Saturday, May 28, 2011

African American Daily Quote for Kids

"We are one, our cause is one, and we must help each other if we are to succeed." —Frederick Douglass, 1847 (taken from Kids' Book of Wisdom, Just Us Books)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Welcome to Just Us Books' New Web Site!!!!!!

During the month of April, Just Us Books experienced some technical challenges that made it difficult for our readers to access our web site.
  But we’re happy to report that our web site is back—new and improved.

We’ve created a new user-friendly web site with lots of new features. Look for:
· A brand new online bookstore where you can purchase Just Us Books and Marimba Books titles
· Exclusive special offers and discounts on our extensive list of multicultural children's books
· An expanded Teacher/Librarian Center, featuring Teacher’s Guides for our books, newsletters, tips and other free classroom resources
· Articles, features and other updates about our authors and illustrators
· A news feed featuring articles about children's literature, the publishing industry and other related news

Follow us at Fan us at
And log into YouTube from time to time to catch our latest book trailers and videos.

Thanks for your continued interest and support.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Omar Tyree Writes a “Mr. Creative”
Book For Boys

Omar Tyree is a New York Times best-selling author whose 18 published books have sold nearly two million copies worldwide. A graduate of Howard University with a degree in Print Journalism, Tyree has been recognized as one of the most renowned contemporary writers in the African-American community. His contributions to literature have earned him a 2001 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature in Fiction, and a 2006 Phillis Wheatley Literary Award for Body of Work in Urban Fiction. Tyree is also an informed and passionate speaker on various topics.
A tireless creator, Tyree makes his children’s book debut with 12 Brown Boys, a collection of short stories that focus on the lives of Black pre-teen boys.

Just Us Books: What's your goal in writing 12 Brown Boys? What do you hope to achieve by publishing the book?
Omar Tyree: There is a gigantic hole in the published world for content featuring urban American boys. Therefore, urban American boys are really not being engaged as young readers. They don't have a wealth of material that represents who they are or what they think about. So I wrote 12 Brown Boys to begin to supply a steady stream of content for this lost and forgotten group of American readers who end up becoming non-reading men. And my goal here is to turn urban boys on to reading, and then plot to keep them reading by supplying them with more books—with great content in development—for the future.

JUB: Why did you decide to begin writing children's books?

Tyree: I have two sons myself, and they are both still young. And it’s embarrassing for me as an African-American male writer of more than a dozen adult novels to take my sons to the book stores and find less than a dozen books with brown boys’ faces on them. So my reason for writing children's books, particularly for urban boys, is the same reason I started writing books for African-American adults more than fifteen years ago. I want to add content to the book shelves that represent our world. And many children's book publishers have not been very interested in doing that.

JUB: What do you think constitutes a great recipe for a book that will captivate young black boys--particularly middle readers (ages 8-12)?

Tyree: Well, it has to be a fun read, number one. So it has to get the young reader engaged and excited. A lot of new readers also like to relate to the material, so [I] create content that is close to who they are and what they go through in life. And boys, of course, love sports, doing things their own way, and getting involved in adventure. So adding that strong ingredient to the mix is also a plus. And if you can add some kind of moral lesson to the content without sounding too preachy, then that brings the book all the way home for a win. And that's the formula I plan to use for an upcoming library of many more books for urban American boys.
About 12 Brown Boys
Best-selling author Omar Tyree makes his children's book debut with 12 Brown Boys, a collection of short stories for middle readers that focus on the lives of Black pre-teen boys.

Readers will connect with Tyree's engaging characters. There is Red Head Mike who hates his nickname, but hates his red hair even more, and Chestnut, who is sent to live with relatives down South to keep him out of trouble in his Brooklyn neighborhood. There is Santa Monica super kid William, whose status as a scholar and entrepreneur has even his best friends hating him, and Wayne who resents his role as the oldest child until a tragedy strikes the family. There’s Taylor, a star baller and aspiring video director who just might be getting his first big shot in the industry; and rough and tumble T.C., from St. Louis, who’s struggling to find his place as a young man in a house full of girls.

Tyree has assembled a wide range of characters that reflect the diversity of experiences of Black boys—characters that are funny, serious, edgy, street-wise, studious, and all unforgettable.

To purchase 12 Brown Boys, visit

COMING SOON From the Teacher/Librarian Center: GETTING BOYS TO READ
For more information on Omar Tyree’s work and titles, please view his web site

Saturday, May 14, 2011


This month, Marimba Books releases Aloha for Carol Ann, a picture book about an eight-year-old who moves to Hawaii and struggles to feel at home in this new place until she discovers the true meaning of aloha, a Hawaiian term that means "hello," "welcome" and so much more.

Meet the Author: Margo Sorenson

Marimba Books: Do you remember when you began writing? What was your first piece?
Margo Sorenson: I wrote my first "book" at age 6, titled LEO AND BO-PEEP, and I illustrated it, too (unfortunately!). I still have it, and it makes me giggle. When I do school visits, the students always ask me this same question, so I show them the tattered and ancient "book," much to their glee!
MB: How did you get started in children's book publishing?
MS: I taught high school and middle school English for many years, and I was lucky enough to have excellent mentoring from writing instructors in the teaching of writing, including the UCLA Writing Project. Parents of my students would ask me why I didn't write, and I always answered that I could teach students to write, but I couldn't write, myself. My mother, also an author of children's books, encouraged me to go to an SCBWI workshop with her. I went — kicking and screaming — and have never looked back.
MB: What was your first published book and how many have you had published so far?
MS: My first published book was one I co-authored with Anne Polkingharn, the wonderful and legendary librarian of the California K-8 school at which I was teaching, Harbor Day School. It was a reading record book with multiple activities for students to report on their reading, titled HOW TO SNEAK UP ON A GOOD BOOK (Perfection Learning), which is now out of print. At the same time, I had just begun working on Aloha For Carol, and I was writing a work-for-hire for Bantam Sweet Dreams series, under my pseudonym Marcie Kremer, titled ALOHA LOVE (Bantam, 1994, out of print), a very "demure" teen romance about two debaters at Aina Hau School (Punahou School, where our daughters attended and where I taught) in Honolulu. ALOHA FOR CAROL ANN is my twenty-seventh published book, but, I have probably eighty to ninety unpublished manuscripts!
MB: You have an interesting story of perseverance regarding the publication of Aloha For Carol Ann Can you share that?
MS: I first began writing Aloha For Carol in 1989, and I would read the various versions aloud to my middle school students, who would make comments, trying to spare my feelings! I began submitting it to publishers, and it was rejected many, many times. When I'd get feedback from editors, I'd revise it again, and I'd ask my fellow teachers for help, as well. I believed in the story, because I'd seen it reenacted so many times during our ten years in Hawaii, and I wanted to share the aloha spirit that our family had found there. Twenty-two years later, I was still keeping an eye out for a publisher that I thought might be interested in the story, and lo, and behold, Marimba Books was founded, the perfect publisher for this story. I queried, was asked to send the manuscript, and the Hudsons acquired it, much to my and my family's joy!
MB: Aloha For Carol is about a girl who is a new student in a new place: Hawaii. Why did you pick Hawaii for the setting of this book? Do you have any personal connections to Hawaii?
MS: Our family lived in Hawaii for ten years, and, so often, I saw what a difference kids could make in welcoming someone new to such a different and unusual place. The aloha spirit of kindness and welcoming others is part of Hawaii, and the multicultural setting seemed perfect for the story I wanted to tell. We return to Hawaii every year, and we still have dear friends there whom we visit and who come to the Mainland to visit us, as well. Living in Hawaii has become an integral part of the fabric of our family's life, and I am so grateful that Marimba Books has made it possible to keep these special memories alive and to share them with young readers.
MB: Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
MS: After we moved from Hawaii, we missed it a great deal. I wanted to keep those memories alive for our family, so I began writing the story. Carol Ann is actually a real person (she gave me permission to use her name!), a young Marine wife we met at our church, who was having a difficult time adjusting to life in Hawaii, and she ended up loving it there because of people's welcoming attitudes. Carol Ann's story seems to span the generations, both young and old, and watching kids exemplify the aloha spirit by welcoming others in our daughters' classrooms and in my own classroom inspired me to share the story with young readers who also might have to move somewhere new and different, or might have someone new come to their school. The acclaimed author Virginia Hamilton once wrote, "Writing is what you know, remember, and imagine," and that's how Aloha For Carol came to be.

Learn more about author Margo Sorenson at her website:


This month, Marimba Books releases Aloha for Carol Ann, a picture book about an eight-year-old who moves to Hawaii and struggles to feel at home in this new place until she discovers the true meaning of aloha, a Hawaiian term that means "hello," "welcome" and so much more.

Meet the Illustrator: Priscilla Garcia Burris

Marimba Books: When did you recognize your artistic talents?
Priscilla Burris: From a very young age I was habitually doodling with any paper available! Throughout school age years I continued with the love of doodling, sketching and drawing both informally (while taking notes in class), and formally (when asked to create posters or flyers for events).
MB: Do you remember any of your first drawings? PB: Yes! I have a sweet framed crayon-rendered image I created in Kindergarten. It is a drawing, in full color, of my home including my address over the front door, along with a chimney and strand of gray smoke billowing out of it (this was purely my imagination, as we never had a fireplace). Also included in the drawing is a little girl with a beautiful red dress (triangle shape), a happy smile, and 3 hair bows; one on the top of her head and one on either end of upswinging braids! There are also lowercase letter 'm's — or rather, several colorful birds flying in the sky.
MB: How did you begin working in children's book publishing?
PB: My career in children's book publishing started when I was assigned illustration work for an educational publisher. Creating 10 of these books a year gave me ample opportunity to grow and learn and hone my skills in illustrating children and animals for this specific field of art. A few years after this start, I created picture book dummies — or mock-ups of picture books with text, and submitted these to a publisher who went on to publish 4 of these such books. One of these books was written by my sweet husband.
MB: What was your first published book? And how many published books have you illustrated?
PB: Two of my earliest published picture books are titled “Christopher Is Not Afraid...Anymore” written by Craig Burris, and “Carefree Play Summer Day” written by Julie Hendrickson (1994). To date I have illustrated more than 30 books.

MB: How would you describe your artistic style or approach?
PB: For children’s books, I work in two different styles; one with more of a sketchy-loose line, and the other much more structured and contained. Creating and evoking expression and emotion has always been my approach in any illustration projects or books.

Has your artistic style changed much from when you first started your career?
PB: Yes. While I have illustrated in educational, mass, and trade publishing through the years, my style has grown from the experience in all fields. In some ways it has more recently evolved into a new look, however in another way it has come full circle and I am illustrating in the way I have always loved to create – with heart, soul and joy! And most of all, with expressiveness both facial and in the body language of the characters I create.

MB: What medium do you enjoy most?
PB: Digital painting and pastels tools. Traditional medium would be chalk pastels. I love sketching with either pencils or ink pens best.

MB: What attracted you to this particular project―illustrating Aloha For Carol Ann?PB: First, when reading the manuscript at the beginning of the story, “Carol Ann trudged down the path to her new classroom.” I loved that it began with a true-felt emotion of a child who has moved far away and has to now adjust to a new place to live. Secondly, when I was asked to give samples of flora and fauna, as this would be needed for this picture book, I knew I’d thoroughly enjoy the research of the Hawaiian setting, as I have never been there myself. 

MB: Do you have a favorite illustration in the book?
PB: My favorite illustration has to be the two-page spread where Carol Ann’s new friend, Maile, is helping her put a fresh hibiscus flower behind her ear and where some new classmates are nearby during recess, enjoying their snacks sitting under the banyan tree. I imagined the coolness of the ground under their feet, and the fragrant breezes that would surround them.
MB: What advice do you have for aspiring artists looking to break into children's book publishing?
PB: Research the market, spending lots of time reading through the genre in children’s book publishing that you are interested in, such as picture books or chapter books. Continually and regularly create new images that tell a story. Create characters, both children and animals. Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (, a professional organization specifically helpful for anyone seriously interested in this field of illustration.

Illustrator, designer and author, Priscilla Garcia Burris was born and raised in Southern California. An artist from a very early age, she earned degrees in both Fashion Design and Early Childhood Education, and taught pre-school for several years. She serves on the Board of Advisors for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and she has illustrated educational, mass market and trade books and other materials for children, parents and teachers. Her published books include Five Green and Speckled Frogs, which she wrote and illustrated: What Do Angels Do?, and I Love You All Day Long, which she illustrated.

To learn more about Priscilla, please visit her web site

Friday, May 13, 2011

ILLUSTRATOR Eric Velasquez

ERIC VELASQUEZ is the illustrator of numerous picture books, covers for chapter books and YA titles (Front Porch Stories by Eleanora E. Tate) and is a recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for new talent from the American Library Association. He is the illustrator of My Friend Maya Loves to Dance, written by Cheryl Willis Hudson, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers. Eric lives in Hartsdale, New York.

Front Porch Stories

ILLUSTRATOR Nicole Tadgell

Originally from New York, Nicole Tadgell relocated to Massachusetts after graduating from Wheaton College. After landing a job in advertising, she quickly adapted becoming Assistant Art Director in her third year in the industry. Nicole is also an illustrator of children’s books, the recipient of both the Children’s Africana Book Award and the Américas Award, and is a member of the Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild.
Tamika & the Wisdom Rings

ILLUSTRATOR R. Gregory Christie

R. GREGORY CHRISTIE grew up in New Jersey and received a B.A degree in media arts from New York City's School of Visual Arts in 1993. While attending SVA, he had a position at the Guggenheim Museum, and interned for the Star Ledger newspaper, where his first published work was showcased, in 1990. Within a few years his work began to appear of jazz album covers and his first picture book, The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African-American Children was published in 1996. A three-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award honor, Christie is a regular contributor to the New Yorker Magazine.

He has collaborated on several books with poet, Tony Medina, most recently on Follow-Up Letters to Santa From Kids Who Never Got a Response, published by Just Us Books.
Follow-Up Letters to Santa From Kids Who Never Got a Response

AUTHOR Ermila Moodley

ERMILA MOODLEY was born in Ladysmith, South Africa. A descendant of sugar cane plantation slave laborers, she grew up under the system of apartheid. Heavily influenced by South African civil rights leader Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness movement, she became involved in student protests and anti-apartheid political groups during high school and college. After earning a B.S. at the University of Durban-Westville in South Africa, she moved to California in 1987, and has been an elementary school teacher in the Santa Barbara area for the past fifteen years. Path to My African Eyes is her second published book.
Path to My African Eyes

AUTHOR Tony Medina

Tony Medina is one of the more prolific writers of color effectively shaping the new literary renaissance. He has published four volumes of poetry, including Emerge & See, which Amiri Baraka included in his 1992 "Summer Reading List" in American Visions magazine. Medina has also edited two published anthologies. One of them, In Defense of Mumia, co-edited in 1996 with S.E. Anderson, won The American Bookseller Association's Firecracker Alternative Book Award. Tony's work is featured in the anthologies: In The Tradition, Aloud, Soulfires, Tough Love, Spirit & Flame, and Identity Lessons, as well as many literary and popular-culture publications. Tony was also a literary consultant for Catch the Fire: A Cross Generational Anthology of Afrikan American Poetry, edited by Derrick I. M. Gilbert.

A college English professor, Medina is always on the lookout for
opportunities to reach out to the community and help foster a love for literature. He is committed to using his children's books to promote literacy and solidarity among urban youth. His children's books include DeShawn Days, Christmas Makes Me Think, and a special tribute to Langston Hughes, Love to Langston, (Lee & Low, 2002) illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. This series of poems, written from Langston Hughes' point of view, offers an overview of key elements and themes in Hughes' life.

Mr. Medina is also the author of a collection of poems titled Follow-Up Letters to Santa From Kids Who Never Got a Response, published by Just Us Books. Tony is currently working on a collection of poems for elementary grade students that will also be published by Just Us Books.
Follow-Up Letters to Santa From Kids Who Never Got a Response

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

ILLUSTRATOR Varnette Honeywood

VARNETTE HONEYWOOD (1950-2010) was an American painter, writer, and businesswoman whose paintings and collages depict the lives of contemporary African Americans. Her work is featured in established collections throughout North America, Africa and Japan. Numerous television programs, including "The Cosby Show," have used her art as a part of their sets. She has also illustrated covers for adult trade books and books for children. A highly sought speaker who inspired new generations of artists, Honeywood was a graduate of Spelman College, and earned a master's degree in education from the University of Southern California.


I'M LATE: The Story of LaNeese, Moonshine and Alisha Who Didn't Have Anyone of Her Own


Sunday, May 8, 2011

ILLUSTRATORS Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

The collaborative efforts of husband and wife team CORNELIUS VAN WRIGHT and YING-HWA HU have produced many wonderful books for children. I Told You I Can Play! is their first title with Just Us Books. Among their other published works are An Angel Just Like Me, Coming Home: A Stay of Josh Gibson, Baseball's Greatest Homerun Hitter, and Zora Neale Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree. Van Wright is a native of New York and Hu was born in Taiwan. They reside with their daughter and son in New York City.

I Told You I Can Play!


Artist/Illustrator SYLVIA L. WALKER is a native of Pasadena, California. She studied at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angles earning a BFA Degree. Her works include freelance children's fashion illustration for clients Simplicity and McCall's pattern companies. Other clients include Keystone Health Partners, The Coca Cola Company National Adoption Center, Antioch Publishing, and Woodtones Publishing Group. She expanded her focus to illustrating numerous children's' books for publishers Just Us Books, Dover Publications, Scholastic, Harper Collins, Western Publishing, Essence Golden Books, Highlights Magazine, and Penguin Putnam Books.

Sylvia uses a variety of media to express herself. Watercolor, pencil, ink, and recently acrylic on canvas create an exciting new dimension to her creativity. "My work strikes a note of recognition in all of us. Drawing positive images of African American children gives me such pleasure. It reminds me of my own childhood. When my own children were very young, I created their own personal storybooks for them. I find myself smiling while working on a face, a gesture, an attitude, and it comes through my art. Her work is in the collection of Wendy's International president Dave Thomas, actress Vanessa Bell Calloway, Ed McMahon, Maury Povich and Connie Chung.


Land of the Four Winds


MORRIE TURNER created the Wee Pals comic strip in 1964. Appearing first in Ebony and Black World magazines, it soon became the first comic strip featuring a multi-ethnic cast of characters to appear in metropolitan newspapers. Explore Black History with Wee Pals, published by Just Us Books, brings back many of those entertaining but instructive strips.

ALSO: Mr. Turner is available for signings, workshops, presentations and panels. His area of expertise is cartooning. Contact him at P.O. Box 3004, Berkeley, CA 94703.
Explore Black History 
with Wee Pals


DON TATE is an award-winning illustrator/author of more than 25 trade and educational books for children. With a bold, dynamic style, Don's oil and acrylic paintings bring to life the pages of the children's books he illustrates. This self-trained painter and digital illustrator has demonstrated extraordinary range in style and medium — each book possessing a distinctive style of it's own. His background includes illustration as well as graphic design
in the areas of advertising, educational publishing, and visual journalism. Don is the featured cover artist for the Kid Caramel Series created by Dwayne J. Ferguson

Kid Caramel:
Case of the Missing Ankh

Kid Caramel:
The Werewolf of PS-40

Kid Caramel:
Mess at Loch Ness

Kid Caramel:
The Legend of Mad Jake

ILLUSTRATOR Howard Simpson

Born and raised in Newark, NJ, Howard Simpson began his art career by drawing storyboards for Action News and Accu Weather while studying at Temple University Tyler School of Art. His illustrations are featured in AFRO-BETS Quotes for Kids: Words for Kids to Live By, AFRO-BETS Book of Colors and AFRO- BETS Book of Shapes, published by Just Us Books. He lives in New Jersey.

ALSO Mr. Simpson is available for signings, workshops, presentations and panels. His areas of expertise include: cartooning, illustration, computer design, digital art and storytelling. Contact him at P.O. Box 717, Maplewood, NJ 07040.


QUOTES FOR KIDS:Words for Kids to Live By

AFRO-BETS Book of Colors

AFRO-BETS Book of Shapes


SONIA LYNN SADLER was born at Fort Riley, an army base in Kansas. She studied fine arts, illustration and crafts at Maryland Institute College of Art and went on to graduate from Parsons School of Design in New York City. After a successful career in design working for such companies as Anne Klein and Liz Claiborne, Sonia launched her own business where she markets her artwork and accessories. Her unique scratchboard and acrylic paintings are widely exhibited in galleries across the country. Ma Dear's Old Green House is her first trade picture book for children. Sonia's home and studio are located in northern New Jersey.

ALSO: Ms. Sadler is available for signings, workshops, and presentations. Her areas of expertise include: art, drawing, painting. E-mail her at

Ma Dear's Old Green House


ANNA RICH says her art career began in kindergarten. She much preferred coloring and drawing to her other class work. Anna received her B.F.A. degree from Rhode Island School of Design, and is an active member of the New York Chapter of the Graphic Artists Guild. She lives in Elmont, New York with her family and cats. She has illustrated a number of picture books, including Joshua's Masai Mask, Saturday at the New You, Little Louis and the Jazz Band, Kids' Book of Wisdom: Quotes from the African-American Tradition, collected by Wade and Cheryl Hudson and Annie's Gifts, written by Angela Shelf Medearis. Both titles are published by Just Us Books.


Annie's Gifts

AKids' Book of Wisdom: Quotes from the African-American Tradition

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Author Bio
Coming soon
Photo Jesus Loves Me


CATHY ANN JOHNSON was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. She credits her parents Clinton and Lucille Johnson with helping to shape her life. Her mother ran a daycare center in her home in an urban community. Many of the children brought to her home were abandoned or were unofficial foster children. Cathy has always had a passion to draw and a love for children's literature. As a child she would frequently sneak away to the neighborhood library to read as many children's books as she could.
Among the books she has illustrated are Robo's Favorite Places, written by Wade Hudson and published by Just Us Books; Glo Goes Shopping, written by Cheryl Willis Hudson, published by Just Us Books; My Nana and Me, written by Irene Smalls, Pop Pop and Me, written by Irene Smalls, and A Heart for Jesus, written by Juanita Bynum. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she operates the graphic design studio, LUV-IT.

Glo Goes Shopping

Robo's Favorite Places

Many Colors of Mother Goose

ILLUSTRATOR Stephan Hudson

STEPHAN HUDSON is an illustrator and graphic designer. A graduate of Rowan University, he recently launched his own design company 2nd Chapter. He has designed books and book covers and his work is featured in several children's titles. They include Langston's Legacy: 101 Ways to Celebrate the Life and Work of Langston Hughes and Poetry from the Masters: The Pioneers, both published by Just Us Books. He is the photographer for Prayers for the Smallest Hands published by Marimba Books.

Prayers for the Smallest Hands
Poetry from the Masters:
The Pioneers
Poetry from the Masters Series : Black Arts Movement

Langston's Legacy
101 Ways to Celebrate the Life and Work of Langston Hughes