Written By: James Otis Smith
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
For Ages: 7 years & Up
Topics Covered: History, Black Historical Figures, Wild West, Colonization, Violence, Alcohol,
Summary: This graphic novel is SO cool! It’s broken into 3 chapters, each covering a Black historical figure that lived out in the west. First, we learn about Stagecoach Mary, who seemed to do a bit of everything. She was born into enslavement, liberated, and moved to Montana when a friend of hers fell ill. She once defended herself in -30 temperatures against a wolf pack for the entire night after her mail delivery stagecoach broke down! My favorite anecdote is that she was the only woman allowed in some of the saloons to play cards and drink with the men. In the next 2 chapters we learn about Bass Reeves and Bob Lemmons, who became well-known in their own right.
The book contains historical photos, and is suited for ages 7 and up. Of course it being the Wild West, there is mention of violence, alcohol, and racism. There is also mention of converting Indigenous people to Christianity and other colonialist topics. I like this graphic novel because it introduces the reader to the idea that not all cowboys were white, and the inclusion of historical information in the back tells more about how what we see as cowboys in the media was not the norm: many of them were Mexican, Native American, and Black. The photos in the back do a fantastic job of specifically naming the tribal nations of the individuals pictured, and discusses interracial relationships between Black people joining Indigenous communities (particularly Seminole). The blending of the topics of Indigenous colonization and forced migration with Black liberation from enslavement can provide powerful historical context for readers to better understand that life in the Wild West wasn’t all saloons and roping cattle. This book bucks the tradition of whitewashed cowboy media that we see, and with it’s exciting comic style and illustrations by Kadir Nelson how can you not want to jump on horseback right after reading?
James Otis Smith is a multi-talented artist whose work spans illustration, comics, motion graphics, and video. Formerly a member of the Act-i-vate Comix collective, he designed and illustrated the children’s book Ancient Lands with writer Jason McCammon, among others. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Kadir Nelson (b. 1974) is an award-winning American author and artist based in Los Angeles, California. His paintings are in the permanent collections of several notable institutions including the United States House of Representatives, the Muskegon Museum of Art, The National Baseball Hall of Fame, United States Postal Museum, the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, and most recently, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, the World Trade Center, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Nelson received a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and upon graduating with highest honors, he was summoned by DreamWorks Pictures to create conceptual artwork for Steven Spielberg’s Oscar® nominated feature, “Amistad” and the animated feature, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”. He is the recipient of multiple awards from the Society of Illustrators in New York, including the prestigious Hamilton King Award as well the 2020 recipient of the Caldecott Medal and Coretta Scott King Award for illustration. He adds this to multiple Caldecott Honors, Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Awards, New York Times Best Illustrated Book Awards, several NAACP Image Awards and an Olympic Art Bronze medal, among others. Mr. Nelson has also created artwork for a host of distinguished clients, including but not limited to National Geographic, HBO, Nike, Disney, Hennessy, and Sony Music, for whom he painted the cover artwork for Michael Jackson’s posthumously released album, “Michael,” which was listed in the Guinness Book of Records® for the largest poster in the world. Nelson’s artwork was also featured on the cover of recording artist Drake’s multi-platinum selling album, “Nothing Was the Same”; over a dozen commemorative US postage stamps honoring American legends, such as Major League All-Stars Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, NBA great Wilt Chamberlain, and most recently Motown’s Prince of Soul Marvin Gaye, which altogether have sold several million stamps.
Illustrated By: Roy Henry Vickers
Written by: Robert Budd
For Ages: Infant & Up (board book)
Topics Covered: Indigenous Voices, Nature, Animals, Pacific Northwest, First Nations.
Summary: I’m in LOVE with this series! The artwork by Roy Henry Vickers is stunning, and I love the textures that add tactile details for readers. The colors are bright and the simple text introduce language and colors to readers using the natural world and various PNW critters. I also love the iconic First Nations imagery that is worked into the landscape and textures as well.
Raven Squawk, Orca Squeak: This book focuses on different sounds a person would hear when they’re enjoying the West Coast natural wonders. I like that the combination of sounds are both humans and animals, with beautifully rich colors used on the pages.
Sockeye Silver, Saltchuck Blue: This book focuses on colors found out in nature, and it’s just as beautiful. Language evokes sense memories of the different seasons, and raised details provide lovely inspiration to run fingers over the pages.
I’m so pleased to have been able to read these books from First Nations creators from the West Coast. Living on the East Coast, the distribution isn’t as widespread over here. I love the blending of culture and nature, and the text is so lyrical I can see these books becoming treasured stories for many years to come.
Roy Henry Vickers, a world – renowned Canadian First Nations artist began his career as a print maker. He made a name for himself when he built the Roy Henry Vickers Gallery in 1986 in Tofino, BC. People from all over the world travel to witness his creations, from the Limited Edition Prints, to his Original Paintings and the building he built himself with close friends and family.
Robert (Lucky) Budd holds an MA in history and has digitized many high-profile oral history collections including that of the Nisga’a First Nation. He is the author of Voices of British Columbia (Douglas & McIntyre, 2010), a bestseller which was shortlisted for the 2011 Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award, and its sequel, Echoes of British Columbia.
In 2013 Budd co-authored Raven Brings the Light with Roy Henry Vickers, who contributed 19 original art pieces to the book.The book became a national bestseller in Canada. They collaborated again in 2014 on the book Cloudwalker, in 2015 on the book Orca Chief, and in 2016 on the book Peace Dancer. Their first three books together were each short-listed for the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award at the BC Book Prizes. Orca Chief was also the winner of the Moonbeam Spirit Award for Preservation, and nominated for the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Award and Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize. And all four books have also been national bestsellers and referred to as the Northwest Coast Legends Series.
Budd currently lives in Victoria, BC.
Written By: Meeg Pincus
Illustrated by: Lucy Semple
For Ages: 4-8 years
Topics Covered: Environmental Activism, Sustainability, Nature, Ocean, Empowerment.
Summary: Hey everyone! When Sleeping Bear Press reached out about doing a cover reveal about a book that focused on environmentalism and sustainability, I was so excited! Here is what the publisher says about this forthcoming book:
Ocean Soup: A Recipe for You, Me, and a Cleaner Sea “is the story of a recipe for environmental disaster. From the surface, young readers may not realize how much plastic and debris is stewing deep at the bottom of the ocean– but there’s a lot. Tons and tons of it, in fact, that has built up after decades of man-made pollution and environmental negligence. This “plastic smog” threatens the ocean’s future, infecting marine creatures and ocean life, including the fish we humans eat.
But there’s still time to turn it around! At the back of the book, a “Recipe of Hope” is given that instructs readers on the efforts they can make in their everyday lives to slow the boil of “ocean soup.” As a southern California native, author Meeg Pincus wrote this book in order to examine her own ecological choices. At the end, Meeg invites readers to join her and commit to do better by our oceans. This book releases just in time for Earth Day in March, and can be included in lessons on ecology and activism!”
I was also lucky enough to be able to ask author Meeg Pincus a question about the book, and I really wanted to know why she felt compelled to write this book! Here is her response:
“I grew up near the beach and married a surfer (we now have two surfing kids), so I have a personal connection with the ocean and keeping it healthy. But, what really compelled me to write Ocean Soup was realizing that most young kids’ education about ocean plastic focuses on recycling and “cleaning it up.”
Microplastics—broken-down plastics that have seeped into the world’s waters—can’t be cleaned up. (They’re what have created “Ocean Soup.”) And, while it’s good to recycle, recycling is not working as a main solution. Expert scientists say we must drastically reduce mass plastic production—in other words, we must be activists calling on plastic producers to change—to even make a dent in this huge problem, alongside our individual and community habits.
I knew young children could understand the (really fascinating) science of ocean microplastics and the real needed solutions, if it all was presented to them in a kid-friendly manner. So, I set out to write that book for them.”
Ocean Soup will be released on March 15, 2021! The book is available for presale online and at Diesel Del Mar which is actually Meeg’s local independent bookstore. You can also check out more information on the Sleeping Bear website here.
From her website: “Meeg Pincus is a kidlit nonfiction author. Humane educator. Book editor. Library lover. Diverse kidlit advocate. The happily book nerdy list goes on.
I have a lifelong passion for nonfiction books. Reading them, writing them, editing them. I’ve been writing & editing nonfiction in some form or another for over 25 years—and I still love it. (Learn more about my writing/editing background—and my much longer, full name—here.)
I’m also passionate about education & making our world a kinder, healthier, more inclusive & affirming place. This led me to the field of humane education: teaching people to be “solutionaries”—problem-solvers who help people, animals & the planet.
Nowadays I write “Solutionary Stories” for elementary-age children—nonfiction & informational books that inspire kids to make a difference.”
Midlands based Illustrator specialising in children’s publishing.
From her website: “I love creating little worlds for fun, humorous characters to live in, which are often inspired by my daughter, who when I’m not illustrating is taking up most of my time.”