Children’s books open the world of storytelling to young readers. Combine that with the wonders artwork illustrators create — the stories simply jump out of the page! As we celebrate Black History Month, we are featuring eight incredible illustrators who capture more than just the story on the page. Whether they portray emotions or use different color palettes, these illustrators bring stories to life.
A Flag for Juneteenth by Kim Taylor
With her debut children’s book, A Flag for Juneteenth, Kim Taylor showcased the art of story quilting, which for her, was a way to process what words may not be able to express. Motivated by helping students learn about Juneteenth, Taylor wrote a story based on the quilt she created after learning about the historic event for the first time. As we follow Hulda’s story in the book, we see the very first Juneteenth through her eyes, a celebration of freedom, as shown through vibrant quilting.
Off the Wall by Theodore Taylor III
While Theodore Taylor III gets inspiration for his work from different mediums such as music or comic books, Off the Wall’s graffiti style can be traced back to Taylor’s introduction to the art of graffiti through the video game Jet Grind Radio and his time in New York City. As we journey through the story, the appreciation for the art form of graffiti intertwines with feeling at home in a new place.
Little Rosetta and the Talking Guitar by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
Music can be found everywhere. This is especially true in Little Rosetta and the Talking Guitar, a biography of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who became known as the Godmother of Rock and Roll. Barlow shows music notes, dance, instruments, and household items, showing the joy that is found when music is around.
There Was a Party for Langston by Jason Reynolds, Illustrated by Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey
Brothers Jarett and Jerome Pumphrey work together to illustrate an ode to Langston Hughes. True to honoring the power of words, the words themselves paint a picture to reflect movement, names, onomatopoeia, and even emotion. The title says, There Was a Party for Langston and readers will not only experience the party but learn a piece of history too.
Ruby’s Reunion Day Dinner by Angela Dalton, Illustrated by Jestenia Southerland
Jestenia Southerland’s illustrations in Ruby’s Reunion Day Dinner are sure to make your mouth water. The steam from the pots and pans carried throughout the pages, letting the reader imagine what getting a waft of all the food would be like. Readers can venture with Ruby as she tries to find a signature dish that she can share with her family.
Big by Vashti Harrison
The recent Coretta Scott King Award Author and Illustrator Honor book, Big, takes us through a child’s journey of self-love amidst the words that are thrown at her by peers and adults alike. Harrison’s usage of space and word placements on the page become a character of their own, serving as a way to propel the child’s story.
Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker, Illustrated by April Harrison
April Harrison’s use of different art forms and aspects such as color or quilt-like designs are on full display with Nana Akua Goes to School. Readers can follow Zura and her grandmother, Nana Akua, on Grandparents Day and learn the beauty of the different West African traditions through a quilt with traditional symbols.
Nesting Dolls by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Having studied fashion illustration, Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s keen eye for colors and textures shines in Nesting Dolls. From denim to the usage of maps and newspaper-esque designs on the buildings, the visuals go hand in hand with Anyiaka’s journey of self-love and belonging. The nesting dolls give readers an opportunity to learn that even if we may seem different from family members, we can trace back aspects of ourselves to those who came before us.
These books carry the heart of storytelling through various art forms, in which illustrators’ artistry radiates through the characters and the places they step through.
For more amazing Black illustrators, click here.
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