Wednesday, February 22, 2017

For the Love of Poetry

Earlier this year in January I had an opportunity to attend the American Libraries Association's Midwinter Conference in Atlanta, GA.  There, I sat in on a panel discussion featuring author Kwame Alexander and illustrator Ekua Holmes who I both absolutely respect and admire for the gifts and works that they lend to the children's book world.  The panel focused mostly on discussing an upcoming release by Kwame Alexander and other fellow writers that focuses on celebrating poets and poetry titled "Out of Wonder".  The book is composed of original poems that celebrate poets of many eras.  Classic poets like E.E. Cummings and Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes from the Harlem Renaissance, contemporary poets like Sandra Cisneros and Nikki Giovanni, and even international poets Basho (Japanese) and Okot p'Bitek (Uganda) are just a few of the fabulously gifted poets celebrated in the upcoming release.  Ekua Holmes ingeniously takes each original poem and crafts an illustration to represent the text.  You may imagine that I was enthralled hearing about the process and what work went into producing this book of poetry.  Yes, I was!

Kwame Alexander (author/poet) reading his poem "I Like Your"

Ekua Holmes (illustrator) sharing her creative process
Growing up I fell in love with the idea of being a professional poet.  I loved the idea of using words in an unconventional way to create a story, a song, an expression of an idea or thought.  I found myself keeping a journal of poems in high school and college, but somewhere in adulthood I got busy with life and stopped writing.  It seems as if today young people are not being introduced to poetry in the way that I was.  When I had a book talk at my library during the summer last year, the teens looked at me with confusion when I stated we would be focusing on books of poetry.  They couldn't understand why someone would just want to read a book of poems with no typical beginning, middle and end storyline.  After an hour of discussion and digging into books written by contemporary authors the teens walked away excited about the possibility of being poet themselves.  It was a successful moment.  I thought about this while I listened to Alexander and Holmes talk about how they, like me, want to bring back an appreciation for poetry amongst our young people.

I am now on a mission to bring back poetry appreciation to youth one verse at a time.  Come back to my blog later to learn about my poetry adventures this summer with teens at the library where I work in Queens, NY.  I hope that you will return and while you're at it check out some of these recent and upcoming works for middle grades and teen readers that celebrate poetry in both traditional and unconventional ways.

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance (2017) Grimes, Nikki

Garvey's Choice (2016) Grimes, Nikki

Brown Girl Dreaming (2014) Woodson, Jacqueline

The Crossover (2014) Alexander, Kwame

The Red Pencil (2014) Pinkney, Andrea Davis

Words with Wings (2013) Grimes, Nikki

Coming Soon!

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets (3/14/17) Alexander, Kwame; Colderley, Chris; Wentworth, Marjory


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

New Reads for the New Year

2017 is off to an amazing start with the release of several books for children, teens and young adults written by black authors.  I have been happily bombarded with advanced reader’s editions and new book releases over the last couple of months and I absolutely cannot wait to share them with you.  I had an amazing opportunity to meet and sit in on a discussion with poet/author Kwame Alexander and illustrator Ekua Holmes in Atlanta during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference as well as new YA author Tiffany D. Jackson.  I will gush a little more about their upcoming titles in a later book review post since I have more of an insight on what inspired their work.  I really hope that you will read the following titles yourselves or share them with a young reader that you know.  Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

TAGS: poetry, children, middle grades, non-fiction, Harlem Renaissance, anthology

TAGS: middle grades, identity, self-awareness, short stories, fiction, multicultural, high school, anthology

TAGS: middle grades, coming-of-age, historical fiction, segregated south, Emmett Till, Jim Crow

TAGS: contemporary fiction, raw, gritty, mystery, young adult, adult, social justice, strong language

TAGS: inspirational, sports, poetry, life lessons, role models, nonfiction

TAGS: black lives matter, contemporary fiction, social issues, realistic,  high school, Young Adult

TAGS: contemporary fiction, social issues, realistic fiction, middle grades, high school, Young Adult, coming-of-age

TAGS: immigration, contemporary fiction, gritty, social issues, realistic,  high school, Young Adult

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Genius of Nikki Grimes: an Author Highlight and Book Review

Image Retrieved 10/6/2016 from

Grimes, a poet at heart, has always used her gift of lyrical prose to write stories for children and teens.  When I read Word's With Wings, I was amazed at how she bridged the pages of poetry to create one succinct story about a girl who has a great imagination.  Since then I have noticed that several African-American books for children and teens have been released using the same technique.  Nikki Grimes is not the first to take on this style, but she did re-energize it. This is why I call her a genius.  She sets the stage, changes the game, and opens doors for authors alike to create great works in a similar way.

Garvey's Choice (October 4, 2016) Grimes, Nikki

Image Retrieved 10/6/2016 from

It is no surprise the latest book release for young readers by Grimes is superb.  Garvey's Choice has received starred reviews by Booklist, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews and I cannot agree more.  This novel about a boy who is trying to be comfortable in his own skin is dealing with an identity crisis.  His father wants him to be a star athlete, but all Garvey can think about doing is reading books and new inventions.  He soon finds his voice through singing and a connection to the late crooner Luther Vandross. Longing to please his father all while dealing with taunting from kids at school, Garvey must make a choice.  Does he stay true to himself or try to be what everyone else desires him to be?  This book is a winner and sure to touch the heart of those who struggle with "fitting in".  

Other Books by Nikki Grimes (this is not an exhaustive list...just a few of my favorites)

Word's With Wings (2013)
Welcome Precious (2006)
The Road to Paris (2006)
Danitra Brown, Class Clown (2005)
Talkin' About Bessie (2002)
Jazmin's Notebook (1998)
Dyamonde Daniel-Series (2009-2012)

To read a short biography on Nikki Grimes and to learn more about her work visit

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Out of the Darkness and Into the Superhero Light

Growing up I was never into action comics.  I believe that this had to do with being a girl living in world that seem to only reserve certain type of reading materials for boys, comics being a part of that group.  Even with the Wonder Woman television series in rotation during my young life, I still wasn’t pulled in.  When I was a teen I became fascinated with the X-Men hero Storm.  She had brown skin like me and could kick butt.  To this day X-Men stories are indeed my favorite of all superheroes and it is the only one that I will spend money on to see in the theater.  I recently did some research to find out just how many characters are actually black superheroes from popular brands like Marvel, DC Comics, and a sleuth of others.  To my amazement I found that there are several hundred heroes that live in skin like mine.  Black Superheroes via Wikipedia

I have never considered myself a comic-fan, but with my new discovery and some new and upcoming comic book reads that showcase characters of African descent, this may all change.  I have been in the dark too long about black superheroes.  I am walking into the light!  Check out these recent and forthcoming comic book releases that will be featured in bookstores near you.  Happy Reading!

*All images in this post belong to Marvel Entertainment, LLC.  Click the title to find the original retrieval source.

(2016) Coates, Ta-Nehisi

This is a book series that you don’t want to miss out on.  Marvel’s Black Panther has been around since the late 1960’s, but the latest stories featuring this hero from the fictional African nation of Wakanda is written by one of my all-time favorite authors and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Coates is considered a modern day James Baldwin.  His recent book ‘Between the World and Me’ has received much praise and also the won the National Book Award for Nonficiton prize in 2015.  His take on the new era of Black Panther is refreshing and is filled with plot details that speak about injustice and change.  Coates has signed on to write several Black Panther comics so follow him and look out for more books in the future.

Luke Cage: Avenger

(2016) Benson, Mike, et al.

Marvel's Luke Cage first came onto the scene in 1972.  He was wrongly convicted and soon becomes a hired hero to fight criminals on the tough New York City streets.  Luke has unbreakable skin and can stop bullets without even thinking about it.  There is a new Netflix series about the character premiering on September 30, 2016.  We hope to see more from this character and spin-offs from this comic book series especially because he has a young child with superhero mate Jessica Jones that is bound to be a superhero themselves.

(2015) Reeder, Amy & Montclare, Brandon

There are not enough words to describe how I feel about Moon Girl.  She is a girl.  She is a genius.  She is a superhero.  AND she is African-American.  This girl is me!  Well except for the superhero part…and the genius part...OK well, you know what I mean.  Lunella Lafyette is struggling with the "newness" of being a pre-teen all while trying to deal with her superhuman powers.  When a device she created accidentally opens up a vortex to the pre-historic  past she encounters Devil Dinosaur and that is when the journey begins.  #2 in the series is to be released in 2017. 

(Release date TBA)


Riri Williams is another teen genius who is somewhat of a protégé of Iron Man.  When Iron Man decides to hang up his metal suit, it is a perfect time for Ironheart to step in and take his place.  This is a brand new storyline from Marvel so it is still developing.  Join our email list to stay updated about the new character and when the first book will be published. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Illustrators Need Love Too

This post is to celebrate the amazingly gifted illustrators that often find their names missing from conversations, therefore overshadowed by authors or those who focus on the written word.  Illustrators are often forgotten or left out of articles, panels, social media alerts, book discussions, and other platforms that promote and discuss books.  This is not to say that illustrators are not mentioned at all in these platforms, but I often find that they are not given their proper praise.  Check out some of our favorite children’s books illustrators below.  We want you to bask in the color, style, and feeling of their work so enjoy a few samples of what these illustrators are gifted with.  Each listed illustrator’s name is linked to their website or another where you can learn more about them, their work, and even buy a canvas or two.  Happy Reading and Viewing!!

*Book cover artwork has been retrieved directly from the respective illustrator's or publishing website.  Some images and links were retrieved from Good Reads when not available elsewhere. We do not own or claim to own any of the artwork shared on this site.

Kadir Nelson

Ashley Bryan

Faith Ringgold


Christopher Myers

Bryan Collier

Pat Cummings

Eric Velasquez

R. Gregory Chrisite

Christian Robinson

Ekua Holmes

New Children's Author, but certainly not an amateur

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Freed and Un-Forgotten

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a press release sharing the completion of the Freedmen’s Bureau digital indexing project they sponsored, making the records available that were collected following the civil war and the emancipation of enslaved persons in the U.S.  The records of the Freedmen’s Bureau provide a glimpse into the stories of those freed and their families.  Millions of slaves across the country were “freed” as a result of the 13th amendment in 1865 and the government set out to aid black citizens who were expected to go out and make a life for themselves after being held in bondage for more than 400 years.  This would be later known as the reconstruction or the reconstruction era.  Reconstruction resulted in the election of blacks in political offices and provided land ownership opportunities to some, but it was short lived and lasted for only 15 years.  Little is widely known about this period in American history and it is especially hard to find nonfiction or fiction books for young people that address the topic.  We went on a hunt to discover what is available for this audience. The list is inclusive of books that directly address reconstruction or the pursuit of freedom and equal rights following the civil war by lesser known heroes.  We hope to expand the list in the future as more titles are released.  If you would like to read the press release announcing the project completion of the Freedman’s Bureau project take a look here: Freedmen's Bureau Project  
Each title is linked to GoodReads , a site that includes reader reviews and links to find books in your local library, bookstore, or online book seller. Happy Reading!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

2016 Releases You May Have Missed

It can be hard to keep up with all of the new books that are released each year for young people. We have you covered.  Here are a few book releases that you may have missed that represent young people and/or were written or illustrated by persons of African descent.  Each title listed is linked to GoodReads, a site that includes reader reviews and links to find books in  your local library, bookstore, or online book seller.  Happy Reading!


Kenya's Art Trice, Linda

Looking for Bongo Velasquez, Eric

Malaika's Costume Hohn, Nadia L.

Don't Call Me Grandma Micheaux Nelson, Vaunda

In Plain Sight: A Game Jackson, Richard

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville Miller, Pat Zietlow

The Stone Thrower Richardson Richardson, Jael Ealey

Mr. Okra Sells Fruits and Vegetables Daley,  Lashon


As Brave As You  Reynolds, Jason

Booked Alexander, Kwame