Books I’ve written: Picture books

This Is the Rope

book coverThis is a fictive memoir. From the early 1900s until the mid 1970s, more than 6 million African Americans moved from the rural south to northern cities. This novel is inspired by those families and by my own Mom, who moved from Greenville, South Carolina to Brooklyn, New York in 1968.
The book begins:

This is the rope my grandmother found
beneath an old tree
a long time ago
back home in South Carolina.
This is the rope my grandmother skipped
under the shade of a sweet-smelling pine.

Where it takes place:

It starts out in South Carolina and ends in Brooklyn, NY

Where I wrote it:

In Brooklyn and in Virginia.

Why I wrote it:

I wanted to tell the story of how some Black people came to New York City. When I began writing it, my mom was still living. She didn’t live to see the final book but I think it would make her very proud. She came to Brooklyn a long time ago and if she hadn’t come to New York, I wouldn’t have grown up here! I couldn’t even imagine that!

Each Kindness

book cover

Ilustrated by EB Lewis

A new girl comes to school and tries to make friends. When Chloe, the narrator, is unkind, the girl keeps trying. And then the girl is gone and Chloe is left only with the memory of her unkindness.

Where it takes place:

This story could take place anywhere.

Where I wrote it:

In Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Why I wrote it:

At some point in our lives, we are all unkind. At some point, we are all treated unkindly. I wanted to understand this more. I think too often we believe we’ll have a second chance at kindness – and sometimes we don’t. I do believe, as Chloe’s teacher, Ms. Albert, says, that everything we do goes out, like a ripple into the world. I wrote this because I believe in kindness.

Awards:
  • Coretta Scott King Honor Book
  • 2013 Jane Addams Peace Award
  • 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award
  • Best Book of 2012 – School Library Journal

Pecan Pie Baby

Ilustrated by Sophie Blackall

book cover

Gia is tired of hearing about the new baby. It hasn’t even been born yet, but everyone, even her friends, seem fixated on it. Gia thinks things are fine just the way they are! And she’s worried: if the baby’s such a big deal now, what’s going to happen to Gia’s nice, cozy life with Mama once it’s born?

Beloved author Jacqueline Woodson and Sophie Blackall have created a heartwarming story for kids adjusting to the idea of a new family member. Young readers will be reassured by Gia’s eventual understanding that the baby won’t ruin the special bond she has with her mom, and might even be a sweet addition to the family.

Where it takes place:

I imagined it taking place anywhere there was a new baby coming. :)

Where I wrote it:

Mostly in Brooklyn but for some of the rewrite, I was traveling. I remember editing it while I was on the beach somewhere. I only remember that because I didn’t want to be writing, I wanted to be just hanging at the beach!

Why I wrote it:

Jackson-Leroi – our son – was on the way and Toshi – our daughter – had decided, once she knew it was a boy, that she didn’t want a baby in the house after all. By then, of course, it was way, way, way too late. She’s since come to like him but she does complain about him breaking her toys! And yes, both of them love pecan pie. But I actually don’t like it very much.

Coming On Home Soon

book cover

Illustrated by EB Lewis

It is wartime, and women have to go to work while the men are off fighting. Ada Ruth’s mama has a job in Chicago and she must leave Ada Ruth and Grandma behind for a while.

Where it takes place:

Somewhere in the midwest during World War II

Where I wrote it:

At home in Brooklyn and at my house in Olive, New York

Why I wrote it:

I had been reading stories about Rosie the Riveter and couldn’t find any with African American women in them so I started researching. With the small amount of information I gathered, I began to write this book.

Awards
  • Caldecott Honor
  • ALA Notable 2005
  • Booklist Editor’s Choice
  • Child Magazine Best of 2004

We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past

book cover

Illustrated by Diane Greenseid

Teeka and her grandmother go to the family picnic and boy! aren’t the others who come something to talk about!!

Where it takes place:

In Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York

Where I wrote it:

In the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York

Why I wrote it:

To let myself remember how delicious picnics can be. (And to keep my promise of putting my niece, Teeka, in a book.)

The Other Side

Illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Two girls, Clover and Annie, become friends in a small, segregated town.

Where it takes place:

In a small rural town—I didn’t have a specific state in mind.

Where I wrote it:

Upstate in Olive, New York and at The Writer’s Room in Manhattan

Why I wrote it:

I wanted to write about how powerful kids can be. Clover and Annie fight against segregation by becoming friends. They don’t believe in the ideas adults have about things so they do what they can to change the world. We all have this power.

Awards
  • ALA Notable
  • Riverbank Review Children’s Book of Distinction
  • Texas Blue Bonnet List
  • School Library Journal Best Book
  • Booklist Editor’s Choice
  • New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • 2001 Time of Wonder Award
  • IRA Teacher’s Choices 2002 (featured on covers of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Booklist and The Baltimore Sun)
  • 2004 Louisiana Young Reader’s Choice Award (Honor)
  • 2003-2004 Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Master List California Young Reader Medal Nominee
  • 2003-2004 South Carolina Book Award Nominee

Sweet Sweet Memory

book cover

Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Sarah’s grandfather was a gardener. When he dies, he lives behind his beliefs about the world and a harvest to help her remember him and know that the circle of life goes on and on.

Where it takes place:

I wanted it to be set somewhere in South Carolina

Where I wrote it:

At home in Brooklyn

Why I wrote it:

I wrote this book in memory of my grandfather, Ganaar, who was a gardener. Whenever I see beautiful gardens filled with vegetables or flowers, I think of him.

Our Gracie Aunt

book cover

Illustrated by Jon Muth

Johnson and his sister Beebee have to take care of themselves after their mother leaves. Then they’re moved to the Aunt Gracie’s house and things start getting better.

Where it takes place:

In a city I do not name

Where I wrote it:

In my house in Brooklyn and on Whidbey Island off the coast of Seattle, Washington

Why I wrote it:

There are so many kids in foster care or living with relatives who are not their moms or dads. There are all kinds of families in the world and I wanted to write a book about this. What makes a family isn’t about who you live with but how much they love you.

Visiting Day

book cover

Illustrated by James Ransome

A young girl looks forward to the day she gets to go visit her father. It only happens once a month and it’s a very special day.

Where it takes place:

In Brooklyn and in someplace north of New York City.

Where I wrote it:

In Brooklyn and at The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

Why I wrote it:

Because once a month when I was a little girl, I would go upstate and visit my favorite uncle. I remember those days well and wanted to write about them. This book isn’t completely autobiographical but there is a lot of me in it.

Awards
  • 2003 Skipping Stones Honor Award
My younger brother and I visiting my Uncle Robert
on Visiting DayMy Uncle Robert posing with us.

Show Way

book cover

Illustrated by Hudson Talbott

This is the first time I’ve written a book based on some of my own family history. ’Show Ways”, or quilts, once served as secret maps for freedom-seeking slaves. This is the story of seven generations of girls and women who were quilters and artists and freedom fighters.

Where it takes place:

It begins in Virginia and ends right here in Brooklyn.

Where I wrote it:

The story began in my grandmother’s living room in the Bushwick section of Broolyn. I wrote it here in Park Slope, Brooklyn mostly.

Why I wrote it:

After my grandmother died and my daughter was born, I wanted to figure out a way to hold on to all the amazing history in our family. I wanted a Show Way for my own daughter.

Awards
  • Newbery Honor Medal