Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Just Us Books and Crown Books for Young Readers Team Up for Their Second Project: The Talk

-Award-winning Kidlit Creators Including Derrick Barnes, Adam Gidwitz, Rudy Gutierrez, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Traci Sorell, and Renée Watson, Tackle Tough Social Issues in Middle Grade Anthology-

Wade Hudson, Cheryl Willis Hudson, Torrey Maldonado, Phoebe Yeh,
Tracey Baptiste and Adam Gidwitz at a November 2019 presentation of The Talk
Just Us Books is partnering with Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, on a middle grade book called The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth. Edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson of Just Us Books and acquired by Phoebe Yeh of Crown, The Talk is an illustrated anthology featuring 30 award-winning authors and artists who offer frank and honest stories, essays, and poems about race, class, heritage, privilege, and other important issues.

The Talk is the highly anticipated follow up to the publishers’ 2018 collaboration: We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, which was named a 2019 Jane Addams Honor Book. The Talk is scheduled for release on September 29, 2020.

“We created The Talk to stimulate conversations that will help children as they are learning more about who they are and navigating their way in the world,” says Wade Hudson, co-editor of The Talk and CEO of Just Us Books. “Our contributors provide honest perspectives about important issues such as bullying, prejudice, and privilege. These are issues that young people face earlier and earlier; issues that both they and adults must address head on as we work to become more culturally and socially aware.”

When considering the project VP & Publisher Phoebe Yeh says, “The Talk offers so many entry points to talking about race, affirming our children’s experiences, and increasing empathy among all children. Crown Books for Young Readers is proud to partner with Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson and their contributors by publishing this important, much needed book.”

The Talk features a diverse team of authors and illustrators: Selina Alko, Tracey Baptiste, Derrick Barnes, Natacha Bustos, Cozbi A. Cabrera, Raúl Colón, Adam Gidwitz, Nikki Grimes, Rudy Gutierrez, April Harrison, Wade Hudson, Gordon C. James, Minh Lê, E.B. Lewis, Grace Lin, Torrey Maldonado, Meg Medina, Christopher Myers, Daniel Nayeri, Zeke Peña, Peter H. Reynolds, Erin K. Robinson, Traci Sorell, Shadra Strickland, Don Tate, MaryBeth Timothy, Duncan Tonatiuh, Renée Watson, Valerie Wilson Wesley, and Sharon Dennis Wyeth.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Our Focus in 2020

Photo: Stephan Hudson for 2nd Chapter
Happy New Year! We can’t believe how quickly another year has passed. We are thankful for all we accomplished in 2019 and for the many opportunities we’ve had to connect with young readers and book lovers around the country. We appreciate the work of all those who advocate for a more inclusive and representative body of literature for young people. 

As we enter a new year, a new decade even, we do so with the same determination and commitment to make a difference that led us to start Just Us Books. Now in our 31st year, we will continue to publish titles that spotlight Black history, Black culture, and Black experiences and that reflect our country's diversity. Just Us Books will focus on books that not only entertain, but enlighten, inspire, motivate, encourage, empower and provide learning opportunities across cultures, ethnicities, borders, races and experiences. We will continue to promote the difference good books can make as we embrace our role as one of a few Black-owned publishing companies in the United States.

Today, the truth is under siege in many quarters of our society. Values such as respect, patience, honesty, justice, generosity, fairness and dependability are being trampled wantonly. But these values are our North Star. They guide us to a better place. They show us the way. The books we read — that our children read —play a major role in that journey. So our work as children’s book creators is as crucial as ever.

In 2020 and beyond, we will press onward, in the company of so many others — inspired, motivated and determined to allow our books to be vehicles for young people to see that North Star. We know Good Books Make a Difference!

Wade and Cheryl Hudson
Founders, Just Us Books

Monday, December 23, 2019

Celebrating the Nguzo Saba Through Books

The seven principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba) are an important part of our work at Just Us Books. They not only shape our approach to business, but they show up as themes in many of the titles our company has published.

1. Umoja = Unity (To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.)  
Book Recommendations: One Million Men and Me, Sink or Swim; The March on Washington

2. Kujichagulia = Self-Determination  (To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves).
Book Recommendations: We Could Be Brothers; Path to My African Eyes; I Told You I Could Play

3. Ujima = Collective Work and Responsibility (To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together)
Book Recommendations: Willimena Rules;  Freedom Rides: Journey to Justice; 12 Brown Boys

4. Ujamaa = Cooperative Economics (To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.)
Book Recommendations: The March on Washington; Tamika and the Wisdom Rings

5. Nia = Purpose (To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.)

Book Recommendations: Scientists, Healers and Inventors; Great Women in the Struggle; Kids Book of Wisdom

6. Kuumba = Creativity (To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it
Book Recommendations: Poetry From the Masters: The Pioneers; Poetry from the Masters: Black Arts Movement; Clothes I Love to Wear, Annie’s Gifts

7. Imani = Faith (To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.)
Book Recommendations: We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our VoicesBishop Daniel PayneCome by Here Lord

What are your favorite books about Kwanzaa or books that focus on one (or more) of the Nguzo Saba?

The Purpose in Kwanzaa

How do you define yourself? What values are important to you?  How do you tell your story?

I asked a version of these questions earlier this month when I gave the Kwanzaa message at Pride Academy School in East Orange. These are questions I reflect on frequently, too.

Living a life of purpose is important to me, and that's one of the reasons I love Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a pan-African holiday that's observed December 26 - January 1. As a celebration, it provides guideposts for living purposefully. It celebrates African-American history and culture; embraces creativity; and encourages community. And its foundation, the Nguzo Saba or seven principles, help guide my life as well as my work as an author, publisher, and entrepreneur.

Our family has observed Kwanzaa for over 30 years. Just Us Books, the children’s book publishing company my husband Wade and I founded in 1988, has been in business for just as long. And although Kwanzaa did not directly inspire our entrepreneurial venture, I'm sure that timing is no coincidence.

The Nguzo Saba show up in our books and shape our work. We’ve published or packaged several books about Kwanzaa, including: My First Kwanzaa Book; Willimena Rules: Nine Steps to the Best, Worst, Greatest Holiday Ever! and the Kwanzaa Sticker and Activity Book. We included the principles in AFRO-BETS Kids' Book of Wisdom: Quotes from the African American Tradition. The principles are also themes in many of the books we've published. (Read more about those books here.)

As entrepreneurs, we live the Nguzo Saba of Kwanzaa year around. UJIMA (collective work and responsibility) and UJAMAA (co-operative economics) define our approach to doing business – from the stories we share in our books, to our intentional focus on employing Black writers, illustrators, editors, designers, and  doing work with Black vendors such as  BCP Digital, as much as possible.

Our purpose (NIA) is to bring more stories about Black people, history, and experiences to the public so the richness and diversity of Black culture is represented in the books all children read.

We use creativity (KUUMBA); self-determination (KUJICHAGULIA); and faith (IMANI) every day when working with authors and illustrators, defining our business goals, and planning for the future.

It takes unity (UMOJA) to brings all of these elements together to create books and run a company - particularly as a family business.

I believe we all have an opportunity and responsibility to identify and use our unique gifts to make positive contributions to our communities - whether cultural, local, or global. That's purpose and I'm blessed to be living in it.

Cheryl Willis Hudson is an children's book author, publisher, and co-founder of Just Us Books. Her newest title, Brave. Black. First. 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World, is a collaboration with  the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and Penguin Random House.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Just Us Books Donates $4000 in Children's Books to East Orange Public Library

Just Us Books is ending 2019 with a special gift to its founders' local library. 'Today we donated $4000 worth of children's and young adult books to the East Orange Public Library, based in Wade and Cheryl Hudson's hometown of East Orange, NJ. (Watch a video of the book presentation here.)

The donation includes books from Just Us Books’ publishing list, and from generous donations by publishing collaborator Crown Books for Young Readers, and the Children’s Book Council. CBC selected Just Us Books as one of its 2019 Diversity Outstanding Achievement Award winners - an honor given to children’s publishing professionals who have helped bring greater diversity to children’s literature. With the award came a donation of more than $1000 worth of books to an organization of awardees’ choice. Just Us Books selected the East Orange Public Library to receive its award donation. 

“Just Us Books has a long history with the East Orange Public Library,” said Wade Hudson, Just Us Books CEO. “We’ve hosted many book signings and author events at the East Orange Public Library over the years and we’re happy to continue bringing quality, diverse books to our community with this donation.”

Wade and Cheryl Hudson were joined by East Orange Mayor Ted Green; Jimmy Smalls, President of Library Board; Carolyn Ryan Reed, Library Director; and Lisa O'Shaughnessy, children's librarian for the Dec. 16 book presentation, which took place at the library. 

Celebrating more than 30 years in business, Just Us Books remains one of the nation’s few Black-owned publishing companies. Its titles, which include the popular AFRO-BETS series, Book of Black Heroes from A to Z, The Secret Olivia Told Me and We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices (published in partnership with Crown) are available at