Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Just Us Books Founders Share "How they Book"

How Do You Book? That’s the theme for Children’s Book Week, which celebrates kidlit and a love for reading. This theme asks us to think about:

- What we read
- Where we read
- How we read
To celebrate, we asked authors and Just Us Books founders Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, to answer these questions. You also get a peak at what's on their reading list right now.

How Do You Book, Wade Hudson?
📚 What I Read I have an eclectic taste. As a children's and young adult author and publisher I read as many books for young readers as possible. I am also concerned about political issues and read books that cover them as well. I also read books that focus on history, particularly, Black history as well as good novels. 📚 Where I Read I usually read at home, mostly in the evening, unless I am doing research for a manuscript I am writing. That reading becomes a priority and I usually schedule it just as I schedule my writing. 📚 How I Read When reading for enjoyment and engagement, I prefer a relaxed environment with coffee and drinks and snacks readily available.

How Do You Book, Cheryl Willis Hudson?
📚 What I Read
I read lots of children's books. Picture books are my favorites, but I enjoy nonfiction, biographies, and fiction by adult writers as well. I enjoy graphic novels, too.
📚 Where I Read
I read at any time of the day, but mostly in the afternoon. Since I spend a large part of my day working at my computer and reading articles on my phone, I've recently started to listen to audio books in the evenings and before I go to bed. Audio books bring more variety and entertainment value and the voices add dramatic effects to the process of reading.
📚 How I Read
I read for information, research purposes and for pleasure. Most of the time there is music playing in the background. When I was much younger, I needed to read in a very quiet place without distractions like the radio or TV, and I could never read in a moving car or train or plane. Now I can and do enjoy reading almost anywhere!

❓ Tell us - How do YOU book?

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence Wins 2022 Africana Children's Book Award

On the eve of Ghana’s Independence Day, we’re excited to announce that Kwame Nkrumah’s Midnight Speech for Independence by Useni Eugene Perkins and Laura Freeman was named winner of the 2022 Children’s Africana Book Award - best book for young children. 

The awards are presented annually to the authors and illustrators of the best children’s and young adult books on Africa published or republished in the U.S. 

Africa Access and the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association (ASA) created CABA in 1991 to encourage the publication and use of accurate, balanced children’s materials about Africa. We’re thrilled this beautiful collaboration between Useni and Laura earned this distinction. 

Learn more about the book and buy it here.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Celebrating Black KidLit Creators

 We're celebrating Black history and sharing our stories all year long, right? Right. So we curated a list of 50 Black kidlit creators who should be on your radar and your bookshelf.

Check out our Facebook and Instagram for a video highlighting the authors and illustrators listed below. And if you think we should do a part 2, share your suggestions on our FB or IG post.

(Listed in the order they are pictured in the video)

George Ford, illustrator (Bright Eyes, Brown Skin)

Jacqueline Woodson, author (The Year We Learned to Fly)

Floyd Cooper, author-illustrator (Max and the Tag-Along Moon)

Wade Hudson, author (Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South)

Rita Williams-Garcia, author (A Sitting in St. James)

Pat Cummings, author-illustrator (Trace)

Cheryl Willis Hudson, author (Recognize! An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life)

Eric Velasquez, author-illustrator (Octopus Stew)

Renee Watson, author (She Persisted: Oprah Winfrey)

Jason Reynolds, author (Stuntboy in the Meantime)

Laura Freeman, illustrator (Kwame Nkrumah and the Midnight Speech for Independence)

Javaka Steptoe, illustrator (Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat))

Nikki Grimes, author (Kamala Harris: Rooted In Justice)

Kwame Alexander, author (The Undefeated)

Sharon M. Draper, author (Out of My Heart)

James Ransome, illustrator (Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams)

Joyce Hansen, author (African Princess)

Derrick Barnes, author (I Am Every Good Thing)

Kelly Starling Lyons, author (Sing A Song: How Lift Every Voice and Sing Inspired Generations)

Vanessa Brantley Newton, author-illustrator (Just Like Me)

Walter Dean Myers, author (Monster)

Ibi Zoboi, author (The People Remember)

Sharon Flake, author (The Life I’m In)

Jerry Pinkney, illustrator (The Little Mermaid)

Virginia Hamilton, author (Her Story: African American Folktales, Fairies and True Tales)

Kwame Mbalia, author (Tristan Strong Destroys the World

Diane Lewis Patrick, author (Mekena: See Me, Hear Me, Know Me)

Frank Morrison, illustrator (R-E-S-P-E-C-T Aretha Franklin The Queen of Soul)

Marilyn Nelson, author (Papa’s Free Day Party)

Tony Media, author (Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy)

Tracey Baptiste, author (African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History)

Jerry Craft, author-illustrator (Class Act)

Carole Boston Weatherford, author (Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre)

Gordon James, illustrator (Let ‘Er Buck)

Mildred Taylor, author (All the Days Past, All the Days To Come)

John Steptoe, author-illustrator (Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters)

Nic Stone, author (Clean Getaway)

Andrea Davis Pickney, author (Martin Rising: Requiem for a King)

EB Lewis, illustrator (Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis)

Dhonielle Clayton, author (The Everlasting Rose)

Kadir Nelson, illustrator (Coretta Scott)

Zetta Elliott, author (The Witch’s Apprentice)

Shane Evans, illustrator (Hands Up)

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author (Operation Sisterhood)

Jabari Asim, author (Yonder)

Tonya Bolden, author (Saving Savannah)

Bryan Collier, illustrator (We Shall Overcome)

James Haskins, author (Freedom Rides: Journey for Justice)

Eloise Greenfield, author (The Women Who Caught the Babies)

Angie Thomas, author (Concrete Rose)

Thursday, September 9, 2021

New Picture Book from Just Us Books, Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence, Continues Publisher’s Celebration of Freedom

Poet-activist Useni Eugene Perkins and Coretta Scott King Honor winner Laura Freeman team up to share the story of Ghana’s independence

(West Orange, NJ) September 9, 2021 – Continuing its focus on stories that celebrate freedom, leading independent children’s book publisher Just Us Books will publish Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Laura Freeman. The picture book will be released in hardcover on Kwame Nkrumah’s birthday, September 21.

With prose by renowned poet-activist Perkins and illustrations by Coretta Scott King Honor winner Freeman, Kwame Nkrumah’s Midnight Speech for Independence captures the magic of the night Ghana was declared a free nation and shares the remarkable life of Kwame Nkrumah — one of Africa’s most celebrated leaders.

Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence follows the spring 2021 publication of Papa’s Free Day Party another freedom story published by Just Us Books. Written by Marilyn Nelson and illustrated by Wayne Anthony Still, it centers on the author’s grandfather, who escaped racist attacks as a child and went on to build a new life in the all-Black town of Boley, Oklahoma. This fall, Just Us Books is also collaborating with Crown Books for Young Readers to release Recognize: An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life. Edited by Just Us Books founders Wade and Cheryl Hudson, it features award-winning Black authors and artists who’ve come together to create a moving collection that celebrates Black love, Black creativity, Black resistance, and Black life.


Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence
Written by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Laura Freeman, published by Just Us Books
ISBN 978-0-940975-86-6, $17.99, hardcover, ages 4-8

On a humid March night in 1957, Kwame Nkrumah made history. While thousands of people cheered, including dignitaries from round the world, he announced his country's independence. After many years of British rule, Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, became the first sub-Saharan African nation to break free from colonial rule.

Useni Eugene Perkins is a multi-faceted writer and activist who was a prominent voice in the Black Arts Movement. His writings for young people include Home is a Dirty Street: The Social Oppression of Black ChildrenRise of the Phoenix: Voices from Chicago’s Black Struggle, 1960 to 1975 (Third World Press), Poetry from the Masters: Black Arts Movement (Just Us Books), and the celebrated picture book, Hey Black Child (Little Brown) illustrated by Bryan Collier. In 1999 he was inducted into the Gwendolyn Brooks Literary Hall of Fame. In 2003, Useni was featured in, a digital archive dedicated to preserving histories of African Americans. He has travelled to Ghana many times and in 2007 was inducted into the Gefia Society in Akatsi, Volta Region, Ghana and installed as their Academic Development Chief under the stool name of Torgbui Perkins Agbale I. Learn more about Useni  at

Laura Freeman is the award-winning illustrator of over 30 picture books for children including Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (Harper Collins), Kamala Harris Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes (Atheneaum) and Dream Builders: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon by Kelly Starling Lyons (Lee and Low Books). She also illustrated six titles in the I Love to series (Marimba Books). A graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Laura has been awarded the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor and the NAACP Image Award for her work. She lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband and their two children. Visit her at

Just Us Books is an independent, Black-owned publisher of children’s books that celebrate the diversity of Black people, history, and culture. Founded in 1988 by husband-and-wife team, Wade and Cheryl Hudson, its titles range from board books for infants to novels for young adults and have helped the company win numerous awards for its contributions to publishing, including Small Business Pioneer of the Year and the Children’s Book Council Diversity Outstanding Achievement Award. In more than 32 years of operation, Just Us Books has become an institution in children’s publishing and remains one of the nation's few Black-owned presses. Just Us Books titles can be purchased wherever books are sold and through its web site: 

Connect with Just Us Books on social @JustUsBooks across platforms.

Digital review galleys of Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence are available upon request. Email:

Monday, April 26, 2021

A Conversation with Wayne Anthony Still, Illustrator of Papa's Free Day Party

Wayne Anthony Still, illustrator of the new picture book Papa’s Free Day Party, talks about his creative process, artistic inspirations, and his connection to abolitionist William Still.

Headshot of artist Wayne Anthony Still

How did you get into book illustration?

Like most illustrators, I've submitted sample images in the form of mailers to book publishers, ad agencies, art directors, design studios, galleries and artist's representatives to acquire freelance assignments. Having a website and being active on social media are must have vehicles to showcase my full range of abilities and get my work seen by thousands. 

Can you describe your creative process? Once you get a manuscript, how do you get started?

My creative process involves critical thinking and problem solving. For example, with Papa's Free Day Party, I had to read the manuscript and decide which areas of the story stood out to me from a visual perspective  and (would) help convey the writer's point of view in that moment in time. It is the inspiration of the story that brings my ideas to life -- with a collaboration between writer, publisher and artist.

Cover of Papa's Free Day Party, showing a Black family of 5 celebrating, smiling at each other, with a red balloon in the background
Do you have a favorite medium to work in?

I believe nothing compares to the strength, drama and power that can be achieved through oil paints. The blending of colors is second to none with slow drying times enabling the artist to achieve depth and range of finishes and effects. Secondly would be acrylics. This is the medium most used by me due to fact that most illustrations have tight deadlines and this medium dries quickly and has properties similar to oils in range of depth and impact. Third and certainly not least would be watercolors. There is a natural softness to this medium and blending can be magical. Effects can be achieved with simple washes and blending is effortless. I have found that being able to adapt to various mediums equates to the possibility to work on more projects and not be typecast as only able to do one thing well. After all, if you look at history, the greatest artists lived during the Renaissance in my opinion, and they were skilled in many mediums and excelled in them all. 

Spread from Papa's Free Day Party showing a young Black boy in a garden holding a carrot with a white man's hand on his shoulder

Which artists have inspired you?

Like most artists I have a love of art as well as the creators behind the images. Honestly the list would be too long to cover but if I had to single out a few it would be artists like: Albrecht Durer, Leonardo DaVinci, Howard Pyle, J.C. Leyendecker, Charles Santore, Jerry Pinkney, Leo & Diane Dillon, Tom Blackshear, Ezra Tucker, and Kadir Nelson.

This story is based on Marilyn’s family and her grandfather’s journey to freedom. You also have a family connection to freedom fighters. Can you share more about that?

I am a proud descendent of William Still who was an African-American abolitionist based in Philadelphia PA. He was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, a business man, writer, historian, and civil rights activist.

Are you working on any new projects you want to share?

I am presently working on some private commission works as well as designing new collectable giftware items to be sold worldwide.


Abolitionist William Still

Wayne Anthony Still is an award-winning illustrator, painter, designer and sculptor. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration and graphic design from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His work includes exquisitely designed figurines, collector’s stamps for international governments and masterful plates as well as paintings and illustrations. He lives in Pennsylvania near the city of Philadelphia.


Friday, March 12, 2021

Coming this Fall: RECOGNIZE! An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life

Cover art by Floyd Cooper.
Coming this fall, from editors Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson: RECOGNIZE! An Anthology Honoring And Amplifying Black Life

In the stunning follow-up to The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth, award-winning Black authors and artists come together to create a moving anthology collection celebrating Black love, Black creativity, Black resistance, and Black life.

More than 30 prominent Black creators lend their voice, their insight, and their talent to an inspiring anthology that celebrates Black culture and Black life. Essays, poems, short stories, and historical excerpts blend with a full-color eight-page insert of spellbinding art to capture the pride, prestige, and jubilation that is being Black in America. In these pages, find the stories of the past, the journeys of the present, and the light guiding the future.

Recognize! is scheduled for release by Crown Books for Young Readers on October 12, 2021.

You can pre-order at our site or wherever you buy books.