Tag Archives: women poets

A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice

Written by: Nadia L. Hohn

Illustrated by: Eugenie Fernandes

For ages: 4-8 years 

Language: English & Jamaican/Caribbean Patois 

Topics Covered: Historical Figure, POC-Centric Narratives, Poetry, Global Community, Trailblazer, Black Culture & Identity, Jamaica, Language, Literacy. 

Summary: Louise is a young girl living in Kingston, Jamaica.  She loves words and writing poetry, but the words get stuck when she tries to speak.  Louise gains inspiration for her poetry by listening to the sights and sounds of those around her, but she is shamed for it at school.  Louise ends up going to another school, but has trouble reciting the poems she memorized out loud.  Instead, she musters up courage to speak the lyrical flow of Jamaican Patois that she hears on the streets and in her house, rather than the formal English that she feels might be expected of her in school.  To her surprise, her classmates and teachers love Louise’s poem!  

This book is amazing for several reasons.  First, it introduces young children not only to poetry but also to an accomplished poet that they might not be familiar with if they don’t live in Jamaica!  Second, it helps normalize the linguistic cultural funds of knowledge that students bring into the classroom with them.  Many times, children of color that might speak a patois, pidgin dialect, or AAVE outside of the classroom are shamed for bringing it into school.  This invalidates their experiences and furthers the elitism associated with formal/standard English.  We should be embracing the lived experiences of students, and having this book that celebrates such a prolific woman is a great addition to bookshelves!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

4635690Nadia L. Hohn is a dynamic “story lady” who has presented to audiences in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jamaica, and Trinidad.  From the age of six years old, Nadia L Hohn began writing stories, drawing, and making books. Her first two books, Music and Media in the Sankofa Series were published by Rubicon Publishing in 2015.  Her award-winning first picture book, Malaika’s Costume was published in 2016 and its sequel Malaika’s Winter Carnival 2017 by Groundwood Books.  Nadia is also the author of Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter, an early reader by Harper Collins published in December 2018.  A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett-Coverley Found Her Voice, nonfiction picture book about the performer, playwright, author, and Jamaican cultural ambassador, Louise Bennett-Coverley otherwise known as Miss Lou, will be published in 2019 (Owlkids). Nadia was 1 of 6 Black Canadian Writers to Watch in 2018 and the first SCBWI Canada East Rising Kite Diversity Scholarship recipient in 2018. Nadia  will be a touring in Alberta as a presenter in the TD Canada Children’s Book Week in 2019.  In summer 2019, Nadia will be the writer in residence at Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, British Columbia. Nadia is an elementary school teacher in Toronto and has taught early years music in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Nadia L. Hohn studied writing at the Highlights Foundation, Humber College School of Writers, George Brown College, and the Voices of our Nation (VONA).  She holds an honours arts degree in psychology from the University of Waterloo as well as Bachelor and Master of Education degrees from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).  Nadia is currently working on two young adult novels, a play, the next Malaika… book, and others.  She lives in Toronto she teaches, reads a ton, and crafts stories. She also loves to write (songs, blogs, journals, stories), play piano, cook vegan dishes, travel, study arts and cultures of the African diaspora especially Caribbean folk music, Orff music education, and run.

eugenie_fernandes-2Eugenie Fernandes has illustrated a myriad of books for a whole slew of publishers!  Here is a brief blurb about her from the Kids Can Press website: “My world is yellow and blue and green. I grew up on the beach. I painted with my father — comic-book illustrator Creig Flessel. We made up stories sitting on the front porch. Birds flew down from the sky and sat on my shoulder. Cats purred. Frogs hopped. I have always lived on islands …a house on Long Island, an apartment on Manhattan Island, a thatch hut on an island in the middle of the South Pacific, and now … I live and work in a little house … on a little island … in a little lake in southern Ontario. Summer and winter …starting at the crack of dawn, I paint every day. Sometimes, I write stories. Sometimes, I sell the stories. Then I paint again … I paint my stories … I paint other people’s stories. Sometimes, I paint paintings for myself … abstract paintings … big … free … Sunshine fills my studio.I am surrounded by water and birds and trees.My world is yellow and blue and green. Eugenie graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1965. Her paintings from Earth Magic and One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference are at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.”

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

Written by: Alice Faye Duncan

Illustrated by: Xia Gordon

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Poetry, Black Culture & Identity, Women Poets, Own Voices, Trailblazer, Historical Figure, Historical Events.

Summary: This book is a fascinating rendition of poetry surrounding Gwendolyn Brooks, some of it is her own poetry and some is the author’s.  The author creates her own song to celebrate Brooks, and text winds around beautiful illustrations.  This book is very hard to describe, it’s more of an immersive experience than a traditional story!

Gwendolyn was born in Kansas but spent most of her life in Chicago.  Her parents were extremely supportive of her gift with words, and fought back against a teacher who accused Gwendolyn of plagiarizing.  Brooks wrote tons of poetry throughout her entire life, and sought inspiration from what she saw outside her window.  She was the first Black Pulitzer Prize winner, being awarded this high honor in 1950.  An author’s note with more concrete details about the life of Brooks is in the back, including a detailed timeline spanning two pages and suggested readings by Brooks herself!

Reflection Questions:

  • What do you know about poetry?
  • Do you think songs and poems are the same thing?
  • Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do?
  • How did that make you feel?
  • How do you think Gwendolyn felt when her mother believed her, and defended her to the teacher that thought she was plagiarizing?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

M6beHbvg_400x400In the words of Alice Faye Duncan herself:

I am my mother’s only child and Memphis is my home. I went to library school at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville). While there, Professor Glenn Estes introduced me to picture books. At the University of Memphis, I took a Children’s Literature Class from Professor Ramona Mahood. She introduced me to author, Charles Turner, who inspired me to write WILLIE JEROME–my very first book. Macmillan published it in 1995. Picture books are my favorite to write! They allow me to “sing” without a music education or singing voice. YOU DON’T WANT ME TO SING. Really. 

I discovered the poets, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks, when I was a child searching the crowded shelves in my parents’ personal library.  While I loved each poet, my early writing was most similar to Paul Laurence Dunbar.  I wrote for the ear to hear and the voice to speak words like I heard them spoken in school, church and the sundry store. Langston, Gwen and I, have Dunbar in common.  It was Paul Laurence Dunbar who moved us early in life to make words our vocation. Words are my work and my pathway to words began with poetry.  

My picture books include biographies of Black artists and moments in American History seldom told. I also write lyrical stories that celebrate the sustaining power of love between a mother and child. My books are illustrated by award winning artists like Gregory Christie, Xia Gordon, Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (YES! of the Famous Pinkney Family) and Mary Uhles. MEMPHIS, MARTIN AND THE MOUNTAINTOP won a 2019 Coretta Scott Honor Medal for illustrations.

28539_profile_1382809390Xia Gordon is an Ignatz-nominated cartoonist and illustrator living in Brooklyn, NY. She grew up in Orlando, FL and graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a BFA in Cartooning & Illustration in 2016. She studied as a Teaching Assistant Intern at the Robert Black Burn Printmaking Worskshop in 2016 and was a Visiting Artist at the Center for Cartoon Studies in 2018.

Her comic Kindling was published by 2dcloud in early 2017 and was named one of The Comic Journal’s Best Comics of 2017 and 2018. She also Illustrated A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks written by Alice Faye Duncan (Sterling Children’s Books.)

Selected Clients: The New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Penguin Random House (Classics)VICE NewsBuzzfeed News, Lenny Letter, Narratively, The Baffler.

Some nice words from: Philippe LeBlanc at ComicsBeat, Ardo Omer at Book Riot, and Rob Clough of High-Low Comics.

Interview for FRESH at Communication Arts.