Can You Hear Us, Now?

By: Paula Chase, Co-founder, The Brown Bookshelf

Young Adult (YA) authors, Paula Chase and Varian Johnson had never met in person. One lived in Maryland and the other in Texas. One was a spokesperson for small city government while the other designed bridges. But, they shared two things in common: they wrote YA fiction and were tired of watching quality work go unnoticed.

Chase explained that she was tired of “hearing people say that there was no YA literature for African American teen readers,” when, “At the time, there were at least five YA series featuring Black characters, but parents, teachers, and even librarians didn’t know about them.” Chase and Johnson knew that if they “wanted more books about us to be available, we had to do a better job of supporting Black YA literature authors and illustrators.”

Determined to launch an initiative that would shine a spotlight on the many African American authors writing for young readers, Chase and Johnson collaborated with author Kelly Starling Lyons and award-winning illustrator, Don Tate. The Brown Bookshelf was born.

Today, nearly 12 years later, the Brown Bookshelf is a collaboration of ten authors and illustrators including: Crystal Allen, Tracey Baptiste, Tameka Fryer Brown, Jerry Craft, Gwendolyn Hooks, and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich.

Now, their 28 Days Later initiative takes their original goal to highlight Black authors a step further. The initiative is designed to highlight Black authors with recently released books or books that have “gone unnoticed.” During Black History Month, every day,  a different book and author will be featured. We hope that “by us showcasing the twenty-eight best voices in African American children’s literature, parents, teachers and librarians will walk away with a full arsenal of recommendations for young readers. To date, we have featured 308 authors and illustrators.”

The Brown Book Shelf believes that every book has a reader and every child can be a reader. The trick is in helping the readers find the books that speak to them. Thanks to the sheer volume of books produced annually, it can be especially difficult for young readers to find books by Black authors and/or that feature Black characters. 28 Days Later is a beacon for those seeking both classic children’s books by Black authors as well as the latest in Black kid literature.

They believe spreading a love of literacy beyond February is essential to nurturing a generation of avid readers. They work to ensure that Black voices in children’s literature are not just heard, but also included across the spectrum for all children. The Brown Bookshelf is made up of authors and illustrators with a body of work spanning picture books to young adult fiction and we’re pleased to introduce parents to our work. Check out a list of culturally relevant books below:

Contemporary Picture Books

Humorous Picture Books

One More Dino on the Floor by: Kelly Starling Lyons (Author)

Parby:Tay: Dance of the Veggies by: Don Tate (Illustrator), Eloise Greenfield (Author)

Historical fiction Picture Books

Hope’s Gift by: Kelly Starling Lyons (Author)

Stalebread Charlie and the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band by: Don Tate (Illustrator), Michael Mahin (Author)

Non-Fiction/Biographical Picture Books

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by: Gwendolyn Hooks (Author)

If You Were A Kid During the Civil Rights Movement by: Gwendolyn Hooks (Author)

Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma Sit-ins by: Olugbemisola Rhudayby:Perkovich (Author)

No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas by: Don Tate (Illustrator), Tonya Bolden (Author)

Chapter Books

Block Party by: Gwendolyn Hooks

Jada Jones: Class Act by: Kelly Starling Lyons

Contemporary Middle Grade

So Done by: Paula Chase

The Parker Inheritance by: Varian Johnson

The Great Green Heist by: Varian Johnson

Two Naomis by: Olugbemisola Rhudayby:Perkovich

Middle Grade Fantasy

The Jumbies by: Tracey Baptiste

Rise of the Jumbies by: Tracey Baptiste

Minecraft: The Crash by: Tracey Baptiste

Humorous Middle Grade

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by: Spirit Week Showdown by: Crystal Allen

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by: The Wall of Fame Game by: Crystal Allen

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by: Mya In The Middle by: Crystal Allen

Middle Grade Graphic Novel

Mama’s Boyz: In Living Color by: Jerry Craft

The Offenders by: Jerry Craft

Middle Grade Nonfiction

Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow by: Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Contemporary Young Adult

So Not The Drama by: Paula Chase

Don’t Get It Twisted by: Paula Chase

Saving Maddie by: Varian Johnson

For a full listing of books recommended during the Brown Bookshelf’s panel at the 2018 National Council of Teachers of English conference, Using Black Children’s Literature to Amplify All Student Voices, visit: thebrownbookshelf.com

 

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