Tag Archives: poc-centric narratives

Little People, BIG DREAMS Maya Angelou

Written by: Lisbeth Kaiser

Illustrated by: Leire Salaberria

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Activism, Historical Figures, Activism.

Summary: This children’s book gives a brief overview of Maya Angelou’s life, as more of an introduction rather than a deep study of her achievements.  The book covers from childhood to her reading at Bill Clinton’s inauguration.  The text glosses over her childhood attack that causes her to be mute for 5 years, as well as the racism she faced being a person of color growing up in the era before the civil rights movement took off. A great introduction to activism as well as civil rights for young children! There is also a timeline on the last two pages with a few real photos of Angelou.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever heard of Maya Angelou before?
  • Why do you think she wanted to tell people her story?
  • How do you think she helped people throughout her life?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Listen to a recording of Angelou’s poetry.  How does it make you feel?
  • Try and write your own poetry, about something you feel strongly about.  Maya loved the subject of hope.  What subject do you want to write about?
  • Read the book Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou.  What are you afraid of, and how can you be brave and face your fears?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lisbeth kaiser


Lisbeth Kaiser is a writer and editor whose work has appeared on websites, commercials, billboards, and even toothbrushes. Lisbeth lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter and sister and brother-in-law and nephew.






Leire Salaberria was born in Andoain (Spain) in 1983. Currently, she lives and works in San Sebastián. She has majored in Fine Arts in Bilbao and studied a postgraduate in Children Illustration and graphic design in Barcelona. Leire has exhibited her artwork in different countries around the world. Her work has been selected to appear in Bologna Children’s Book Fair, IV Ibero-American catalog of illustration, Sharjah International Book Fair and BIB. In 2014 she won an Honorable mention at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Since 2011 when she published her first book, she’s illustrated several books in Italy, Mexico, EEUU, UK, Chile and Spain.

Yayoi Kusama From Here to Infinity

Written by: Sarah Suzuki

Illustrated by: Ellen Weinstein

For ages: 4 & up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Women Artists, Japanese Experience, Self-Expression, POC-Centric Narratives

Summary: Yayoi was born on the island on Honshu, in Japan.  Her family lived in the countryside and owned plant nurseries, but Yayoi longed to be an artist. When she was 28, Yayoi bravely moved to New York City by herself. She didn’t have much money, but she painted and painted and painted. Yayoi was fascinated with making dots into art, and when she had her first art show she was a smashing success! Yayoi began traveling the world and showing her art pieces, sculptures and paintings alike. Eventually, Yayoi returned to Japan and continues to make her dot-art to this day!

This book online, says that the age range is eighth graders and up, which we disagree with. This book also does not address her struggles with mental illness. It’s a beautiful book and a breath of fresh air to learn about famous artists that are women, but the book could have gone more in-depth. In the back, there are photographs of Yayoi Kusama’s art installations and paintings as well as a photo of the artist herself. This is a fairly quick read, great to introduce modern art to the budding young artist in your life!

Reflection Questions:

  • Who is your favorite artist?
  • What do you like the most about their artistic style?
  • Have you ever been to a modern art museum?
  • Have you ever heard of Yayoi Kusama?
  • What do you like about her art?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Look at more photos of Yayoi Kusama’s art. Which piece do you like best? Make an art piece in her dot style-is it easy or hard for you? Why do you think so?
  • Take a visit to your local modern art museum. Is any of Kusama’s artwork there? What are some other artists there that call to you with their artistic style? If there isn’t a museum close to you, find one that offers a virtual tour and explore the artwork digitally!
  • Look at examples of the art projects Kusama did with mirrors. Give your students small mirrors and let them experiment with art based on their reflections!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

sarah suzukiSarah Suzuki is Curator of Drawings and Prints at the Museum of Modern Art. At MoMA, Ms. Suzuki’s exhibitions include Soldier, Spectre, Shaman: The Figure and the Second World War (2015-16); Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Art from the Collection (2015-16); Jean Dubuffet: Soul of the Underground (2014-15); The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters (2014-15); Wait, Later This Will All Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth (2013); Printin’ (2011) with the artist Ellen Gallagher; ‘Ideas Not Theories’: Artists and The Club, 1942-1962 (2010) and Rock Paper Scissors (2010) with Jodi Hauptman; Mind & Matter: Alternative Abstractions, 1940 to Now (2010); and Wunderkammer: A Century of Curiosities (2008), as well as solo exhibitions of Meiro Koizumi (2013); Yin Xiuzhen (2010); Song Dong (2009); and Gert and Uwe Tobias (2008). Among her publications are 2012’s What is a Print?, as well as contributions to numerous books, catalogues, and journals. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia University, she has lectured widely and taught numerous courses on the subject of modern and contemporary art.

ellenweinstein-headshotEllen Weinstein was born and raised in New York City. She is a graduate of Pratt Institute and New York’s High School of Art and Design. Awards include American Illustration, Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts Illustration Annual, Print’s Regional Design Annual, Society of Publication Designers, Society of News Designers and the Art Directors Club. She has judged numerous illustration competitions including Communication Arts Illustration Annual 2016, 2016 National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, AOI/World Illustration Awards, Society of Illustrators Annual exhibition, Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship and Society of Illustrators Zankel Scholarship.

Young, Gifted and Black

Written by: Jamia Wilson

Illustrated by: Andrea Pippins

For Ages: 8-12 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Historical Figures, Courage, Community, Representation.

Summary: This bright, colorful, and celebratory book enthusiastically describes the achievements of 52 black heroes.  The biographies of these figures like Kofi Annan, Simone Biles, and Jean-Michel Basquiat are concisely written one per page and have a colorful illustration of the individual.  Background space is filled with abstract illustrations, implying movement that the figures could almost run off of the page.  There is also a quote on each page by the person, along with birth information such as dates and location.  These short stories about heroes Malorie Blackman, Pelé, Steve McQueen, and Zadie Smith introduce young readers to a variety of historical figures, trailblazers, and activists to spark interest and ignite passion.  Perfect for bedtime stories or transition activities, this is an incredibly worthwhile book for any individual.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you heard of any of these people before?  Who, and why do you remember them?
  • Which one of these people do something you would like to do?
  • Which one of these people would you like to be a role model for you?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Choose one of these people whose stories speak to you, and research them further.  What challenges did they overcome, and how did they become someone that is heroic?  How can you be a hero to the people around you?
  • Listen to the song that inspired this title: “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” is a song by Nina Simone.  Why do you think the author chose this title for the book?  Think of a song that speaks to you the way this song spoke to Jamia Wilson, and create a class playlist of inspiring music.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Photo by Aubrie Pick

Jamia Wilson
 is many things: An activist. A feminist. A storyteller. A mediamaker. But more than anything, she is a natural-born thought leader. As Executive Director and Publisher of Feminist Press at City University of New York, the former Women, Action, and the Media Executive Director, TED Prize Storyteller, and former Vice President of Programs at The Women’s Media Center, Jamia has been a powerful force in the social justice movement for nearly a decade. As a leading voice on feminist and women’s rights issues, her work and words have appeared in and on several outlets such as New York MagazineThe Today Show, and The Washington Post. She’s also a staff writer for Rookie and has contributed to several books such as Madonna and Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop, and I Still Believe Anita Hill. But what we’re most excited about is her own book that she’s currently writing about Beyonce and feminism. (Yes, really.) It’s no surprise she was named in Refinery29’s “17 Faces of the Future of Feminism.

andrea pippinsAndrea Pippins is an illustrator, designer, and author who has been featured in O: The Oprah Magazine, Family Circle, The Huffington Post, Bustle, and more. She has done work with brands such as Free People, Lincoln Center, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Andrea is the author of I Love My Hair, a coloring book featuring her illustrations celebrating various hairstyles and textures, and Becoming Me, for young women to color, doodle, and brainstorm their way to a creative life. Check out Andrea’s new book, Young, Gifted & Black, set to be released Spring 2018. Andrea produces artwork with a mission to create what she wants to see and a vision to empower women and girls of color and people in underserved communities with visual tools to own and tell their own stories.


From the Heart of Africa: A Book of Wisdom

Collected by: Eric Walters

Illustrated by: Various illustrators, see information below

For Ages: any age

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Culture, Community.

Summary: This book is a collection of aphorisms from around Africa. Each page is beautifully illustrated by a different artist, with the origin of the aphorism as well as an explanation of its meaning. This book does a fabulous job of introducing the reader to a multitude of African tribes and cultures as well as different artists from all over the globe. The wisdom from these common sayings have been in practice for generations, and it is refreshing to now have their specific origin stories to share with the younger generation of readers. We have all heard, for example, “many hands make light work” but thanks to this collection by Walters, we know this phrase originated from the Haya people in Tanzania.

Reflection Questions:

  • Which one of these aphorisms do you like the best?
  • Why do you think lots of people use these sayings all over the world?
  • What style of art used to illustrate this book speaks to you the most?
  • How would you like to take some of this wisdom into your own life, and share it with others?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Choose your favorite illustration in the book.  Try and recreate the style of art by making a piece of art that showcases something important to you.
  • Make a collage that shares some wisdom from your own community family.  Hang all of the wisdom that the classroom creates to form a giant collage on one wall!

About the Author & the Illustrators:

eric waltersIt all began in 1993 when Eric Walters was teaching a Grade 5 class. His students were reluctant readers and writers, and Eric began to write to encourage them to become more involved in literature. His first novel, Stand Your Ground, was created for this class. It is set in the school where Eric was teaching, Vista Heights Public School, and some of the features of the community of Streetsville and many of the names of his students were incorporated into the story. Since his first novel Eric has exploded on the children’s and young adult scene. Over the past two decades he has published 96 more novels and picture books with eight scheduled for the coming years. These novels have been enthusiastically received by children and young adults and critically acclaimed by teachers, reviewers and parents. Eric’s novels have won more than 100 awards including eleven separate children’s choice awards. He is the only three-time winner of both the Ontario Library Association Silver Birch and four-time winner of the Red Maple Award – in which over 250,000 students participate and vote the winner. In November 2013 he received the prestigious Children’s Africana Book Award – Best Book for young children – for his book The Matatu. This American award was presented to Eric in a ceremony at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. In 2017 he won the prestigious Sakura Medal give to the favorite book of International students in Japan.  Eric’s novels are now available in places as far award as New Zealand, Australia, India and Nepal and have been translated into more than a dozen languages including French, German, Japanese, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese. Eric has presented to more than 1,500,000 students across North America and internationally in Japan, Kenya and Germany. His presentations blend drama, storytelling, audience participation and interaction. He presents to students from K – Grade 12 as well as adult groups and has been a keynote speaker at a variety of conferences.


Setor Fiadzigbey is an illustrator and former aircraft trainee engineer from Accra, Ghana. He’s been drawing all his life, and he was nominated for the Golden Baobab Prize and the Kuenyehia Prize.


Rogé is a French-Canadian artist who worked in advertising before turning to illustration, painting and writing. He has twice won the Governor General’s Literary Award and numerous others. He lives in Quebec.



Toby Newsome lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. He designs and illustrates and he works in mixed media. He plays guitar, but strictly for relaxation purposes!




Xanelé Purén is a South African illustrator and designer and co-founder of See Saw Do, a spatial and interactive design studio. She won the Golden Baobab Prize, and she has a cat  named Bob.



Tom Gonzalez was born in Havana, Cuba, and now lives in Duluth, Georgia. He’s been an art director, principal designer and creative development manager; he’s been an artist his whole life.



Maaike Bakker is an illustrator, exhibition curator, fine artist from Pretoria, South Africa. Maaike has been illustrating for ten years and works mainly in Illustrator and Photoshop.



Joe Morse is an award winning illustrator and the Coordinator of the Bachelor of Illustration Program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. He lives in Toronto.



CLPE poetry book award winner Iain McIntosh was born in Motherwell, Scotland, and now lives in Edinburgh. He uses scratchboard, pen on paper and a digital tablet, and he’s been illustrating since the 1980’s.

melinda josie

TD Award Winner and Governor General’s Award nominee Melinda Josie grew in Muskoka, Ontario. She has been drawing and painting as long as she can remember, and she works mostly in watercolor. She lives in Toronto.


Elicser Elliott is a Toronto-based street artist whose famous aerosol murals appear all over the city. He was born in Montreal, Quebec, and grew up in the West Indies (St. Vincent). He’s been an artist for 21 years.



Award-winning artist Eugenie Fernandes was born on a big island (Long Island, New York) and now lives on a little island in Ontario. She has been writing and illustrating for 49 years.



Sindiso “R!OT” Nyoni was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and now makes his home in Johannesburg, South Africa. He’s been drawing since he was 4 years old, and he works in pen, ink and digital.


Jeannie Phan was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and now lives in Toronto. She’s been freelancing professionally for over four years; she’s been an artist for a lifetime. She’s also a horticulturalist and winner of a National Magazine Award.




Artist, teacher and illustrator Eva Campbell was born in Ghana. Her oil on canvas illustrations have won and been nominated for many awards. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia.



Illustrator and designer Loveis Wise was born in Washington, DC, and lives in Philadelphia. She mostly creates using digital methods, graphite and gouache, and she’s been an artist for as long as she can remember.




Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World

Written by: Susan Hood

Illustrated by: 13 Extraordinary Women

For Ages: 4-12 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Strong Women, Trailblazers, Activism, STEM, Diversity.

Summary: This book is awesome. It profiles 14 women and young girls that changed the world, and features a different artist illustrating each person. The women featured range from activists, a paleontologist, an astronaut, and scientists. Poetry on each page let’s the reader know the achievements of figures like the Secret Agent Nearne sisters, Frida Kahlo, and Annette Kellerman. This is a great book for a short story time, bedtime story, and as a jumping off point for a more in-depth unit about any of the topics covered.

Reflection Questions:

  • Which of these people have done things that you would like to do someday?
  • What picture in the book do you like the best? What kind of art mediums are used, and could you use the same ones to make an art piece too?
  • How would you like to help people one day? How do you help people now?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Choose an art style that one of the illustrators uses and make some art featuring a personal hero in your life. What does this person do that inspires you?
  • Think about some of the challenges these women faced when chasing their dreams, and think about what you want to achieve in your life. What do you think some of the challenges you will face might be?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

susan hoodSusan Hood is the award-winning author of many picture books for young readers, including Ada’s Violin and Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World. She is the recipient of the 2017 E.B. White Honor Award, the 2017 Christopher Award, the 2017 Américas Award and the 2017 Bank Street Flora Steiglitz Straus Award, given to “a distinguished work of nonfiction that serves as an inspiration to young people.” Before launching a full-time writing career, Susan was the Children’s Content Director of Nick Jr. Magazine, where she edited original stories by the winners of the Caldecott Medal, the Coretta Scott King Book Award and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Before that, Susan was a children’s book editor at Sesame Workshop, and a children’s magazine editor at Scholastic and Instructor Magazine for early childhood educators. While working as an editor, Susan wrote hundreds of children’s books for ages 1-8, including board books, concept books, interactive books, nonfiction and beginning readers. She has published books with Disney, Fisher Price, Penguin Putnam, Scholastic, Sesame Workshop and Simon & Schuster, among others. In addition to writing for children, she has written for parents and early childhood educators in The New York Times, Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect, Sesame Street Parent’s Guide, Working Mother and more.Susan lives with her family in Connecticut and enjoys spending the summer sailing with her husband along the New England coast. She is all too familiar with ocean storms and trouble at sea. Those experiences informed Susan’s first middle grade novel—Lifeboat 12—debuting September, 2018. Visit Susan at susanhoodbooks.com.

sophie blackallSophie Blackall is the illustrator of many acclaimed picture books, including Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath, The Mighty Lalouche by Matthew Olshan, and The Baby Tree. Her artwork has also appeared in murals as part of the New York City MTA’s “Arts for Transit” program. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.




emily winfield martin


Emily Winfield Martin makes paintings, books & etceteras. She works in a tiny nook of a studio filled with treasures & old wind-up toys. Her work is inspired by fairy tales, music, myths, illustration from the late 19th through mid 20th century, her favorite films, and the natural world. She likes sea monsters and seashell-colored poppies & lives among the giant fir trees of Portland, OR.



Shandra StricklandShadra Strickland studied design, writing, and illustration at Syracuse University, and completed her M.F.A. at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She won the Ezra Jack Keats Award and Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 2009 for her work in her first picture book, Bird, written by Zetta Elliott. Shadra is passionate about promoting positivity through her work, and her ultimate goal as a picture book author and illustrator is to teach children how to live their dreams. Her style is a whimsical blend of reality and imagination, and she loves to create stories that children can see themselves in. Shadra travels the country conducting workshops and sharing her work with children, teachers, and librarians. She currently teaches illustration at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

melissa sweetMelissa Sweet  has illustrated over 100 books as well as many toys, puzzles, games for eeBoo. Her work has been in magazines, on greeting cards and as drawings on her living room walls. She has written four books: Carmine: A Little More Red, a New York Times Best Illustrated book; Tupelo Rides the Rails; Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, a Sibert Award winner (for informational books) and a NCTE Orbis Pictus winner (for nonfiction).  Her most recent book, Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White, was a New York Times Best Seller and garnered an NCTE Orbis Pictus award. Melissa has illustrated three books by author Jen Bryant: A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos WilliamsThe Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, both garnered Caldecott Honors. A Splash of Red: The Art of Horace Pippin, was a Sibert Award and Orbis Pictus Award winner.

LeUyen Pham


LeUyen Pham has voted in every single presidential election since she turned eighteen. She is the author and illustrator of A Piece of Cake, All the Things I Love About You, and Big Sister, Little Sister. She has illustrated many other picture books, including the New York Times bestsellers Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio and Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore. LeUyen lives with her husband and sons in California.


oge mora

Oge Mora is a painter residing in Providence, RI. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with a degree in Illustration. She’s a fan of all things colorful, patterned, or collaged, and she enjoys creating warm stories that celebrate people coming together. Her very first picture book, Thank You, Omu! debuts in Fall 2018.


julie morstadJulie Morstad is the author and illustrator of many beautiful picture books, including Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli, Julie makes her home in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she lives with her husband and three children.


lisa brownLisa Brown draws things like illustration and comics, writes things like books and book reviews, and teaches things to kids and college students. Her debut picture book, How to Be, was one of the Thirteen Best Children’s Books for Family Literacy. Since then she has published a ton more books, including Vampire Boy’s Good Night and The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming, a New York Times bestseller by elusive author Lemony Snicket. She co-authored Picture the Dead, an illustrated young adult novel, with acclaimed writer Adele Griffin, and created the award-winning Baby Be of Use series of board books for McSweeney’s. Lisa draws the Three Panel Book Review cartoon strip, and is a comics contributor at The Rumpus. She teaches illustration at the California College of the Arts, and is a long-time workshop instructor and field trip leader at the 826 Valencia tutoring center. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and son, but can usually be found wandering around the internet.

selina alkoIt is no wonder that award-winning writer-illustrator Selina Alko now spends her days melding words and mixed-media art to convey stories of hope and inspiration—as well as an alternative viewpoint. Growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia with a Turkish father who spoke seven languages and taught painting, and a mother who worked in the family’s century old metal recycling business, she was surrounded by the melody of words and stories from different places, and varied visual possibilities; her affinity for working with words and art was established early on, as was an interest in establishing a creative family environment that encouraged personal expression. The skills her parents imparted to her as a child, the creative environment that supported them, and the diverse world view she was privy to have inspired and fueled her ever since, and they are evident in her books such as The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage which she co-created with her husband Sean Qualls; Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt and co-illustrated with Qualls; and B is for Brooklyn which she wrote and illustrated herself. Selina continues to find inspiration in the world around her whether it’s the streets of Brooklyn where she has lived for more than 20 years, her native Canada, or the small but universal experiences of a child as she watches her kids grow up. When she’s not working on a new project, Selina enjoys reading, collaging in her sketchbook and dance-walking in Prospect Park.

hadley hooper

Hadley Hooper lives in Denver and works as an illustrator and painter. She is groundskeeper, gallery coordinator and co-owner of Ironton Studios. She is co-founder and board member of the River North Art District, RiNo for short. Her illustration work is repped by Marlena Agency and her paintings can be found at Goodwin Fine Art.  She lives in an old house in a now-trendy Denver neighborhood with Hugh Graham and Maddie the dog.

isabel roxasIsabel Roxas is an illustrator, designer, ceramicist and avid reader. She was born in Manila, Philippines, was raised on luscious mangoes, old wives’ tales, and monsoon moons. She now works in the backroom of an art gallery in Manhattan where she writes and illustrates stories, designs books and creates small objects in clay and resin. She has illustrated several books for young readers, including Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown (Sterling Books, 2014), Let Me Finish! by Minh Lê (Disney-Hyperion) and Day at the Market by May Tobias-Papa (Adarna House, 2008), winner of the Philippine National Book Award. Isabel is a frequent contributor to Babybug and Ladybug Magazine. Her work has been recognized by American Illustration, HOW Magazine and 3×3 Magazine of Contemporary Illustration.Her latest picture book, The Littlest Viking written by Alexandra Penfold (Knopf) is available in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @studioroxas and Instagram @studioroxas.

erin robinsonCreative Visionary Erin Robinson is a Fashion Designer by trade but also a trained fine artist from Parsons School of Design and the Corcoran School of Art. Her daydreamy, magical imagination is inspired by travel, color, texture, the feminine shape and the many shades and coifs of Brooklyn. She works in a variety of mediums that include watercolor, ink, markers, charcoal, stencil, collage as well as digital artistry. She is an EMMY nominated illustrator for The Obama Story in the News and Documentary category.  What an achievement! The New York Times and Washington Post keep this artist busy!

sara_palaciosSara Palacios studied Graphic Design at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico DF, and has an Associate Degree in Graphic Production Techniques from the School of Design, INBA  (National Institute of Fine Arts) in Mexico. She also has an Associate Degree in Illustration from the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana, as well as a BFA and MFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She has been a part time faculty member at the Academy of Art University since 2014. She is the recipient of the 2012 Pura Belpré Illustration Honor Award and the 2013 Tejas Star Book Award.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Written & Illustrated by: Vashti Harrison

For Ages: 8-11 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-centric narratives, activism, historical figures, self-acceptance.

Summary: This book covers so many strong women throughout history, 40 to be exact! Starting with Phillis Wheatley and ending with Dominique Dawes. Each page has a brief history of their life, with a portrait of the individual on the opposite side. The descriptions are informative yet written for a wide range of ages. Also included in the back are 12 more that Vashti Harrison couldn’t help but mention!

The illustrations of each of these women feature them with their eyes closed, looking peaceful and happy. The snapshots of these women’s lives are written in a narrative style, perfect for a classroom story time or quick bedtime read. The language used is easy to understand and decode for young readers, both to improve their literacy skills and introduce them firsthand to these incredible historical figures.

Reflection Questions:

  • Which one of these heroes do you identify with?
  • What would you like to be known for in your life?
  • If someone were describing you, what words would you want them to use?
  • If you could choose to meet one of these strong women, which one would you choose?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about some of the organizations these women started, and see if any are still around in your area to work with.
  • If going more in-depth with students, use one of these stories each week as a jumping off point and use more audiovisual sources and materials. This will make further connections that these women were real people, rather than just story characters.

About the Author & Illustrator:

vashti harrisonPart 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.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

Written by: Derrick Barnes

Illustrated by: Gordon C. James

For Ages: 3-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Self-Esteem, Community, POC-Centric Narratives.

Summary:  This lyrical book’s narrator is a young boy at the barber shop, describing the experience.  He LOVES the way a new haircut makes him feel, confident and refers to himself as Dark Caesar.  The narrator says that a “fresh cut does something to your brain, right? It hooks up your intellectual”.  Girls will think he’s cute, and there will be “more waves…than the Atlantic Ocean”.  The narrator goes on to describe the other patrons of the shop, and daydreams about what their jobs might be with their important-looking haircuts.  With this new haircut, the narrator feels important and like he can take on the world, describing the look in people’s eyes when they see him.  One of the most beautiful lines in this book reads: It’s how your mother looks at you before she calls you beautiful…being viewed in your mother’s eyes as someone that matters-now that’s beautiful.  This book celebrates the community that is a barber shop for POC, and rejoices in the confidence these often marginalized individuals gain from the experience.    This book portrays self-esteem and acceptance in a young boy that may not always feel that way, but should.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you feel after a new haircut?
  • Have you ever been to a barber shop?
  • Why do you think the narrator thinks the other men in the shop “look important’?
  • When do you feel good about yourself?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Think about a place where you feel comfortable and accepted.  What makes you feel that way?  How can you make others feel accepted and loved when they are around you?
  • Draw your fantasy haircut!  Start with a paper with a blank body, and draw in the haircut you want one day.  You could even design the wackiest hair you could think of, but don’t necessarily want on your head!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

cropped-img_8599Derrick D. Barnes is from Kansas City, MO. He is a graduate of Jackson State University with a BA degree in Marketing. He is the author of the critically acclaimed picture book CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut (Denene Millner Books/Agate Bolden) which recently won the 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Award. It was also a HUGE winner at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards, taking home FOUR Honor awards: the Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, Newberry Honor, and the Caldecott Honor. His first two books were published by Scholastic; Stop Drop and Chill, and The Low Down Bad Day Blues.  His first YA novel, The Making of Dr. Truelove was published by Simon Pulse which was recognized by the American Library Association as a Quick Pick For Reluctant Readers. He is also the author of the best selling chapter book series entitled Ruby and the Booker Boys (Scholastic). His 2011 middle grade hardcover classic We Could Be Brothers was rereleased in paperback in 2017 by Just Us Books. Prior to becoming a published author, Derrick wrote best-selling copy for various Hallmark Card lines and was the first African American male staff writer for the company. He is the owner of a creative copy writing company, Say Word Creative Communications.  He is also the creator of the popular blog Raising The Mighty, where he ‘chronicles the experience of bringing up four beautiful Black boys in America’. His next book, entitled The King of Kindergarten, will be published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. Derrick resides in Charlotte, NC with his enchanting wife, Dr. Tinka Barnes and their four sons, Ezra, Solomon, Silas, and Nnamdi (Nom-dee).

gordon c jamesGordon 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.