Energetic and tireless Don Tate and Crystal Allen spoke at the Speed Dating event for authors and illustrators on the 2017-18 Texas Bluebonnet Award list. They rotated from table to table, talking about their titles and writing craft, answering questions, and posing for at least 100 photos. More than 250 participants eagerly listened to and admired these two dynamic literary artists.
This is Don Tate’s third appearance on the Texas Bluebonnet list, this time as the illustrator of Chris Barton’s Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-soaking Stream of Inventions. With humor and an enigmatic smile, Don shared that he has illustrated 50 books and “written 30 of which only three were published.” He likes to write about little-known historical figures and to introduce the new subject matter to children, such as NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson. Tate labeled Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth as one of the most enjoyable books to research, write and illustrate.
Don identifies strongly with Sandow because of his own love of bodybuilding and his own award-winning physique. He told his audience members that this was the most fun he had with a book.
Just as he was once committed to being a bodybuilder contender, Tate has transferred that passion to writing, illustrating texts, and visiting schools year-round. He wants students to see that he is an African American male artist. He is adamant in his message that not all African American males play basketball. He sets the example of other successful options and occupations through his books and presentation so that students have a window into a future for themselves, further representing Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s message face-to-face with students.
Learn more about Don Tate from The Brown Bookshelf.
Holy Moly! Crystal Allen broke all records at Speed Dating. She is friendly, charming, and loquacious with a magnetic smile and personality sharing a lot of common traits with her literary character Mya Tibbs.
This is Crystal’s first time on the Texas Bluebonnet Award list with The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown. Crystal shared that she wants today’s fourth-grade girl to feel independent and good about herself. She wants to help elementary students be proud to have their own ideas and be their own person. Crystal’s goal is to help elementary kids get to middle school and have fewer transitional issues. Ms. Allen focuses on “positive” family environments. Through Mya, students will learn a valuable lesson in not being judgmental.
The biggest takeaway for her audience is that she identifies most with Fern from Charlotte’s Web, exemplifying Fern’s kindness, patience, and consideration of others. And, finally, she wants all to know that Mya is not race-driven and that race does not drive her stories. “My books are for all children.”
Learn more about Crystal Allen at Brown Book Shelf.
Post by Mary Jo Humpreys