Author Q&A with Carole Boston Weatherford

Why did you choose Arturo Schomburg as a subject?

My mission as an author is to mine the past for family stories, fading traditions and forgotten struggles. Add to that unsung heroes. When my friend and frequent collaborator Eric Velasquez pitched the idea of a Schomburg biography to me, I was intrigued. Like Schomburg, Eric has roots in Africa and Puerto Rico. I detected Eric’s passion for the project and I could not refuse. I believe this is the book that Eric was born to create. Even though the book had a ten year gestation, I am honored that Eric asked me to collaborate. This is our fifth book together.

When did you first learn about Schomburg?

I knew of the Schomburg Center before I knew about the man behind it. I did picture research there in the early 1980s. That was long before there were digital archives online. Back then, I had to wear white gloves to handle vintage photographs. I recall being in awe of the Center’s vast holdings. What I did not know is that Schomburg the man was a bibliophile and a leading light of the Harlem Renaissance, a period I first wrote about in Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood. That picture book is illustrated by Gregory Christie. 

Read more

Q&A with Author Chitra Soundar

Do you only write stories from your own cultural background?

For a long time before I was published, I wrote only western stories – stories set in western families about children with western names and their rituals of growing up. This is because subconsciously I was writing what I was reading. As a child and as an adult, I read mostly western narratives and that seeped into my writing. But my heart wasn’t in those stories. It wasn’t my truth. And when I did write stories from India, either set there or about India and Indian characters, I started getting lesser rejections (or at least more personalised ones) because my stories now had the secret ingredient that makes magic – authenticity. For me more than setting the stories in India or in its culture, it is about personal connection. Why do I want to tell this story? Why me? Am I the right person to tell this story? If so, then I would attempt to bring it to life.

Conversely, do you feel restricted in the subjects and settings you can choose?


I’m a nomad. Although I was brought up in India, I have lived in Singapore and now in the UK. I travel a lot and I gather stories where I go. But I always remember that all the stories filter through my own experiences – of what I know and what I don’t. I have fallen in love with folktales from Antwerp and Prague but I worry about retelling them because I’m not sure I would have the depth of the cultural context. Even to retell a small story, I would need tremendous amount of research and understanding. So I pick and choose projects I can actually invest time and energy into. On a side note, India is a big country with language, ethnic and other diversities and I research a lot even to tell Indian stories.

Read more

Diversity in Our Digital World: Visual Literacy Across Borders

By Susan Polos and Janet Wong

The CBC program “Diversity in Our Digital World: Visual Literacy Across Borders” was a great success at the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) regional conference sponsored by USBBY ( at the University of Washington in Seattle, October 20 - 22. The CBC session featured two illustrators, Suzy Lee and Keith Negley, as well as a publishing professional, Tucker Stone.

Janet Wong, poet and publisher at Pomelo Books, and Susan Polos, school librarian from NY, introduced the panel. Wong and Polos serve as co-chairs of the American Library Association/Children’s Book Council (ALA/CBC) Joint Committee. Coincidentally, both are board members of USBBY, Janet representing the International Literacy Association (ILA) and Susan, ALA. Tucker Stone is also a member of CBC and represents CBC on the USBBY board. CBC’s commitment to diversity, evident in its work and its blog, proved a perfect fit for the conference theme, “Radical Change Beyond Borders—the Transforming Power of Children’s Literature in a Digital Age,” inspired by the work of Eliza Dresang.

The CBC breakout session opened with an introduction to the work of CBC in the area of diversity. Slides showcasing current CBC Diversity Blog posts made clear to all present that the range of posts, including a storytime guide, authors’ posts, book guides, book lists, Q&As, and more, highlight and encourage diversity in all formats and forms for publishing professionals. Both illustrators selected for this panel, Suzy Lee and Keith Negley, have been featured on the CBC Diversity Blog. Wong explained that one goal of this panel was to expand the discussion of diversity in children’s literature beyond race and ethnicity to feature “diverse thinking” in the creation of children’s books.


Suzy Lee: “It all depends on the readers”


Suzy Lee ( shared illustrations from her work and spoke about three of her books, Wave, Shadow, and Lines (published by Chronicle Books). She mentioned the importance of borders in her work both through her use of the physical book’s bindings and gutters and as story tools, taking the reader from a realistic scene to a metaphysical understanding of the artist’s process. She explained how readers of “silent” books can see what she, the illustrator, has intended them to see; readers also bring their own interpretation to the reading. “When there’s no word pointing out what to read, the readers can read more. It’s because the meaning of the image is not fixed. It’s always changing. And it all depends on the readers; they read as they want in their own way.”

One anecdote that Lee shared involved an autistic boy whose teacher said that when Wave was shared in their classroom, “the room was silent, and [the boy] could hear [the book] in his head … he was captivated.” As Lee noted, this is the kind of moment “when the ‘silent’ picture book shines.”


Keith Negley: “Toxic masculinity has run amok”

Keith Negley ( worked as an illustrator and designer for magazines before writing and illustrating children’s books published by Flying Eye, the children’s imprint of Nobrow, an international publishing company. Negley’s books, while not wordless, tell stories primarily through illustration and contain minimal text.


He shared work from two published books, Tough Guys Don’t Cry and My Dad Used to Be So Cool, as well as a forthcoming book, Mary Wears What She Wants (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins). Negley wants to break barriers of gender expectations, showing that both boys and girls can resist the stereotypical boxes—and to show dads who are affectionate and sensitive.


Tucker Stone: “Helping small publishers get the word out”

Tucker Stone anchored our panel with a reminder that our real challenge, when it comes to diverse children’s literature, is with distribution.


Stone spoke both of his former position as US Sales & Marketing Director with Nobrow US/Flying Eye Books, as well as his current work as Client Marketing Manager for Children’s and Comic titles for Ingram’s Consortium Book Sales & Distribution. In this new role, Stone strives to communicate the interests of international readers to independent publishers and to promote the titles he represents.

USBBY’s Outstanding International Books (OIB) Lists

Suzy Lee’s first book was signed during a visit to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. She advises international authors and illustrators to go to Bologna and to learn from the editors and agents there, if possible. “Bologna was a real-wonderland … I was amazed at the various perspectives and styles” of the international books on display. For advocates of diverse books who are not familiar with international books and are unable to travel to Bologna, Wong and Polos recommend downloading USBBY’s annual Outstanding International Books lists for the past decade ( International books provide a valuable glimpse of additional approaches to celebrating diversity.


Susan Polos is a School Librarian in the Bedford Central School District. Janet Wong is a poet and co-founder of Pomelo Books (, a CBC member. Together, they serve as co-chairs of the ALA-CBC Joint Committee.

Q&A with Author Nic Stone

1)  Why do you think there’s such a dearth of diverse children’s books?

In a couple of words: white supremacy. The fact that there are more books published about animals than about black kids says a lot, not only about our society, but about “Western” sensibilities and colonization on the whole. About the perception of “race” and the role of literacy in the development of societal hierarchies. The English staked their claim on land in various places around the world and forced the people in those places to learn the English language, but literature and the arts were reserved for members of the highest social classes. Who were all white.

The fact that we’re almost two decades into the 21st Century and just now beginning to see books written in English that reflect the realities of the English-speaking world says a lot about who, historically, has been expected—or even allowed—to achieve English literacy. When all the business-related rhetoric is stripped away (“Those types of books statistically don’t sell well.” “The numbers don’t suggest that this would be a good investment.”), the implications are that 1) certain groups of people don’t read and 2) the people who do read wouldn’t want to read about x-type of people. The marginalized wind up doubting the validity of their very existence, and the privileged continue to see themselves as the protagonists of the only stories that matter. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why this is detrimental to everyone.

Read more

Q&A with Author Anna-Marie McLemore

1. Tell us about your most recent book and how you came to write/illustrate it.

WILD BEAUTY is about queer Latina girls and enchanted, murderous gardens. The Nomeolvides women, including the youngest generation of five cousins, tend the grounds of La Pradera, a famously beautiful garden known both for enthralling visitors and killing those who break its rules. This story grew from my love of flowers and from wanting to write girls like me and my cousins into the world of fairy tales.

2. Do you think of yourself as a diverse author/illustrator?

I’m queer, Latina, and I’m married to a trans guy, so in a way I didn’t set out to write diverse fiction any more than I set out to live a diverse life. Writing inclusive stories was a matter of letting the truth I already know have a place in my work. 

Read more

Staying Hyphenated

 By Mitali Perkins

My dad—technically a refugee from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)—became a harbor engineer, traveled far and wide, stood in the presence of Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Queen Elizabeth, and settled his family in California when I was in the seventh grade. He died this year, and I’m grieving hard, mourning the loss of his humor, loving company, and joyful spirit. I also miss his stories of Poshora, the village where seven generations of my family lived on a jute farm. Thanks to Dad’s deep roots in that particular place, no matter how people saw us, we didn’t identify ourselves as Asian-Americans, Indian-Americans, or even Bengali-Americans. I knew as a child that the Bose family was from Poshora in Faridpur, East Bengal.The problem is that now, without Dad’s witty, adept use of the Bangla language, recitations of Tagore’s poetry, and reminiscences from his childhood, it feels like the hyphen connecting my identities has taken a blow. Will it be fatal? My parents’ shift from country to country—something that I didn’t choose—has already cost me, leaving me to grow up far away from a supportive network of relatives and grandparents. Dad’s life and stories provided my particular connection to that faraway village in East Bengal. With Dad gone, will I tilt even more to the American side?

Read more

Industry Q&A with Publicist Jamie Tan

Candlewick Press Publicist Jamie Tan, with questions provided by summer marketing and publicity intern Melissa Lee:

As someone who’s spent a couple years trying to figure out the right career path, it didn’t dawn on me to consider publishing until I began blogging and reviewing.  What about publishing appealed to you?

My mother says I have been entranced with books as soon as I learned how to hold objects. The idea of getting to work with them was tantalizing – almost a privilege more than an occupation. As a kid I had no idea what kind of publishing jobs were out there, but I knew I wanted to make books and read to my heart’s content…and somehow get paid for it.

Since high school, I have been determined to pick a career that wouldn’t have me ending up in a cubicle feeling miserable. Not everyone is able to do what they love as their career. Though watching you, you seem to love being a publicist. What about being a publicist gets you up and out of bed every morning?

Easily, the people. I actually love working in my cubicle because I’m right next to some of the best people I know – incredibly intelligent people who can talk about everything from critical theories to promo items to the proper care of mint plants. I’m a really social person, and I don’t know what I would do without my co-workers nearby! I also work with some of the most pleasant authors and illustrators I’ve ever met, so not only do I want to keep my job, I want to make sure that these people get their work out there.

Read more