Category Archives: CSK Award Winners

CSK Book Awards: A CSK Juror Reflects

Four days after winning a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award for The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas attracted over 500 patrons to Downtown Cleveland.  Not only was this one of the most significant author events the library had witnessed in a while, but it was also the most diverse.   Several generations of book lovers of all colors came to hear Angie speak; some drove hours from out of town to be present. 

Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium
Photo Credit: The Cleveland Public Library

On a cold Saturday morning in Cleveland, Ohio, in February 2018, a line formed in front of the Cleveland Public Library’s Louis Stokes Wing auditorium doors two hours before they were scheduled to open.  An abundance of local high school students, college students, professors, and neighborhood book club members from the Fair Fax community were dropped off by the bus.  Auditorium seats became scarce, overflow seating began to fill up inside the Indoor Reading Garden, followed by seating on the second floor.  Unfortunately, once we reached the maximum capacity of 500, patrons had to be turned away. 

Thomas’ presentation was just as raw and humorous as her debut novel, as she spoke on her love for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the movie Black Panther, released the same weekend of her visit to Cleveland.

The shooting death of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old black man killed by a police officer at Fruitvale BART Station, motivated Thomas to create this novel, which began as a short story.  Thomas explained the title, which is inspired by Tupac Shakur’s T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. tattoo, The Hate U Give Little Infants F*s Everyone. 

Angie Thomas
Photo Credit: The Cleveland Public Library

“Last year, more than 900 people were killed by police.  People should care more about that number than the number of f-words.” Thomas said, after discussing the banning of her book in a suburban school district in Texas and how students fought to get T.H.U.G. back on the shelves.

The question of colorism in selecting Amandla Stenberg in the Fox 2000 film did arise.  Thomas informed the oversized crowd, just as she did on Twitter that she was not involved in casting but fully supported Stenberg and hoped people would give her a chance.

In closing, Thomas addressed young people in the audience, informing them that their actions mold the future.  Thomas let the crowd of 500 plus know, “I am here to beg you to change the world.”

Having served on the 2016-2018 Coretta Scott King Book Awards jury, I am cognizant of thoughts jurors may have; that great feeling of knowing your team got it right.   This author event, which is still discussed until this day, was proof that Angie’s book was as powerful as our committee believed it to be.

Erica Marks and Angie Thomas
Photo Credit: The Cleveland Public Library

The Hate U Give is one of many titles representing the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King.  After Angie Thomas’ author visit, the Cleveland Public Library hosted an author event featuring Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Honor Winners for Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James in partnership with Case Western Reserve University Schubert Center for Child Studies, The Cleveland Foundation and Anisfield Book Awards. Our most recent visit was from Floyd Cooper, Coretta Scott King Honor, and Illustrator Winner, in partnership with A Cultural Exchange.   As we celebrate 50 years of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, I am truly honored to share the work our CSK community upholds with patrons in my neighborhood, spreading peace and love through literature.  

Erica Marks is Corresponding Secretary for the CSK Book Awards Executive Board. She is Youth Outreach & Programming Coordinator for the Cleveland Public Library. 

CSK Legends: Eloise Greenfield


Children need to know, and to see in books, the truth — the beauty, intelligence, courage, and ingenuity of African and African American people.  Eloise Greenfield, CSK Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech

CSK Legends
is a series of interviews saluting early recipients of the Coretta Scott King Book Award.  For our first post in this series we raise the spotlight on Eloise Greenfield.

With a career spanning over fifty years and nearly as many books to her credit, Eloise Greenfield is one of the most beloved authors of children’s literature.  

With work that spans a range of genres, including poetry and informative prose, Greenfield won her first Coretta Scott King Honor for her biography Paul Robeson in 1976. In 1978 she received the CSK Author Award for Africa Dream and a CSK Author Honor for her biography of Mary McLeod Bethune. She subsequently won CSK Author Honors for Childtimes: A Three Generation Memoir (1980), Nathaniel Talking (1990),  Night on Neighborhood Street (1992) and The Great Migration: Journey to the North (2012).

The following interview took place over several email exchanges and has been edited for clarity. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Jené Watson: What an honor to interview you! Congratulations on being the 2018 recipient of Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Eloise Greenfield: It is my honor to have received such a special award.

JW: You originally planned to be a teacher, then worked in civil service for a while before (or at the same time that) you began writing in earnest. What made you decide to focus your attention on writing exclusively for children?

EG:  My shyness interfered with my plan to become a teacher, and after I had worked for a while in the 1950s as a civil service clerk-typist, I became bored.  I had always loved books and words, and I felt that I could become a writer, one who was reclusive, as some writers are.

Throughout the 1950s, I studied books on the craft of writing and submitted my poems, stories and articles to publishers. After many rejections, I finally had a poem published in 1962, and throughout the sixties my poems and short stories for children and adults were published in Scholastic Scope and in Negro Digest.

Courtesy of Eloise Greenfield

In 1971, I headed the adult fiction division of the D.C. Black Writers’ Workshop, founded and directed by Annie Crittenden. I had written Bubbles, which later became my first children’s book, and  Sharon Bell Mathis, who headed the children’s literature division, suggested that I write a picture book biography for the Crowell Publishers series, now a part of HarperCollins. Subsequently, I continued to write for children.

JW: Songs are the stories that children are first introduced to, and in some cases songs and poetry are one and the same. Two of my favorite things about your work are its everyday poetic language and your commitment to offering more rounded views of black children, families and communities. Please talk about why this is so important.

EG: I feel that poetic language is not restricted to formal speech. We can hear in all kinds of language the in-depth meanings and the musicality that make it poetic. I want children to know this, to hear the power of language and also to know how beautiful and intelligent African and African American people are.

On the other hand, writing is never fun for me. It’s work, because I have to concentrate on the craft I have studied and keep revising until all aspects —  the meanings and the musicality of language — are exactly what I want them to be. No, writing is not fun, but it’s satisfying work, and I love every minute of it!

JW: You won your first CSK Honor in 1976 for your biography Paul Robeson.  A little before that, in 1973, you wrote a similar biography on Rosa Parks and in 1977 you devoted one to the life of educator Mary McLeod Bethune. How did you select the subjects for your biographies? Did you choose the subjects to write about or did a publisher suggest them to you?

EG:  These biographies are all a part of the Crowell Biography Series. I chose them because I didn’t feel that enough had been said about them and the importance of their work.  

JW: What effect did winning your first CSK have on how you thought about your writing?  What kinds of shifts did you notice in your career after winning it?

EG:  Awards have not changed the way I feel about my writing. I feel that it’s important that writers take seriously their efforts and the effect they have on the public and always to do their best work. Awards bring attention to an author’s work and often an increase in sales, and are wonderful pats on the back to let us know that our work is appreciated.

JW: Some critics insist that the world has moved beyond the need for ethnically-based awards and that awards like the CSK are not as relevant or necessary as they once were.  As an elder who’s witnessed trends and cycles, can you speak to this? And how would you compare the present terrain of publishing for children of color to that of past decades?

EG: Although there have been improvements in the number and quality of good books about African and African American people, these awards are as important as they ever were.  Racism still exists in life and in literature, and even if racial discrimination were to end, the awards would take their place among all the other awards that exist in literature and in so many other fields.

JW: You’re keeping busy with fun projects where you’re collaborating with younger artists.  One of them is a lively Youtube video of you doing “Nathaniel’s Rap,” filmed and produced by your grandson, Terique Greenfield.  The other is a gorgeous picture book about a boy and his dog titled Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me illustrated by Iranian artist, Ehsan Abdollahi.  How did these projects come about?

EG: The “Nathaniel’s Rap” video was produced several years ago. [It’s a] poem from my book Nathaniel Talking. My grandson, Terique Greenfield, who is a composer and also has sometimes directed videos, wrote the music and directed the video for me. It turned out very well, and it was fun, because I had no creative responsibility. I just had to follow Terique’s directions.

Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me cover courtesy of Ehsan Abdollahi and Tiny Owl Publishing

About two years ago, I was followed on Twitter by Tiny Owl Publishing, a company in Britain. I followed them back.  I then sent the manuscript for Thinker. They loved it and engaged Ehsan Abdollahi, a highly regarded artist, to illustrate it. The book was published in April 2018, and has received many favorable reviews. The British edition of Thinker contains a few British spellings, and I am happy that an edition with U.S. spellings will be published in the U.S., in April 2019, by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Two other acclaimed artists have recently illustrated my books:  Don Tate, PAR-TAY!: Dance of the Veggies and Their Friends (2018) and Daniel Minter, The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives (2019), both by Alazar Press.

JW: Many of your earlier books are still in print after more than 40 years. To what to you credit your literary longevity?

EG:  I credit the longevity of some books to many factors. In addition to the quality of the text and illustrations, there is the subject matter and the tastes of the reading public, the work of the agents and publicists, marketing by the publisher and booksellers, as well as the awards and favorable reviews that bring attention to the work.


The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives and Par-Tay: Dance of the Veggies and their Friends courtesy of Alazar Press



Follow Eloise Greenfield on Twitter @ELGreenfield

Jené Watson is a writer, mother and public librarian who lives in suburban Atlanta.  She loves arts and history and is the author of The Spirit That Dreams: Conversations with Women Artists of Color (

Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards Opens at the Eric Carle Museum

Our Voice Exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
Photo credit: Dr. McLinn

Saturday, October 20, 2018, was the special opening reception of Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. This traveling art exhibition was assembled through the collaboration of the American Library Association and the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL). This exhibition features 100 works of art from 38 CSK winners and honor illustrators and remains on view through January 27, 2019. Our Voice is the largest and most comprehensive presentation of CSK illustrator winners and honors ever assembled since the illustrator award was established in 1974.

Ellen Keiter, Reynolds Ruffin, Ekua Holmes, Gordon C. James, Jerry Pinkney, and George C. Ford from left to right.
Photo credit: Dr. McLinn

Several of the CSK illustrator winner and honor award recipients were present at the opening reception. The illustrators include George C. Ford, the first recipient and winner of the CSK Illustrator Award in 1974; Reynolds Ruffin, 1997 honor awardee; JoeSam, 1988 honor awardee; Charles R. Smith, Jr., 2010 award winner; Gordon C. James, 2018 honor awardee; and Ekua Holmes, 2018 award winner. A special one-hour program in the auditorium featured Ekua Holmes and Gordon C. James in conversation with Jerry Pinkney.

Ekua Holmes and Gordon C. James, in conversation with Jerry Pinkney.
Photo credit: Dr. McLinn

This exhibition was curated by Ellen Keiter, chief curator at The Eric Carle Museum, and her super creative staff. iPad stations were provided where visitors had the opportunity to listen to audio clips of many of the artists speaking about their work in their own voice. In addition, small cards with quotations by Coretta Scott King were provided free for guests to take home.

This is a remarkable exhibition. If you are in the greater Boston area, please visit and make the trip with family or colleagues.

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.

Painter and Poet: The Art of Ashley Bryan

Ashley Bryan
Let It Shine Book book cover and artwork (2008)

Painter and Poet: The Art of Ashley Bryan is an extraordinary exhibit* at the Portland Museum of Art (PMA) in Portland, Maine, honoring the work of 2012 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement winner Ashley Bryan. The exhibit consists of original artwork from 14 of Bryan’s books, including two that won the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration: Let It Shine (2008) and Beautiful Blackbird (2004), as well as several CSK Honor award-winning books, including Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life (2017) and Ashley Bryan’s ABC of African American Poetry (1998).

Beautiful Blackbird book cover and artwork (2004)

For Bryan, a renowned artist, writer, and storyteller, rhythm is essential to life, and this idea carries into the art he creates for every book.

His use of vibrant colors along with rich language gives each book a sense of movement. His illustrations offer a visual lyricism.

A perfect complement to this exhibition is the addition of a film in Bryan’s own expressive voice describing his childhood and the influences that led him to a life of sharing African American spirituals, poetry, and stories.

Freedom Over Me book cover and artwork (2017)

To make the experience even better is the addition of colorful, moveable seating at the perfect height for children, set among wooden bins filled with his books at their fingertips.

One could spend quite a bit of time just sitting, slowly turning the pages of his books while listening to his familiar cadence and resonant voice.

Ashley Bryan creates beautiful books that beg to be read aloud and shared over and over and over again.

*This exhibition, organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, is on view through November 25, 2018.

Photos of Ashley Bryan’s art were taken at the exhibit with permission from the museum.

Louise Capizzo is a Teen and Youth Services Librarian for a public library in Scarborough, ME. A member of the CSK Technology Committee, Louise is also a blogger for The Nonfiction Detectives.

An interview with author David Barclay Moore, winner of the 2018 Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent

Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Jina DuVernay: You tweeted that you were excited to see a “shiny, metal sticker” on your book.  What does having the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award sticker on your debut novel, The Stars Beneath Our Feet, mean to you?

David Barclay Moore: Having the Coretta Scott King / John Steptoe Award on the cover of my book is the visual realization of a lifetime of hard work and dreams. Ever since I was a child being dropped off at our local library to find books to read, I’ve recognized the “shiny, metal sticker” of the CSK Awards as a symbol of special books, noteworthy books. Now that my name and the title of my book, The Stars Beneath Our Feet, will be forever associated with that emblem of excellence, I am extremely moved and honored. In some ways, it represents a full circle, from a child who read those books to an author who has written one.

Jina DuVernay: According to a article, you will not only be writing the script for the film version of your award-winning novel, but you will also be the executive producer.   Did you encounter any difficulty in establishing your participation in the making of the film?

David Barclay Moore: I’m very excited to be working with actor/director Michael B. Jordan and his excellent team at Outlier Society Productions on the screen adaptation of my novel, The Stars Beneath Our Feet.  From the very beginning of this process, in fact, our very first conversation, Michael expressed an interest to have me directly involved in the film production. He had done his research and had not only read some of my other creative writing but also watched my film work as well. Throughout this whole process, he’s shown a great deal of passion for the story of The Stars Beneath Our Feet, him having grown up similarly to that of my central character, Lolly Rachpaul.

Jina DuVernay: Beyond the movie version of your novel, will we see any more of Lolly in the future?

David Barclay Moore: Lately, I’ve been very busy working on several writing projects as well as the screenplay to The Stars Beneath Our Feet’s film version. While there is no direct sequel planned for my first novel, a few of the characters will pop up elsewhere. I’m a big fan of intertextuality. For instance, I’ve already written a manuscript, which deals with how the character “Rockit’s” story arc resolves itself. Additionally, I have plans for a YA novel that explores the story behind Lolly’s graffiti artist friend, Daryl R. But will my protagonist Lolly return? Who knows?

This interview was conducted on May 16, 2018.

Jina DuVernay is the Special Collections Librarian at Alabama State University. She is a member of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee.

Telling a People’s Story: Art Exhibition and Conference

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.

Courtesy of the Miami University Art Museum

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.”

Courtesy of the Miami University Art Museum

For more information on the exhibit and conference, please visit In addition, local radio profiled the exhibit here and here.

Sam Bloom is Senior Children’s Librarian at the Blue Ash branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. He is the Chair of the CSK Book Awards Jury.

CSK Chair Speaks at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL)

Dr. McLinn shown with Leo and Diane Dillon’s winning illustration for the book People Could Fly at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in Abilene, TX.

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.

Dr. McLinn, Chair of the CSK Book Awards Committee (center) with curators of the Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards art exhibition (left) Debbie Lillick and (right) Sujata Shahane.

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 Programming, 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 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.

Dr. Claudette McLinn, Chair, Coretta Scott King Awards Committee, demonstrating to Abilene, Texas librarians how to navigate the CSK website.

The exhibition ended on 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 their website:

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.

Our Voice: Celebrating the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards

Art © George Ford, 1973, Ray Charles, Acrylic and India ink paint on watercolor paper

“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 on 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 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and work 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.

Art © Javaka Steptoe, 2016, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Collage on wood

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.

About NCCIL:
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 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.

Beautiful Blackbird – A School-Wide Celebration

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, a brilliant artist, filmmaker, and storyteller, focusing on Bryan’s Coretta Scott King Award-winning book, Beautiful Blackbird.

Beautiful Blackbird encompasses timeless themes for both young and old! 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.”

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 loves 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).

Ashley Bryan’s Stories Are Alive in Atlanta!

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 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. 

From the Alliance Theatre website Breanna Ross, Benjamin Sims, Chani Maisonet, Akumba Bynum-Roberson, and Ameenah Kaplan in the Alliance Theatre’s 2017/18 production of The Dancing Granny.  Photo by Greg Mooney.

Beautiful Blackbird is 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 dewdrops 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 into 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.”

To learn more:

Ashley Bryan Teacher Resource

Ashley Bryan Speaking About the Coretta Scott King Award

Post by Jené Watson

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 (