Tag Archives: creativity

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

Written by: Andrea Beaty

Illustrated by: David Roberts

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English, minor Spanish. 

Topics Covered: Community Action, Environmentalism, Girls Outdoors, Creativity, Feminism, Girls in Leadership, Latinx, Activism. 

Summary: 

Sofia Valdez loves her community, and she especially loves helping her community be better.  When her Abuelo injures his ankle slipping on trash and can’t walk Sofia to school anymore, she decides to do something about it and open a park for the neighborhood to enjoy.

We love that this book addresses fear that Sofia has about speaking in front of adults alone, when she’s a second grader.  But she believes in her cause and summons the courage despite being scared.  We really love this series, and in particular this book has very diverse illustrations.  The mayor is a person of color in a wheelchair, someone on the city committee is wearing all pink with fancy painted nails and a beard, another individual has a cochlear implant.  One of Sofia’s classmates is shown picketing and wearing a patka!  These illustrations are normalizing so many different ways of moving throughout the world, and they’re gorgeous.  Different body types are represented, and it doesn’t feel othering or tokenizing to have these diverse cast of characters living in Sofia’s neighborhood.  Ada, Iggy, and Rosie even make an appearance!  Overall, we’re so pleased to see where this book series is headed, and excited to see what comes next!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

andrea-beaty-photoAndrea Beaty was raised in southern Illinois in a town so small she knew everybody and their pets. And they all knew her. Andrea was one of six kids and we spent our summer days traipsing through the fields and forests hunting for adventure.  Always, it was fun and often, they laughed so hard they blew Orange Crush or Grape Nehi Soda out their noses. She still avoids Grape Nehi … just in case.

Andrea was a big reader as a kid and LOVED Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon Mysteries.  Then she moved on to Agatha Christie books and then the classics.  Don’t tell anyone, but her secret ambition is to star in a Broadway musical and Andrea is often tempted to break into song and dance at very odd moments. Mostly in the frozen food section of her grocery store!  They have very good lighting.

Andrea attended Southern Illinois University and studied Biology and Computer Science. After that, she worked for a computer software company. Andrea helped people with their computer problems (“Did you try turning it off and on again?”) and some technical writing. Andrea didn’t know at the time, but tech writing was great training for writing for kids because it taught her to be a fierce self-editor.

Now, she lives in Chicago with her family. Andrea visits lots of schools each year to share her love of reading and her writing journey with kids and educators.

davidroberts_website-2When David Roberts was at school, he claims he wasn’t very good at anything so the teacher would give me projects to produce big pictures for the school hall. He remembers doing one of Death rowing in a boat on the river Thames with a dead dog floating past!

David has always been drawing ever since he was a very small child and then when he left school at 16, he went to Art College. There, David did a foundation course trying out all different types of art practice. The thing David thought he wanted to do the most was costume and fashion design so he did a degree in fashion design.

David ended up being a children’s book illustrator and it was always his dream to do this! Although David tried to pursue a career as a fashion illustrator first. When he met Christine of Artist Partners she pointed out to him that he was drawing characters and perhaps he should focus more on publishing and in particular children’s books.

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Written by: Andrea Beaty 

Illustrated by: David Roberts

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Feminism, Family, Imagination, Creativity, Self-Esteem. 

Summary: Rosie is a shy child, but she loves to build things at night when she’s alone in her room.  She wasn’t so shy until she made her uncle a special hat to keep the pythons off his head (he’s a zookeeper) and he laughs at her.  Confused, she thinks she shouldn’t share her inventions with anyone which is why she only builds alone in her room.

Until her great-great-aunt Rose shows up.  Rose used to build airplanes, but has never flown.  Rosie decides to help her achieve her dream…but will she get laughed at?  It turns out yes, but Rose explains to her that it doesn’t mean she should quit or hide away.  Sometimes helicopters made out of cheese are just funny!  And just because something ultimately fails, it works for a minute.  And that is a stepping stone to success!

This book is super cute, and we love seeing young girls interested in STEM!  This book impresses upon readers the importance of sticking to a project even if it fails a few times.  This whole series is great, and we’re especially excited to read Sophia Valdez, Future Prez!

Reflection Questions:

  • Why do you think Rosie was embarrassed when her uncle laughed at her?
  • Have you ever invented anything?
  • What do you think is the most important thing that Rosie’s aunt Rose told her?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Andrea Beaty photoAndrea Beaty was raised in southern Illinois in a town so small she knew everybody and their pets. And they all knew her. Andrea was one of six kids and we spent our summer days traipsing through the fields and forests hunting for adventure.  Always, it was fun and often, they laughed so hard they blew Orange Crush or Grape Nehi Soda out their noses. She still avoids Grape Nehi … just in case.

Andrea was a big reader as a kid and LOVED Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon Mysteries.  Then she moved on to Agatha Christie books and then the classics.  Don’t tell anyone, but her secret ambition is to star in a Broadway musical and Andrea is often tempted to break into song and dance at very odd moments. Mostly in the frozen food section of her grocery store!  They have very good lighting.

Andrea attended Southern Illinois University and studied Biology and Computer Science. After that, she worked for a computer software company. Andrea helped people with their computer problems (“Did you try turning it off and on again?”) and some technical writing. Andrea didn’t know at the time, but tech writing was great training for writing for kids because it taught her to be a fierce self-editor.

Now, she lives in Chicago with her family. Andrea visits lots of schools each year to share her love of reading and her writing journey with kids and educators.

davidroberts_websiteWhen David Roberts was at school, he claims he wasn’t very good at anything so the teacher would give me projects to produce big pictures for the school hall. He remembers doing one of Death rowing in a boat on the river Thames with a dead dog floating past!

David has always been drawing ever since he was a very small child and then when he left school at 16, he went to Art College. There, David did a foundation course trying out all different types of art practice. The thing David thought he wanted to do the most was costume and fashion design so he did a degree in fashion design.

David ended up being a children’s book illustrator and it was always his dream to do this! Although David tried to pursue a career as a fashion illustrator first. When he met Christine of Artist Partners she pointed out to him that he was drawing characters and perhaps he should focus more on publishing and in particular children’s books.

What Riley Wore

Written by: Elana K. Arnold

Illustrated by: Linda Davick

For ages: 2-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Friendship, Gender Expression, Gender Neutral Pronouns, Family, Love, Acceptance, Fashion, Creativity, Social-Emotional Learning.

Summary: Riley is a creative dresser, and often dresses based on how they feel!  Some outfits are just right for the first day of school (like a bunny outfit) and some outfits are perfect for the dentist (something to make you feel brave!)

This is an incredibly adorable story about Riley and how the dress.  Riley dresses in whatever they want, and has a creative gender expression.  The book goes through a week of Riley’s outfits and the reasoning behind why Riley chose them.  We really love that Riley isn’t gendered in this book, because clothes are for everyone and there are many children who don’t want to be a boy or a girl (and some who feel like both)!  We also really love that not wearing anything at all sometimes is totally normal!  Normalizing all experiences, feelings, and bodies is something we love to see along with a diverse friend group in a book. Riley themself is racially ambiguous, which is a novel change from the barrage of white characters so often seen in books.

Both non-gendered and non-binary representation is so crucial, as is not promoting gender stereotypes.  Seeing this book is a fantastic representation of how times are changing.  Because really, it doesn’t matter how Riley identifies.  Riley wants to be a good friend and shows several examples of kindness and thinks about others consistently throughout the book.  When a child asks if Riley is a boy or a girl on the playground, they answer in a perfect way that suits them best.  We highly recommend this book, especially for young ones who may be thinking that there are specific clothing pieces or colors that only specific kids should wear.  This is a book we can see being requested to be read over and over!

This book was generously sent to us by Beach Lane Books (an iteration of Simon and Schuster Kids) but all opinions are our own.

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you dress in different ways, depending on how you feel?
  • What’s your superpower?
  • Do you think Riley is right, and that friendship can be a superpower?
  • Do you think it’s important if someone is a boy or a girl to be able to play with them?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

elana-e1484018914417-200x200ELANA K. ARNOLD is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning young adult novels and children’s books, including the Printz Honor winner Damsel, the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, and Global Read Aloud selection A Boy Called Bat and its sequels. Several of her books are Junior Library Guild selections and have appeared on many best book lists, including the Amelia Bloomer Project, a catalog of feminist titles for young readers. Elana teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program and lives in Southern California with her family and menagerie of pets. 

 

image-asset-2Linda Davick is an author and illustrator with a background in design.

The first book she illustrated, 10 Trick-or-Treaters (Knopf) hit the New York Times best seller list and has sold over 200,000 copies. The first book she both wrote and illustrated I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes! (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster) won an Ezra Jack Keats honor.

Her animation work includes over 200 e-cards for Amazon and over 100 pieces of animation for Whistlefritz.

Some of her clients: Amazon.com, Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, Charlotte Mecklenburg Education Foundation, Crayola, Klutz Press, Knopf, Little Brown, Philadelphia Campaign for Greater Education, and Sesame Street.

Linda lives near a nature preserve in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 

Around Our Way on Neighbor’s Day

Written by: Tameka Fryer Brown

Illustrated by: Charlotte Riley-Webb 

For ages: 4-7 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Community, POC-Centric Narratives, Friendship, Poetry.

Summary: This is a bright, fun, lyrical adventure through a close-knit neighborhood during the celebration of Neighbors’ Day (which could be described as a block party).  The narrator is a young girl with yellow ribbons in her hair.  She travels around the neighborhood seeing what festivities everyone is partaking in, and describes them for the reader in short poetic bursts.  People playing chess, a set of triplets and their sour lemonade, as well as a plethora of delicious dishes made with love.  The pages burst with friendship, love, and joy.  The painted illustrations convey so much movement and excitement they practically jump off of the page!

This is a fun and quick read.  The words make the reader want to chant them like a handclap game or jumprope song.  We were left wishing we knew where this magical neighborhood was, and how we could score an invitation to the next Neighbors’ Day!

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you live in a neighborhood?
  • If so, do your neighbors hang out and do things together like the characters in the book?
  • What kind of event or party would you like to have?
  • What types of responsibilities do you think go into planning a large party like Neighbors’ Day?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Charlotte Riley-Webb has a creative and unique painting style!  Experiment with different mediums of art, and pick one that is your favorite.  Maybe you can design the invitations for your next party!
  • Have your own classroom Neighbors’ Day!
  • Learn more about cartography, or map-making.  Look at maps of your community and make a road map out of masking tape on a carpet.  Can everyone put their houses on the map, or do some friends live farther away?
  • Design and draw your own neighborhood!  What do you wish was near where you live, and what are your favorite parts of the community?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Tameka001-hires2smaller2Tameka Fryer Brown is a writer now, but she didn’t plan on being one when she was young. Tameka thought she was going to be a lawyer. When Tameka went to college, though, she changed her mind and majored in business instead.

Since Tameka worked very hard, she graduated summa cum laude (which is a fancy way to say “Tameka got excellent grades”). After college, she got a job as a medical supplies sales representative. Tameka sold products that hospitals need to perform surgery. Tameka actually got to watch them do surgeries, too. It was very cool. But she used to have to travel a lot with that job. Once Tameka was a mom, she decided she didn’t want to travel so much anymore. That’s when she became a Full-Time Mother instead. Being a mom is a lot of fun! After a few years, Tameka wanted to add another job, too. She made a list of all the things she was good at doing, and writing was at the top of that list.

Since Tameka’s children and Tameka LOVE to read picture books, she thought that would be a great type of writing for her to learn. Tameka studied and practiced, and studied and practiced some more. Finally, all of her hard work and practice paid off…She sold a book!

That’s the story of how Tameka became a writer and a published author. Tameka hopes you like her books. Tameka writes them for kids just like YOU.

DSC_0076An Atlanta native, Charlotte Riley-Webb moved with her family to Cleveland, Ohio as a toddler, where she was educated in the public school system and earned her B.F.A. degree from The Cleveland Institute of Art but has continued her education throughout the years. As a professional visual artist, Charlotte documented the essence of her culture in her three year traveling painting exhibition, “From Stories of My America”, which debuted at the Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta in 2001 and exhibited in seven different museums and fine art galleries in the south. Over the years her venues extended across the country and beyond the states to include Surinam, South America and Anguilla, British West Indies. Webb’s work is included in numerous, private, business and corporate collections. Her public works installations include Faces and Phases of Fulton, a mural size painting installed in the Fulton County Public Service office in Atlanta and the installation of her collaborative medium, “sculpted paintings” which she creates with her sculptor husband, Lucious. The couple installed an outdoor public arts work in the concert district of downtown Hampton, Virginia for which they were awarded “The Hampton Arts Commission Award of Excellence” and their piece, “Sounds of Perpetual Spring”, was voted as the city’s People’s Choice Purchase Award for their permanent collection. They installed “Arts Alive”, the commissioned sculpted painting in the fall of 2010, at the new arts center in Shreveport, LA. Contemporary realistic with an abstract flair is how she described her representational works. This rhythmic style with bright bold colors, easily translated into the illustrations for six children’s books Rent Party Jazz, Sweet Potato Pie, The Entrance Place of Wonders, Today Around Our Way, as well as Seed Magic. Charlotte was one of twelve artists contributing to the 2010 NAACP Image Award winning, Our Children Can Soar published by Bloomsbury Books.

While building her fine art career, she opted to address the need for socialization and creative expression in several of Atlanta’s senior facilities, at that time an overlooked population. Charlotte taught art classes to senior citizens as a volunteer for thirteen years from1984-1995 then again in 1998-2001. An art gallery for the senior students’ work was opened in one of the high-rises and Charlotte was awarded materials grants by the City of Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs. For this effort in 1987, Webb was awarded the Iota Phi Lambda Visual Arts Award granted in eight different areas of community service. A natural teacher, she also successfully completed two summer residencies, teaching abstract art, to inner city youth in Shreveport, Louisiana in 2009 and 2010, offering an alternative to gang violence and idle time. As a result two of her student graduates are considering a career in the arts.

An evolution of study, growth and expansion has led Charlotte to her new and present genre, abstract art. She began the process by studying with two of this country’s premier abstract artist, the late John T. Scott of New Orleans and Moe Brooker of Philadelphia. This opportunity aided her in finding her own “abstract niche” and helped propel the career which she had been hinging on for many years, even in her representational works.

Sound Off Saturday Featuring: Mama Tortuga!

Happy Saturday!  We are thrilled to have been able to connect this week with Johana, also known as Mama Tortuga!  She is a powerhouse of bilingual and herbal activism and knowledge, with a flair for business.  Johana is a hustler and has tons of fantastic projects that she’s currently working on.  We hope you enjoy learning about them as much as we did!
The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organization!f70d4b_5e94206b839e4548ac290c241396f086~mv2_d_1836_3264_s_2

Mama Tortuga: Hello, hola!! I am Johana usually called Mama Tortuga. I have created a bilingual website called www.mamatortuga.org to support and provide resources to families around the world, that want to raise free, eco-conscious, multilingual, global citizens. Our perspective is multicultural. We love to create community and to support communities that are working to create a better and improved world!!! I have a very eclectic point of view, from music and arts, to activism, to freedom, our family is here to support this and amplify those voices that need to be amplified!!!

TTA: What are you passionate about?

Screen Shot 2019-07-27 at 12.01.17 PM
Johana and her family- Photo Credit: @R Dot Photography

 

MT: Very passionate about a wholesome approach to live!! From intersectional feminism, mindful parenting, sustainability, arts, and love!!! I am a student of life!! I am also a lover of nature and work alongside my family in our small backyard garden.

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

 

Screen Shot 2019-07-27 at 12.05.09 PM
“Parenting is a spiritual practice. Social Activism is a spiritual practice”

MT: Right now I am working on creating ways to support myself, an immigrant Latina mother, and support other women in my community in learning and healing. Always looking for ways I can generate funds and spaces for us to grow!! Locally, I am offering Spanish and English social classes in the area of West Palm Beach, Fl. I am also on a local Spanish radio, where I support ancestral knowledge on herbals and multicultural traditions. Online, I am offering platforms to support resources for global and conscious families. Also, I am documenting much of my adventures, because I believe our voices are important, even if my English is not perfect!! Always showing solidarity with oppressed groups and searching for a different mindset for our world!!! Right now working on a class to be offered at the Florida Herbal Conference of next year in Spanish!!!

 

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

 

20180926_132141
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need”

MT: Thanks for asking this!! We offer a line of wonderful and original Mama Tortuga T-shirts on all sizes for you $21 for sizes S, M, L and $18 for children, includes shipping, we also offer custom orders for bigger sizes or special merchandise. Also, I would love to be offered jobs on translation, multicultural consultant and talks, that are paid. I had been doing a lot of these jobs in the past decade. Sadly, many times, we are not being acknowledged. Also, I would love to be part of online collabs and convos. It is about forming a supporting community!!!

 

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

MT: So hard to choose!! Going to mention some: The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Andrea Tutu, The Holly Wild by Danielle Dulsky and Jambalaya by Louisa Teish

Screen Shot 2019-07-27 at 11.55.22 AMTTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

MT: For my website to keep growing and new connections that make a reality the dreams I have about having a supportive community. That the passion that I have for justice and solidarity and healing can come to fruition in abundance of resources and love!!!f70d4b_6ed50d5703164302a09e00d41ac84851mv2.jpg

 

Stay Connected with Mama Tortuga!

Green, multicultural and mindful family

Spanish Conversational Groups 

Sound Off Saturday- Featuring: Tyler Vile!

Happy Saturday! There’s a heat wave hitting us here in New England, so unless we venture to go swimming in the river later (which is also one of our favorite places to watch the sunset with a cold drink!) we will be inside all day!  We are so stoked to feature Tyler this week, who is a dear friend of ours.

Lee and Tyler experienced the highs and lows of their late teens and early twenties together in the squalid co-cops of the University of Maryland and have been best buds ever since 2013!


The Tiny Activist: So we know who you are, but can you introduce yourself/your organization for our readers?

TylerVile_NewBioPhoto_JustinTsucalas
Photo credit: Justin Tsucalas

Tyler Vile: Hi! My name is Tyler Vile and I’m a writer, performer, and organizer from Baltimore, Maryland! I’m a founding member of Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebel, a radically inclusive synagogue. I write poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and I’m trying to get back into screenwriting and playwriting, and I’m learning to write scripts for comic books. Hinenu formed officially in 2017, and we often get asked what it means to be a radically inclusive synagogue as opposed to just inclusive. The best answer I can come up with is that we have disabled Jews, queer and trans Jews, Jews of color, and converts in our leadership, and we make our decisions entirely democratically. Many progressive synagogues will pay lip service to marginalized people’s needs and issues, but at Hinenu, we’re the ones making the decisions. We’re looking to the future right now with conversations about childcare, Hebrew school, and increasing learning opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. We pray together, we celebrate together, we protest together. It’s incredible to have seen this grow from a rough idea to where it is right now.

IMG_4523
Hinenu Members protesting against Migrant Concentration Camps

TTA: What are you passionate about?

TV: I’m passionate about so many things! Writing, of course, but also ritual, justice, human connection. My passions are a big motivator in my life. As a disabled person, it’s literally physically difficult to get out of bed sometimes. Everyone has to find that balance, that sweet spot between passion and rest. I have to remind myself all the time that it’s okay not to do everything I’m passionate about at once. Fear of missing out can be hard, but as long as you’re confident in what you’re doing long term, you don’t need to be at every show, every protest, or every event. 

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

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Cover of Shprintze and the Golem, written by Tyler and illustrator Avi Roberts

TV: Glad you asked! Right now, I’m working on a poetic reinterpretation of Bereshit (Genesis), the first book of the Torah. There’s so much in there that I think we take for granted. One thing I’ve learned in working with these ancient characters is that people really don’t change over thousands of years. There’s still jealousy, anger, hatred, and struggle, but there’s also still joy, humor, compassion, and liberation. I’m also working on a collection of sci-fi short stories about disabled characters and adaptive technology. I’ve always been a huge sci-fi fan and thought that we as disabled people live the most sci-fi lives, but we’re barely represented in the genre. When we are, it’s either as the villain or there’s a deus ex machina that fixes disability all together. I want to look at the consequences of “fixing” disability, the relationships we have with adaptive technology, and how disabled people are going to survive the climate crises that are headed our way. 

nothing-about-us-ricardo-levins-morales
Art based on the slogan used by South African disability rights and youth activists. By Ricardo Levins Morales.

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

TV: You can make a tax deductible donation to Hinenu here if you feel so moved. My personal Paypal and Venmo are always open if you’d like to donate to the work I’m doing. You can buy my first book, Never Coming Home. While monetary donations help, they aren’t everything. If you’d like to book me for a poetry reading, writing workshop, or panel appearance, my email is authortylervile@gmail.com. Other than that, be good to the people around you, support local artists and activists.

I think the world is going to be saved by small actions, small organizations, and ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Think globally, act locally. Leave the world a little better than when you came in. That way, we can all support each other. 

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

 

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Cover of Making Spaces Safer by Shauna Potter

TV: It has to be Making Spaces Safer by my friend Shawna Potter. Shawna’s in a band called War on Women and is using her platform to make sure that public spaces are free from harassment and that everyone is afforded respect, dignity, and consent. I was a beta reader for that book and in offering feedback, I was blown away by how smoothly and directly she delivers some very necessary truths about the way we treat each other. I love the way she weaves other people’s narratives into the points she makes and invites readers to learn from what can go right as much as what can go wrong. 

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

TV: The Jewish New Year is right around the corner! September will be here faster than you think. It’s not just about celebration, although that’s a big part of it, it’s a whole season of self-reflection, forgiveness, and accountability. What I love about it is that it acknowledges that hardship and joy are equally likely and that even when we’ve made mistakes and missed the mark, we’re still worth it and can grow and change. So, I’m looking forward to growing, learning, working on my book and all the things I don’t even know I’m going to love yet!

Thanks so much for having me, I love you guys and I can’t wait until the next time we see each other! 

Stay connected with Tyler!  


Tyler-Vile_eDonate to Tyler’s Paypal and Venmo

to support her work!


Check out Hinenu, and

make a tax deductible donation

to the organization here!


511ifw7qn2L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

Read Tyler’s first book,

Never Coming Home.


 

To book Tyler for a poetry reading, writing workshop, or panel appearance,

email her at: authortylervile@gmail.com

 

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.