Tag Archives: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Patina

Written by: Jason Reynolds

Cover Art by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

For ages: YA Middle Grades

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Family, Grief, Death, Social-Emotional Growth, Sports, Women in Sports, Growing Up, Coping, Friendship, Black Culture & Identity.

Summary: Patina is just trying to do her best at a new school and on a new elite track team that she is now a part of.  Patina, or Patty for short, can run like a flash.  But what is she running from?  A lot of things.  She’s running to deal with the new rich kid school she now attends, ever since her aunt and uncle adopted Patty and her younger sister Maddy. She’s running because her mom doesn’t have legs anymore, and that’s why she can’t care for Patty and Maddy anymore (even though they see her regularly).  She’s running to prove to everyone that she belongs on the team.

This book is fantastic.  It is the second of a four-part series about the track team Patina is a part of, each book profiling a different member of the team in the same friend group.  Patty is dealing with a lot in her life: a new family structure, caring for her sister and both of their hair (since their aunt who they call Momly (mom+Emily) is white), a brand new school AND a crummy group project.

The reader is privy to Patty’s innermost thoughts, and how she just wants to successfully navigate her life and responsibilities.  Her father’s death and her mother developing the diabetes that eventually took her legs is still very raw.  Patina is struggling to understand that her mother developed diabetes because during the grieving process she would bake all of Patty’s father’s favorite treats constantly, eventually losing toes, feet, and legs.  When Momly and Maddy get into a car accident, can Patina imagine life without them both?  The accident and subsequent injuries coupled with a huge track meet for Patty is the culmination of the plot, and leaves the reader wanting to immediately begin the next book in the series!

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

180314_FastCompany_JasonReynolds-7Jason Reynolds is one of the most important YA authors right now, he has such finesse and talent with words.  Here is the About section from his website, because we can’t say it any better than he already has:

“Well, if you’ve made it here, that means you’ve survived the huge picture of my face! Congrats! And to reward you, I’m going to tell you all about…me. Sorry. No cake. No confetti. No money falling from the ceiling…this time.

So, I’m a writer. And when I say I’m a writer, I mean it in the same way a professional ball player calls himself an athlete. I practice everyday and do the best I can to be better at this writing thing, while hopefully bringing some cool stories to the world. The stories are kinda like my slam dunks. Except, I’m dunking words. In your FACE! Ha!

I graduated from the University of Maryland (where I spent about 65% of my time writing and reciting poetry all over campus…yeah, that was me) with a B.A. in English, then packed my bags and moved to Brooklyn because somebody told me they were giving away dream-come-true vouchers.

And if I ever find the person who told me that… let’s just say, no one was giving away anything. ANYTHING. Lucky for me I had all these crazy stories to keep me going. Ten years later, here I am, doing my best to string together an “ABOUT” section on my own website about my own books. Crazy.

Here’s what I know: I know there are a lot — A LOT — of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you’re reading this so my master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second of all, know that I feel you. I REALLY do. Because even though I’m a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”

vanessa-new-225x300-2Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. She was part of a diverse, tight-knit community and learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment at early age.

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, Vanessa includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants allchildren to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.

​Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art.

The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist

Written by: Cynthia Levinson

Illustrated by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

For ages: 5 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Historical Figure, Historical Event, Activism, Modern Black Freedom Struggle, Civil Rights, Family, Love.

Summary:  Audrey is a nine-year-old girl, living in Birmingham in 1963.  The book opens with Audrey’s mother cooking a huge dinner for their family friend, Mike.  Mike turns out to be a nickname, and the family friend is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr! At the dinner table is talk of desegregation efforts, and Audrey dreams of days when she can shop where she wants, have brand new schoolbooks, and better seats at the movies.  One Sunday, Mike visits their church and tells those crammed into the pews to hear him speak to fill the jails and disobey unjust laws.  Audrey notices that adults don’t step forward, and instead look away embarrassed making excuses for why they couldn’t be arrested.

One night, another family friend named Jim announces a new idea to fill the jails with children rather than adults.  Bravely, Audrey steps forward with other children. She joins the hundreds of others marching but realizes that she is the only protestor from her elementary school and is in fact the youngest person at the march!  Singing freedom songs, the children march and are arrested.  Sentenced to a week in juvenile hall, Audrey comes to find that jail is not glamorous. There aren’t clean clothes and the food is bad.  She is questioned by four white men; the first ones Audrey has ever spoken to! She notices though, that every afternoon more and more children arrive at the jail, some soaking wet from being sprayed with firehoses.  By her fifth day, the jail is full!  The community has fulfilled their goal, and no more children can be arrested.  Two months after Audrey is released, Birmingham completely wipes the segregation laws from their lawbooks.

This book is significant in the way it treats the characters.  Audrey is not seen as exceptional in her actions, only in her age.  The illustrations show careful thought and detail, the background individuals vary in size, shape, wardrobe, and more importantly skin tone.  In the back there is both an author’s note and a timeline of events surrounding the children’s march in Birmingham.  There is also a list of sources, a book recommendation for older readers, and Audrey’s favorite hot buttered roll recipe!  Both author and illustrator are familiar with the struggles of oppression, and one can tell by the way that background characters are treated and illustrated.  The movement is explained as a group effort with many moving pieces rather than Audrey single-handedly bringing about change to Birmingham.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Audrey became so brave?
  • Do you think it would be easier to be in a juvenile detention center with a lot of people you knew?
  • How do you think Audrey was feeling when she realized her actions were creating change for her entire community?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about the Modern Black Freedom Struggle, and how resistance occurred for much longer than just in the typically talked about decade of 1954-1964.  What sorts of happenings in the movement were occurring since the end of the Civil War?
  • Read more about the Birmingham Children’s March, and what it inspired people around the country to do.  What other actions were a direct result, and how were youth vital to the movement’s success?
  • Look at photos or watch some interviews with other individuals who participated.  What can we learn from them, and other activists who came before us?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

cynthialevinsonCynthia Levinson lives in two places with her husband, who is a law professor. Most of the year, they hang out in Austin, Texas. In the fall, they’re in Boston, Massachusetts. Cynthia didn’t always want to become a writer but a college friend always encouraged her. The friend was right but Cynthia had to wait for the right time. Cynthia is awed by writers who also have day jobs and children at home. It was only after her children got through college and paid off those bills that she could take the risk of leaving my job at a state education agency and dip a toe into writing.  She’s written lots of magazine articles for kids about pandemics, about Moko, the mind-body problem, civil rights, and a bunch of other topics. Creativity takes a lot of work. And, frankly, as a nonfiction writer, she self-describes as not all that creative. Like people who can work, raise children, and write, those who can make up stories, settings, characters, and emotional valence astonish Cynthia.

Vanessa-new-225x300Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. She was part of a diverse, tight-knit community and learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment at early age.

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, Vanessa includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants allchildren to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.

​Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art.

The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.