The Miami University Art Museum (MUAM) in Oxford, Ohio, currently boasts a treasure trove of original artwork from African American children’s book illustrators. This picture book gold can be found in Telling a People’s Story: African American Children’s Illustrated Literature, an exhibition of approximately 130 works by 33 artists from 88 books, which runs at MUAM through June 30.
Among the artwork on display are pieces from Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awardees past and present, from Tom Feelings and John Steptoe to Ekua Holmes and Kadir Nelson. And, in a nice touch that one doesn’t often see at art galleries, visitors can find and read the books the art came from below each piece while browsing the exhibit.
A conference will take place in conjunction with the art exhibition from April 20-21 at MUAM. Among the CSK alums presenting at the conference are R. Gregory Christie, Ekua Holmes, E.B. Lewis, Jerry Pinkney, Javaka Steptoe, and Shadra Strickland.
Jason Shaiman, Curator of Exhibitions at MUAM, said of this conference: “I’m so excited to be able to bring several major illustrators together in one place, and to hear their perspectives…. [In a picture book], we hear the words of the author through their words, and we see the voice of the illustrator through their illustrations, but [the conference] is an opportunity to actually hear the words of the illustrators.”
Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards is an extraordinary exhibit paying homage to the illustrators of the Coretta Scott King (CSK) awardees who were recipients of winner and honor awards of the Coretta Scott King Books Awards Committee, from the beginning honoring George Ford, first CSK Illustrator Award winner, in 1974 for his winning illustration of the book Ray Charles written by Sharon Mathis.
This is the largest collection of CSK illustrations with over 100 works on display at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) located in Abilene Texas. This exhibition was curated by Debbie Lillick, Director of Exhibitions, and Sujata Shahane, Director of Exhibitions Programing, in partnership with the CSK Book Awards Committee.
On March 4 and 5, 2018, Dr. Claudette McLinn, Chair of CSK Book Awards Committee was a special invited guest to address civic leaders including the mayor of Abilene and school and public librarians. She gave a historical perspective of the origins of the CSK Award. Dr. McLinn stressed in both presentations as quoted by Brian Bethel of Abilene Reporter-News,” When you walk into a room, you want to see something of you there.” She further stated, “And when something of you is there and it looks beautiful, you know I matter, you know I’m important, you know I’m not invisible, and that’s why it’s important for people to see themselves in books and on walls.”
Dr. McLinn also gave the librarians insight into how to utilize the CSK website’s many resources to enhance their library program.
The exhibition is scheduled through May 19, 2018. To date, this exhibition will travel next to the Eric Carle Museum and on to other venues for the next two years. For information regarding the NCCIL, please click on to their website: www.nccil.org.
Dr. Claudette McLinn is Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee. She is the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature.
“There are black American stories somewhere between slavery and ghetto that deserve telling.” ~Joyce Carol Thomas, author, playwright and CSK Honor Award winner
The Underground Railroad and Canada are well known for the part that they played in African Americans’ escape from bondage. However, in their search for peace and freedom, escaped and freed slaves left virtually no land untrod.
Though the story is often marginalized, regions west of the Mississippi River were a Promised Land for African Americans after Reconstruction. The call beckoned as strongly to black whalemen of Nantucket and New Bedford as it did to hands that harvested cotton, sugar and tobacco in the Deep South. And while stories that tell about the roles of people of color in the American West are comparatively few, they do exist.
Below is a roundup of outstanding resources. It includes CSK Award-winning titles as well as other support materials useful in building an enriched and inclusive curriculum.
Black Cowboys, Wild Horses tells the story of Bob Lemmons, the legendary Texas horse tracker. This true account was written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, both CSK Award- winners. Similarly, Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West by Lillian Schlissel is a collection of powerful photographs that give testament to the mettle of this forgotten band of migrants. Before delving into these texts, teachers can have their students read the Junior Scholastic article, “The Other Pioneers: African Americans on the Frontier.”
I Have Heard of a Land by Joyce Carol Thomas centers on an African American woman pioneer and is a poetic tribute to African Americans who migrated to the Oklahoma territory. Floyd Cooper illustrated the text with quiet, muted tones that harmoniously blend with the voice of the author, an African American writer who had ancestral connections to the region. It beautifully complements Pappy’s Handkerchief. The latter is by Devin Scillian (illustrated by Chris Ellison) and centers specifically on the Oklahoma Land Rush. Visit this link for a teacher’s guide for Pappy’s Handkerchief.
CSK Award-winning author, Patricia McKissack’s middle grade book Scraps of Time: Away West is an intergenerational family saga alternating between modern times and the Reconstruction era of the 1870s. For early elementary school readers, Barbara Brenner’s Wagon Wheels (illustrated by Don Bolognese)offers an adventure which charts the odyssey of a father and his sons as they make their way to Kansas. This teacher’s guide along with Nicodemus: The Black Experience Moving West, a short video produced by the National Park Service, pair well with these texts.
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal tells the story of a man whose life and career took him from a plantation in Arkansas then on to Texas and what would eventually become Oklahoma. This book was awarded the 2010 Coretta Scott King Author Award. Gregory Christie, the book’s illustrator, was awarded a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. Another with a similar setting and feel is Thunder Rose written by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, who was recognized for this work with the 2008 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. It’s an amusing tall tale with dense text and lovely illustrations that evoke the grace and grit woven into prairie life.
Librarians and educators wishing to expand their coverage of this complicated segment of United States history can enrich their collections and class content with these books that explore the African American experience and contribution to Westward Expansion.
Post by Jené Watson
Jené Watson works as a public librarian at a system in suburban Atlanta, where she coordinates Books in the Barbershop and family meditation programs. She is the author of The Spirit That Dreams: Conversations with Women Artists of Color (indigopen.com).
On Monday, February 12, in Denver, Dr. Claudette McLinn, Chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee, rose from her seat at the dais to announce the 2018 Coretta Scott King Book Awards. The crowd erupted as the following awards were announced:
The Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement: Eloise Greenfield
The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent: David Barclay Moore for The Stars Beneath Our Feet (Alfred A. Knopf)
The Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Illustrator Award for New Talent: Charly Palmer for Mama Africa!: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Coretta Scott King Book Awards Illustrator Honor Book: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, illustrated by Gordon C. James and written by Derrick Barnes (Bolden, an Agate Imprint, a Denene Millner Book)
Coretta Scott King Book Awards Illustrator Honor Book: Before She Was Harriet: The Story of Harriet Tubman, illustrated by James E. Ransome and written by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Holiday House)
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award: Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, illustrated by Euka Holmes, written by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth (Candlewick)
Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Honor Book: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James (Bolden, an Agate Imprint, a Denene Millner Book)
Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Honor Book: Long Way Down, written by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a Caitlyn Dlouhy Book)
Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Honor Book: The Hate U Give, written by Angela Thomas (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)
Coretta Scott King Author Award: Piecing Me Together, written by Renée Watson (Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books)
In addition, CSK Award-winning author Angela Johnson was the recipient of the YALSA 2018 Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens
And CSK Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson received the ALSC 2018 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award which honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children
Many thanks to the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury: Kacie Armstrong, Jessica Anne Bratt, LaKeshia Darden, Dr. Sujin Bernadette Huggins, Erica Marks, Martha Parravano and Sam Bloom (Chair)
Many thanks to the CSK-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement Award Jury: Therese G. Bigelow, Patricia Ann Carleton, Dr. Rosalie B. Kiah (not pictured), Ida W. Thompson and Deborah Denise Taylor (Chair)
Post by Susan Polos
Susan Polos works as a school librarian in Bedford, NY. She is Chair of the CSK Book Awards Technology Committee.
“The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee of the American Library Association (ALA)’s Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) is excited to partner with the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in presenting the art exhibition Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards.” – – Dr. Claudette S. McLinn, Chair, Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee, 2017-2019.
This art exhibition, curated by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in Abilene, Texas, opens February 8, 2018. NCCIL will be the first to host this extraordinary CSK art exhibition, the largest collection of Coretta Scott King (CSK) Illustrator Medal and Honor-winning art ever assembled.
The exhibition will be on display in the NCCIL Gallery in Abilene, TX from February 8, 2018 through May 19, 2018. The exhibition will then tour nationally. As of this date, museums scheduled to display this exhibit include the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA (October 2018 – January 2019); the Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha, NE (April 2020 – July 20200 and the Upcountry History Museum, Greenville, SC (January 2021 – April 2021).
The Coretta Scott King Award and its association with the American Library Association originated in 1969. It came as the result of a discussion between two librarians, Glyndon Flynt Greet and Mabel McKissick, and the publisher, John Carroll at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The awards commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honor his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019.
With this 50-year celebration retrospective, the NCCIL hopes not only to highlight these CSK Award winning artists and the great art & literature in these award-winning books, but also, as this show tours, to empower and inspire through these stories and their rich cultural legacy and heritage.
Participating artists in chronological order (at the time of this press release) include: George Ford (recipient of the first CSK Illustrator Award conferred in 1974), Tom Feelings, Ashley Bryan, Jerry Pinkney, John Steptoe, Leo & Diane Dillon, Peter Magubane, Pat Cummings, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Brian Pinkney, Kathleen Atkins Wilson, Faith Ringgold, Floyd Cooper, R. Gregory Christie, Christopher Myers, Bryan Collier, E. B. Lewis, Javaka Steptoe, Shane Evans, Colin Bootman, Benny Andrews, James E. Ransome, Joe Sam, Synthia St. James, Michelle Wood, Charles R. Smith, Daniel Minter, Frank Morrison, Nancy Devard, Sean Qualls, Baba Diakité, and Reynold Ruffins.
Located in Abilene, Texas, the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature collaborates with award-winning artists to produce high-quality exhibitions of their artwork that are distinctive and appealing to museum visitors of all ages. In addition to this unique artistic partnership, following its debut at the NCCIL gallery, each exhibition travels to museums, public libraries, and galleries nationwide. Please visit www.nccil.org for more information.
Post by Susan Polos
Susan Polos works as a school librarian in Bedford, NY. She is Chair of the CSK Book Awards Technology Committee.
“The Coretta Scott King Award is special because it does not only honor books for their literary merits. Of equal importance are the moral dimensions of a work. I learned what it is to be a moral writer from the work of Edward Lewis Wallant, a young Jewish writer who died much too early. He is best remembered for his novel The Pawnbroker. I read all of his novels while I was still a struggling, unpublished writer, and what amazed me about his work was that he never took sides against his characters, even ones whose actions were despicable. The other quality I took from his work was that, more often than people are given credit for, humans triumph over adversity, be it crushing poverty, illnesses teetering over the abyss of death, physical or psychological limitations. There is a transcendent dimension to the human experience, and it was this belief in a transcendent humanity that characterized the lives and works of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King. It is this belief in a transcendent humanity which the Coretta Scott King awards seek to draw attention in the books these awards honor. I accept this award on behalf of those whose condition may have been slavery but whose lives, more often than not, transcended their condition. Many of them entrusted their spirits and their stories to me to bring to you. We thank you.”
From the 2006 Coretta Scott King Author Award Speech by Julius Lester for Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue
Post by Maegen Rose
Maegen Rose works as school librarian at the Collegiate School in New York City, an independent school for boys, where she works with students, staff and families to provide and promote diverse literature.
Eight Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book award winning authors and illustrators made an unprecedented appearance at a preconference during the 10th National Conference of African American Librarians (NCAAL) held in Atlanta, GA, August 9-13, 2017, at the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violet Social Change’s Freedom Hall. The CSK Book Awards Committee provided funding for this event. Never before in recent years have this many CSK Award winning authors and illustrators appeared together. The prestigious panel included illustrators Jerry Pinkney, R. Gregory Christie and James Ransome; authors Sharon Draper, Sharon Flake, Nikki Grimes, Carole Boston Weatherford and Jason Reynolds.
The audience was treated to statements by all about what happened when they got the call letting them know that they had won the CSK Award. The Award winners are announced during the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting usually held in January each year. The responses were both humorous and serious. Some did not realize they won the award until it was announced in the press. Each shared an award-winning book and gave tips on using the book with children. The audience, which consisted of conference attendees, local librarians, teachers and children’s book lovers, were wowed by the presenters. CSK Jury member LaKeshia Darden brought her children. They were attentive and engaged throughout the session.
A video was presented revealing the legacy of Lev Mills, the designer of the CSK seal. Mills talked about his career, his relationship with Glyndon Greer, and he explained the unique features of the seal. In a casual atmosphere attendees were able to dine with the authors and illustrators as well as take away great ideas and leave enlightened about the history of the design of the CSK seal.
Post by Carolyn Garnes
Carolyn Garnes was Co-Chair of the 10th National Conference of African American Librarians. She is a longtime member and past chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee.
Since 1970, the Coretta Scott King Book Award has recognized “outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.” In addition to the winning titles, dozens of worthy books are submitted to the Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) of the American Library Association for consideration each year.
The CSK Book Awards Donation Grant helps ensure that these valuable materials are distributed to areas of greatest need by offering complimentary copies to organizations, especially underfunded ones, that provide educational services to children and are looking to expand their book collections.
Last year, books were awarded to three organizations: the W.R. Saffold Community Resource Center in Britton’s Neck, S.C., the Mayaguez Children’s Library in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and the Lawrence Memorial Library in Windsor, N.C. The W.R. Saffold Community Resource Center provides after-school homework help, summer programs, and community functions for all ages, and books are readily available for visitors. The Mayaguez Children’s Library in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico focuses on meeting the needs of children aged 2-18, as well as adults with many of its efforts dedicated to promoting recreational reading among all members of the community. The Lawrence Memorial Library, part of the Albemarle Regional Library System in Windsor, N.C. provides children with quality books that reflect the community’s demographics, and gives a bright spot in the lives of people who sustained losses during Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
The Book Grant Donation Committee is now accepting applications online through January 31, 2018 through the following link:
A complete list of past winners, as well as criteria and guidelines, can be found on the grant website. We will consider applications from any location, but shipping and handling charges must be paid by the recipient.
Thank you for spreading the word by sharing this post!
Post by Laura Simeon
Laura Simeon is a school librarian and member of the CSK Book Grant Committee living in the Seattle area.
The Gregory-Lincoln Education Center, a magnet School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston has chosen their author of the month: Ashley Bryan. The school community celebrated Bryan, brilliant artist, film-maker and storyteller, with a specific focus on Bryan’s Coretta Scott King Award-winning book, Beautiful Blackbird.
Without giving away much of the plot, this wonderful picture book includes themes of being true to oneself, loving one’s own unique features and handling the inevitable jealousy/envy that pops up in life. Though it’s an adaptation of a Zimbabwe folk-tale, this book has a universal theme of “wonderfully me.” Additionally, this book works well for those kiddos who don’t feel like they fit in with the popular crowd: “Color on the outside is not what’s on the inside.” Beautiful Blackbird encompasses timeless themes for both young and old!
As School Librarian, I worked with my “lunch-bunch” Blerd Book Club to create a little podcast of our debriefing discussion. Please enjoy our very first PODCAST!
For our younger students (grades 2nd-4th), we kept the lesson simple with four easy steps and, of course, fun. The four steps are “Do Now,” “Do Together,” Do Next,” and “Do Reflect.”
DO NOW: Choose your favorite color and defend it with this sentence stem: My favorite color is ______ because of _______.
“I love purple and gold because my mother wears a lot of gold ring and I love to wear my favorite purple dress. In India, gold is a treasure. My mommy says I’m her treasure.” Khanak T.
DO TOGETHER: Read the story Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan.
DO NEXT: Create your own community bird pond, decorating your birds like those in the story. (Link to Beautiful Blackbird slides from our 2nd grade class.)
DO REFLECT: Turn to your shoulder partner and discuss what each of you love about yourselves for 2 minutes. Be prepared to stand up and share what your partners love about themselves and vice-versa.
We had a whole nestful of fun celebrating all the beautiful colors in the world! We hope you enjoyed our cut-paper artwork and our thoughtful discussion!
Post by Jean Darnell
Jean Darnell is a magnet arts school librarian from Houston, Texas. She’s an avid social media user, active with her state library association and future-ready librarian. Discover more on Twitter (@AwakenLibrarian).
Anything you can do that can stimulate the imagination of another…is the most exciting thing you can do as an artist. ~Ashley Bryan
With 50 books to his credit, Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ashley Bryan creates beautiful mindscapes for children. Full of love of life and humanity, his body of work shares the stories of people of the African Diaspora as preserved in songs, poems and folktales.
In tribute to his longevity, Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre has staged two plays based on the works of the beloved artist, teacher, and scholar. Dancing Granny and Beautiful Blackbird (winner of the 2004 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award), are the books selected for production by the Alliance’s Theatre for the Very Young. The plays complement the exhibit Painter and Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan on view at the city’s High Museum of Art until January 21, 2018.
The opening voice of The Dancing Granny is a character patterned after Ashley Bryan himself. He is the tale weaver and griot whose narration and fancy footwork bookend this tale inspired by Mr. Bryan’s memories of his own grandmother.
Elaborate lighting and vibrant costumes along with Afro-Caribbean choreography and a range of percussion instruments– some made by the children in the audience as a pre-show activity– all come together to set the joyful tone of this show which encourages children’s expressive engagement.
Beautiful Blackbirdis more understated than The Dancing Granny. Arranged like an interactive playground for babies and toddlers, children sit on felt sun patches that encircle a chuppah-style canopy. Bold quilts depicting night and day serve as backdrops for live electric guitarists who strum jazzy lines while the young ones roam and play.
The audience hears Blackbird before they see him. When he emerges, with rhinestones glimmering like dew drops from his dark wings, he glides about the set coaxing rhythm from his djembe. The little ones play along on miniature African drums as Blackbird shares his musical gifts with the multi-colored members of his flock. The message: know your beauty, find your unique groove.
Eugene Russell IV, who played the griot-tale weaver Ashley Bryan in The Dancing Granny and composed the music for Beautiful Blackbird, says: “The story is an unapologetic celebration of blackness which at the same time encourages all kids to be who they are, that who they are is beautiful, and enough. I think that’s a beautiful combination.” He goes on to say that stepping in to the world of Ashley Bryan “really did change me life in a wonderful and beautiful way. I’m a forever fan. It will always be a part of my family’s life.”
Jené Watson works as a public librarian at a system in suburban Atlanta, where she coordinates Books in the Barbershop community outreach and Mindful Monday, a family meditation program. She is also the author of The Spirit That Dreams: Conversations with Women Artists of Color (indigopen.com).