 21: Rita Williams-Garcia

I love Williams-Garcia! She is a great writer and a cool person to talk with.

rita-hcFor my 28 Days Later post this year, I decided to change things up a bit and make this a little more personal. Our first inspiration post is focused on Rita Williams-Garcia. I’ve known Rita for ten years–she is an author, a teacher, a mentor, a big sister, and a wise and valued friend. She has been an inspiration to many writers, including myself. She is the reason that so many of us are authors today.

Rita Williams-Garcia had been writing for over 30 years, with titles that range from picture books to young adult novels. Personal favorites include Every Time a Rainbow Dies (HarperCollins, 2001), a lyrical love story about a boy named one-crazy-summerThulani and a girl named Ysa–both of whom have seen their fair share of challenges yet still rise to overcome them. And, of course, there is Rita’s more recent Gaither Sisters Book Series, beginning with One Crazy Summer (HarperCollins, 2010). The three…

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Day 20: Michael S. Bandy

A screenwriter and actor, Michael S. Bandy’s first children’s book began as an idea for a movie short. Inspired by his agent, he and co-author Eric Stein began the hard work of creating a picture book instead. That decision would launch a new career. White Water (illustrated by Shadra Strickland, published by Candlewick), their children’s book debut, became an award-winning title that was turned into a TV movie.

Since then, Michael and his writing partner have written two more books for kids – the acclaimed Granddaddy’s Turnand the forthcoming Northbound, both published by Candlewick and inspired by Michael’s life. We are proud to feature Michael on Day 20.

The Journey

My foray in publishing has been one of exhilaration and wonderment. It began over 30 years ago when I was an NBC Page. There with my future writing partner, Eric Stein (who was a Page as well), we attempted to come up with writing…

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DAY 19: Anaya Lee Willabus

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As an author / illustrator, there’s nothing like looking back at the books I’ve done to make me feel proud. And when I think that I published my first book way back in 1997, there’s nothing quite like that to make me feel old. With the possible exception of interviewing Anaya Lee Willabus, who is all of 9 years old! Once I got over that, it was indeed a pleasure to share the spotlight on this up-and-coming author.

So without further delay, The Brown Bookshelf would like to introduce you to today’s star of 28 Days Later: Miss Anaya Lee Willabus.

Enjoy!

The Process: How do you work? Do you start with a character, a concept, an idea? Do you outline first or just go? Is there a technique or routine for drafting or revising that you find particularly helpful? Do you have an office or other location that works…

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