I have five books coming out this year. I am really not particularly prolific; some could have come out last year, some next year. They’re all from different publishers, though, and each of these publishers independently decided: 2019.
My point is that I feel like I have hit the 2019 jackpot for beautiful book art. You may already know of the book that was released in January, This Promise of Change, co-authored with Jo Ann Allen Boyce, cover art by the fabulous Ekua Holmes. (Bloomsbury Children’s Books.) And now I have the art for a picture book that will be published in August by Kar-Ben Books. It’s called The Key From Spain, and it’s the story of Flory Jagoda, now a nonagenarian, who is known as the keeper of the flame of Sephardic music, as well as of the Ladino language. Flory traces her family back to Al-Andalus–medieval Muslim Spain–and then to Turkey and Bosnia, where she grew up. The illustrations are by Sonja Wimmer, and they bring all of Flory’s multiple heritages and influences to life. I’ll say again: jackpot.
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What a month January was for me, my co-author Jo Ann Allen Boyce, and our new book about her experience desegregating a Tennessee high school in 1956, This Promise of Change. First, we visited schools in the Washington, DC area–thanks to An Open Book Foundation and East City Bookshop–and had our East Coast book launch at Politics & Prose Bookstore. (Those are cookies you see in the photo.) Expectations were exceeded all around.
Jo Ann traveled east from Los Angeles, where she lives, and she came with family. We planned months in advance to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture, jumping on the Internet early one morning way back when to grab tickets for our crew. But then: the shutdown. So disappointing for these out-of-towners, who haven’t yet been to this amazing museum. But a friend at the Supreme Court Historical Society came to the rescue and took us on a fabulous tour of the Court–including the basketball court on the top floor, also known as “the highest court in the land.” Also thrilling for all was meeting Gary Kemp, deputy clerk of the Supreme Court. Like Jo Ann, he’s from the South, and they had some stories to trade.
Then, later in January, it was time for our book’s West Coast launch–or, rather, launches, as we were hosted first by LA’s Children’s Book World and then by Pasadena’s Vroman’s Bookstore. Both are outstanding places for anyone who loves, or even just likes, books. We met warm, interested, interesting people. We simply loved it all. And I can tell you that anyone who heard Jo Ann speak of her experience and her refusal to give in to hatred and resentment came away enriched. I know I do every time we speak.
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Last summer–as in, the summer of 2017–I excitedly shared news of a book I was working on:
How the months roll by! The book is now in page proofs, with a new title: This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality. And it has a gorgeous cover with artwork by the talented, award-winning Ekua Holmes. I love it so much I am setting it out here as big as I can make it. At the front of the line of teenagers pictured here is co-author Jo Ann Allen Boyce. Her eleven classmates (together they were known as the Clinton 12) are there, too; notably, her best friend from high school–and still her friend today, now that they are in their 70s–Gail Ann Upton Epps, in the pink sleeveless blouse, wearing glasses. I can’t wait for you to meet them on the page when the book is released on January 8, 2019.