Tag Archives: artist

Featuring: Anastasia Kanavaliuk

Helloooooo lovely humans!  Here is our third and final installment of our trio of posts surrounding the fantastic creative team behind Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question!  We were able to catch up with Anastasia Kanavaliuk, the talented illustrator behind Aviva’s Book.  If you haven’t seen our interview with Aviva, you can find that here, and if you haven’t yet read our review of Ezra you can catch that one here!  We hope everyone is enjoying the day, and aren’t getting into too many shenanigans (but we should always be getting into a few 😉 ).

Screen Shot 2019-08-30 at 4.51.27 PM

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organization!

Anastasia Kanavaliuk: My name is Anastasia. I am a freelance illustrator. I mainly work on illustrations for children’s books. Sometimes I create personal illustrations of families and couples that people order for their loved ones.

Screen Shot 2019-08-30 at 4.51.52 PM

TTA: What are you passionate about?

AK: My biggest hobby is illustration (of course). I draw not only for work, but also for myself. I also really like books, especially paper ones. Reading a paper book is a very pleasant pastime for me.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

AK: I am currently working on a package of illustrations for sale. I plan to create illustration packages on various topics. This will be useful for designers and just people who want to get original posters for their apartment or arrange wedding invitations, for example. There are a lot of opportunities.Screen Shot 2019-08-30 at 4.52.19 PM

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

AK: Every creator, whether an author, illustrator or musician, wants his work to be seen. I share my illustrations on my Instagram page, and I am very pleased to receive feedback on what I am doing, various questions and tips. This is the best support.


TTA: What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?

AK: My favorite book that I worked on in 2019 is Aviva Brown’s book, Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question. Together we put a lot of time and effort into it. And the result is amazing. And if we are talking about a booScreen Shot 2019-08-30 at 5.05.14 PMk I read, then it is Five Feet Apart. I’m just in love.

TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

AK: I can have a lot of plans, but everything changes so quickly that it makes no sense. I meet new interesting people, get cool projects and everything is going better than I expected. I just want to keep doing my job and getting better.

Screen Shot 2019-08-30 at 4.50.38 PM

Stay Connected with Anastasia!

You can find her on instagram: @ealince

and at her online portfolio!


Written by: Dori Kleber

Illustrated by: G. Brian Karas

For ages: 4-9 years

Language:  English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Culture & Traditions, Social-Emotional Development, Self-Expression.

Summary: Joey loves things that fold.  He is enamored by maps and accordions, and sleeps in a foldout bed.  When Joey learns about origami from his friend Sarah Takimoto’s mother, he decides he MUST become an origami master.  After that, Joey practices on everything that he can get his hands on that will fold, including his sister’s sheet music and the dollar bills in his mother’s wallet.  Finally, his mother puts the kibosh on his incessant folding, and Joey feels defeated.  To raise his spirits, Joey goes next door to Muy Mexicana for some fajitas (fajitas make us feel better too).   Speaking with Mr. Lopez, Joey laments that while he is being patient and practicing everyone else is losing their patience with him.  Mr. Lopez tells Joey that many artists are misunderstood, especially when they are learning.  While Joey is waiting for his fajitas, he folds the table napkin into a pyramid.  Mr. Lopez asks if Joey could make all of the table napkins look fancy and Joey sets to work.  After school Joey goes to Muy Mexicana and practices his origami with the table napkins, each day getting more and more intricate.  Finally, Joey is able to make a crane out of the napkins!  His hard work and patience has paid off, and he is an origami master!

Reflection Questions:

  • What are you a master at?
  • What is something that you had to practice for a long time before you became a master at it?
  • What is a new skill that you would like to learn?
  • How do you think you could learn about it?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • In the back of the book, there is a set of instructions for an origami ladybug!  Try it out, and see if you want to become an origami master like Joey.
  • Origami is popular in Japan.  Learn about the origins of it, and look at some pictures of really ornate and complicated designs.  Is there a specific title a person has that creates these paper masterpieces?  What about some folklore associated with origami?
  • The paper used for origami is special, and usually has decorations on it.  Try making your own paper to make art with.  What is the same and what is different about the paper you made and origami paper?  Where does paper come from?  Who made the first paper?  Take a trip around the world on the internet and learn more about this household staple that most of us use everyday.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

cropped-dori-kleber-1Dori Kleber was born in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia as the top student in her graduating class. She began her career as a newspaper reporter in North Carolina and South Carolina before returning to her hometown to work in public relations and corporate branding. After more than twenty years as a professional writer, she began writing fiction for children. Her debut book, More-igami, was published by Candlewick Press in 2016. Dori lives in the Atlanta area with her husband and two children.

brianG. Brian Karas was born in September 1957 in Milford, CT. In 1979 he graduated from Paier School of Art in Hamden, CT. From 1979 to 1982 he worked at Hallmark Cards as a greeting card artist in the Humorous Department. He has been a freelance artist since 1982 and has written and illustrated many books which have won numerous awards. He lives in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Featuring: Ebony Glenn!

Happy Saturday!  We are SO excited to be back in action after a week away looking at property in our dream location-Western Massachusetts!  In perfect timing, we were able to connect with Ebony Glenn who illustrated Not Quite Snow White, which was recently released on July 9th! She is an Atlanta based illustrator who enjoys bringing stories to life with whimsical imagery.51Zvp-kWywL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

A passion for the arts, great storytelling, and advocating diversity in children’s books, she aims to create illustrations that will foster a love of reading in young readers.  She also loves to create joyful and heartwarming crafts to satisfy her endless need to always make new things.

When Ebony is not giving in to her creative itch of art-making, you may find her lost in the pages of a good book, learning some new hula-hooping tricks, or going on an adventure with her pups, Louie and Gabby. 

Ebony is also the proud recipient of the 2018 Wonders of Childhood Focus Fellowship, an award given by AIR Serenbe, a nonprofit 71p7p05eRTLartist residency program of the Serenbe Institute in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia.  We’ve even talked about Ebony before when reviewing the book Mommy’s Khimar

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organization!

Ebony Glenn: Hi, there! My name is Ebony, and I am a children’s book illustrator who enjoys bringing stories to life with whimsical and compelling imagery for picture and chapter books.

 TTA: What are you passionate about?

LibraryCipArtWebEG: I have many passions, but the few that I will share are great storytelling—I believe stories have the power to connect people, build empathy, keep our history alive, etc., education—I’m grateful to know that what I do can help children learn and grow, and illustration, of course! 

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

EG: At the moment I’m illustrating “Flying High: The Story of Simone Biles” (written by Michelle Meadows), a picture book biography about the Olympic gold-medalist gymnast, and I’m also illustrating “The Red Shoes” (written by Karen English), a beautiful story about a little girl who outgrows her favorite pair of red shoes and the second life it receives in Africa after she donates them.gymnastwhite

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

EG: Sharing the books that I’ve illustrated with your friends, family, schools, churches, and libraries is a great way to show support for not only me but also the writers of these awesome picture books.  Honestly, I’m so very fortunate to have the opportunity to illustrate them that I only wish for others to be moved by and learn from these great stories.

TTA: What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?

EG: I wish I had more time to read this year, but one of the most profound books I’ve read this year is Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks. Entitled after Sojourner Truth’s ‘Ain’t I a woman speech,’ bell hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins) examines the effect of racism and sexism on black women, the civil rights movement, and feminist movements from suffrage to the 1970s.


 TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

EG: Going on vacation!  Although I love what I do for a living, I’m seriously looking forward to taking a break and going someplace new this summer.


Stay Connected with Ebony!


Ebony’s Website

Ebony’s Etsy Shop

Ebby’s Instagram

Lily Brown’s Paintings

Written by: Angela Johnson 

Illustrated by: E.B. Lewis

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Art, Artist, Self-Expression, Independent Thought.

Summary: This sweet and whimsical book is all about Lily Brown and how she paints.  When painting, Lily is captivated and sent into another universe where her imagination makes her soar through the solar system, see tea-drinking trees, and faces on fruit.  When Lily paints, she lives in a magical land and can listen to the beach breezes and paint the wind or imagine a world where people walk upside down.  She ends the day thinking about her family, and how happy she is when they are around.

This is truly such a sweet book.  The illustrations are Lily’s paintings on some pages, and paintings of Lily on others.  Something that is also worthy of noting about the book is that the family of color is shown only happy and loving each other.  Sometimes, critiques arise of books that characters of color must reconcile with past human rights abuses or enslavement within the story arc.  While this is crucial and important in books, it is also important for there to be characters simply enjoying their lives and supporting each other.

Reflection Questions:

  • What does your imagination show you?
  • What is special about your family?
  • How do you make art?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Explore different mediums of art, and decide on your favorite!  Is it painting like Lily, maybe drawing, or sculpting with clay?
  • Who is an artist that does the style of art that is your favorite?  We love Wangechi Mutu, Marlena Myles, Kehinde Wiley, Kenojuak Ashevak, and we found this list incredible also! Let’s be real here, folks, we could list tons and tons more fantastic artists!  If you have love for an artist and we missed them (which is likely) leave a comment below with their name and your favorite work by them!
  • We found this article to be a great resource for exploring First Nations artists and community involvement!
  • Write your own story about your family, and the things you do together.  What is a special memory you keep about them, like how Lily’s little brother holds her hand until he falls asleep?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

angela-johnson-1263944Angela Johnson is an award winning American children’s book and poetry author with over 40 books to her credit. She began her writing career in 1989 with the publication of a picture book called “Tell Me a Story, Mama” which won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award in 1991. She has won three Coretta Scott King Awards, one each for her novels The First Part Last (2004),” “Heaven (1999),” and “Toning the Sweep” (1994).”The First Part Last” was also the recipient of the Michael L Printz Award.“When I Am Old With You” was an Honor Book in 1990 and named an American Library Association Notable Book. “The Other Side, The Shorter Poems” was also selected as a Coretta Scott King Honor book in 1998. In recognition of her outstanding talent, Angela was named a 2003 MacArthur Fellow. Born in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1961, she grew up in Alabama and Ohio. She lives in Kent, Ohio.

51201cc92eca7.imageE.B. Lewis is the illustrator of a numerous books for children including Talkin’ About Bessie (a 2003 Coretta Scott King Award winner), The Bat Boy and His Violin (a Coretta Scott King Honor book), Down the Road (a Notable Book for Children by the American Library Association), and The Other Side (a Notable Book for Language Arts). The Coretta Scott King Award is the premier award honoring African-American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults.

Inspired by two artist uncles, as early as the third grade, Lewis displayed artistic promise. Beginning in the sixth grade, he attended the Saturday Morning Art League and studied with Clarence Wood. Lewis attended the Temple University Tyler School of Art, where, he discovered his medium of preference was watercolor.

During his four years at Temple, Lewis majored in Graphic Design, Illustration and Art Education. After graduating, he taught art in public schools for twelve years. Presently, E.B. teaches at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He is also a member of The Society of Illustrators in New York City, and an artist member of Salamagundi Art Club of New York.

Day 12: Featuring Fabulous Illustrators!

Day 12, and it’s all about illustrators today!  We had a pretty tough time narrowing it down, because every artist has their own unique style and artistic twist, which makes it so difficult to choose favorites!  Without further ado, here are our favorite book illustrations:


Vashti Harrison

Part author – Illustrator – filmmaker Vashti Harrison is an artist originally from Onley, Virginia. She has a background in cinematography and screenwriting and a love for storytelling. She earned her BA from the University of Virginia with a double major in Media Studies and Studio Art with concentrations in Film and Cinematography. She received her MFA in Film and Video from CalArts where she snuck into Animation classes to learn from Disney and Dreamworks legends. There she rekindled a love for drawing and painting. Now, utilizing both skill sets, she is passionate about crafting beautiful stories in both the film and kidlit worlds.  Her Experimental films and videos focus on her Caribbean Heritage and folklore. They have shown around the world at film festivals and venues including the New York Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival and Edinburgh International Film Festival. Find out more.

Vashti’s work can be found in:

51FOAmiLJJL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_  819Du3YdVDL  GUEST_42b9be76-09d7-45a5-a9dd-a5ed71540fe9


Shaking Things Up

Something we love about this book is the assorted artists that illustrate the pages!  Click on the link above to learn more about both the women featured in the book, as well as all of the artists involved in the illustrations!


Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson (b. 1974) is an American artist who currently exhibits his artwork in galleries and museums nationwide and abroad. His paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of several notable institutions including the Muskegon Museum of Art, The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the International Olympic Committee, and the US House of Representatives. Nelson has also authored and illustrated several award-winning NYT Best-Selling picture books including, “WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball” and “Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.” Nelson states, “I feel that art’s highest function is that of a mirror, reflecting the innermost beauty and divinity of the human spirit; and is most effective when it calls the viewer to remember one’s highest self. I choose subject matter that has emotional and spiritual resonance and focuses on the journey of the hero as it relates to the personal and collective stories of people.“

His work can be found in:

51NZW85+ZLL._SX374_BO1,204,203,200_  Blue-Sky-White-Stars_custom-9b8b9c84cc0fdc306f84353e445c5056582651cb-s400-c85  515Lkj3QyAL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_



Gordon C. James

Gordon C. James’ chosen artistic genre has its roots in Impressionism.  The art of John Singer Sargent, Nicholai Fechin, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and many others inspired James to pursue a style that is both academic and expressive.  As a result his work contains a lyricism not often found in contemporary art.  Be it through the sensitivity found in his romantic pieces, or commitment to excellence in his commercial work, James always connects with his viewer.  He says of his work, “When people see my art I want them to say, I know that person, I know that feeling.” James currently resides in Charlotte, NC with his wife Ingrid, their children Astrid and Gabriel, and their dog Rascal.

His work can be found in:

1521772312238  1546576740952  1505396450104






Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Written by & Illustrated by: Javaka Steptoe

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Art, Historical Figure, Historical Events, Family, Mental Illness, Love, Graffiti, Creativity. 

Summary: This book details the life and artistic development of Basquiat, from childhood artist to New York City graffiti artist, and finally to well-known artist. Big bold collages reminiscent of Basquiat’s work take up the majority of the page.  Steptoe did not use any of Basquiat’s images for book illustrations and instead created his own in honor of Jean-Michel.  Jean-Michel is a child obsessed with creating and stays up at all hours until he has made a masterpiece.  Steptoe discusses how Basquiat’s mother will lie on the floor with him and draws, as well as take the young boy to art museums.  Jean-Michel begins to appreciate all of the things that make the world beautiful and captures them in his signature style of brightly colored images scattered over pages of paper.  Basquiat learns that art can also heal, such as when he gets hit by a car and must stay in bed.  However, his mother’s mental illness inevitably prevents her from continuing to live at home, and this is very hard for him.  They can no longer lie on the floor drawing together, and he must instead bring his artwork to the facility where she now lives.  Motivated to create, Basquiat moves to the Lower East Side from Brooklyn and spends his days creating artwork and couch surfing at friends’ apartments.  He begins to graffiti under the name Samo© and becomes well-known.  Now, he is the famous artist he always dreamed of!

After the main story is over, there is much more information about Basquiat’s life, including information about his struggles with addiction.  There is a section about motifs and symbolism in his work, as well as how Basquiat’s life and work has impacted Steptoe whose mother’s life was impacted by mental illness.  Javaka Steptoe is honest and raw in this message to readers which makes it incredibly meaningful.  Being an artist of color, Steptoe gives an in-group perspective on Basquiat and his achievements.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever made art before?
  • What do you notice about Steptoe’s art in the book?
  • What does art make you feel?
  • Does different styles of art make you feel different emotions?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Look at some of Basquiat’s paintings.  How is it similar to Javaka Steptoe’s?  Can you see how Steptoe was inspired by Basquiat?
  • Make some art imitating the style of Basquiat.  Is it easy or hard?  How do you feel when you make messy and eclectic drawings like him?
  • Find a place in your classroom, school, or community that needs a mural.  Work together as a class and pay homage to your favorite artists with the mural contents!

About the Author & Illustrator:

steptoe_javaka_lg-500x328Javaka Steptoe is an eclectic young artist, designer, and illustrator, building a national reputation as an outstanding contributor to the genre of children’s literature. His debut work, In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers, earned him the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, a nomination for Outstanding Children’s Literature Work at the 1998 NAACP Image Awards, a finalist ranking for the Bluebonnet Award for Excellence in Children’s Books, and countless other honors. His books, Do You Know What I’ll Do? authored by Charlotte Zolotow and A Pocketful of Poems authored by Nikki Grimes, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and the ALA Booklist. Hot Day on Abbott Avenue, written by Karen English, received the 2005 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. Steptoe is also the author/illustrator of The Jones Family Express. His most recent illustration projects include Rain Play by Cynthia Cotten, published in 2008 and Amiri and Odette: A Love Story by multi award winning author Walter Dean Myers, forthcoming in January 2009.

Once a model and inspiration for his late father, award winning author/illustrator John Steptoe, Javaka Steptoe has established himself as an outstanding illustrator in his own right. Utilizing everyday objects, from aluminum plates to pocket lint, and sometimes illustrating with a jigsaw and paint, he delivers reflective and thoughtful collage creations filled with vitality, playful energy, and strength.

For Steptoe, “…collage is a means of survival. It is how Black folks survived four hundred years of oppression, taking the scraps of life and transforming them into art forms.” As both an artist and educator, he challenges traditional notions of Black art, emphasizing the richness of our collective past through his use of family as a recurring theme and centerpiece. Steptoe explains, “I want my audience no matter what their background, to be able to enter into my world and make connections with comparable experiences in their own lives.” Having earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Steptoe is very committed to children’s education, making appearances at various schools, libraries, museums, and conferences across the country, including the American Library Association, the International Reading Association, and Reading is Fundamental, Inc.

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne

Written by: Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrated by: Elizabeth Zunon

For ages: Elementary students and older

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Racism, Jim Crow, Segregation, Entertainment Industry, Historical Figures, Civil Rights, Modern Black Freedom Struggle.

Summary: This book spans the life of Lena Horne, legendary vocalist and performer.  Lena was born to parents that constantly hustled and were nomadic at times.  At age 2, she became the youngest member of the NAACP!  Lena got used to traveling with her mother doing vaudeville shows and sometimes staying with her grandmother where Lena took music and dance classes.  Her grandmother forbade her to consider a career in show business despite Lena’s interest in the entertainment industry.  Lena attended school until the Great Depression hit, when she became a chorus line dancer at The Cotton Club in Harlem and was coached by her mother.  Soon, she became a Broadway performer and cut a record at age 18.  Lena began to travel but experienced segregationist racism in many places, and her manager began to introduce her as Cuban instead of Black.  Eventually, MGM offered Lena a movie contract-the first one to be offered to an African-American actress!  Despite this, she had trouble securing movie roles due to her activism and white women wearing makeup in movies to look Black.  Lena sang at Truman’s inaugural ball, had two children, and was divorced.  She married a white music director partially to help her career, and it worked (but she learned to love him!). She took time off from performing and became a foot soldier for the activist efforts to end segregation and worked with the NAACP, National Council for Negro Women, and spoke at the March on Washington.  Lena eventually returned to the big screen, and continued to perform for years to come.

This book is very thorough, being clear about the hardships that Lena endured throughout her life and highlighting her activism.  It mentioned other individuals doing the same work she was doing, in some places by name and in some places not.  The author highlights how hard Lena works without reducing her to exceptionalism.  This is a long book made for older elementary students and covers a wide range and variety of topics, including fantastic vocabulary associated with the Modern Black Freedom Struggle.  An Author’s Note is in the back along with sources and resources for further learning!

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever felt uncomfortable while traveling?
  • Have you ever performed?  What was it like?
  • How do you think Lena felt when she was introduced as Cuban?
  • Why do you think it was important to Lena to take time off from performing and help in the activist efforts of the 50’s & 60’s?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about several of the lesser known individuals mentioned in the book such as Medgar Evers.  What did he do that was beneficial to the movement, and why do you think he isn’t well-known today?
  • Who were some other activist/performers like Lena Horne?  What did they do that was unique to their own experience and character?
  • Listen to some of Lena’s songs, or watch a video of her singing on Sesame Street.  What is special about her performance style?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

CaroleBostonWeatherford-259x300Carole Boston Weatherford is Baltimore-born and -raised! Carole composed her first poem in first grade and dictated the verse to her mother on the ride home from school. Her father, a high school printing teacher, printed some of her early poems on index cards. Since her literary debut with Juneteenth Jamboree in 1995, Carole’s books have received three Caldecott Honors, two NAACP Image Awards, an SCBWI Golden Kite Award, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor and many other honors.

For career achievements, Carole received the Ragan-Rubin Award from North Carolina English Teachers Association and the North Carolina Literature Award, among the state’s highest civilian honors. She holds an M.A. in publications design from University of Baltimore and an M.F.A. in creative writing from University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She is a Professor of English at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.

71zHtxPJLqL._US230_Elizabeth Zunon was born in Albany, NY and spent her childhood in a hot, sunny, tropical country in West Africa called the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), where people speak French (and many other languages). Elizabeth’s Mom read Elizabeth’s little brother and Elizabeth a lot of bedtime stories in English after they came home from speaking French all day at school. As a little girl, she loved to draw, paint, make up dances and play dress-up, and as Elizabeth grew up, that didn’t really change! After returning to the United States, Elizabeth attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and graduated in June 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration.  She’s now back in Albany, where every day she might draw, paint, collage, sew, silkscreen, make jewelry, purses, and ponder the endless possibilities of chocolate! Her work is largely influenced by the people, places, and things from her childhood in the Ivory Coast as the product of two cultures.  You can also follow her blog-Lizzie Blogs!