How You Like Us Now?

October 8, 2018

No need to be coy, it’s pretty obvious your favorite lit site for kid books by Black creatives has had a face lift. And I must say, the old girl looks good.

BBS Logo

Collaborative book efforts, like the Brown Bookshelf, are labors of love. We’re grateful for every eyeball that scans our posts and every individual that tunes in for our annual 28 Days Later campaign. Even more so, you all continued to come back despite us not keeping up with trendier, flashier digital sites. That signals that you valued the information we provide, no matter how it was packaged. Thank you!

Thank you Square Bear Studio for creating our new look and for getting that we’re not flashy nor see our work promoting Black creatives as trendy. We think the muted colors and focus on the books fits us perfectly.

Take a look around, folks. As they say – new look, same great product!

Book Party – Naomis Too

September 12, 2018

What do you do after launching a successful MG novel about blending families? Why follow it with a sequel, of course. Help us celebrate our Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and the book birthday of Naomi’s Too. Co-authored by Audrey Vernick, Naomi’s Too follows Naomi E. and Naomi Marie as they try to navigate their new lives as step sisters.

In this sequel to Two Naomis, now that Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi E.’s dad are married, the girls have learned to do a lot of things together, like All-Family Sunday dinners, sixth-grade homework, navigating the subway system by themselves, and visiting their favorite bakeries. Until sixth grade in a new school presents a whole new set of surprises and challenges.

As the girls deal with the ups and downs of middle school and the mysteries of family dynamics, they learn that even when life and school try to drive you apart, it’s ultimately easier to face everything together.

Naomis Too

The Buzz on Naomi’s Too

“A sequel that packs as much heart, humor, and understanding as the first.” Kirkus Reviews


Buy Naomi’s Too


Direct from HarperCollins


Barnes and Noble

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices

September 4, 2018


Today is the book birthday for a special anthology. Edited by Wade and Cheryl Hudson and published by Crown Books for Young Readers in cooperation with the Hudsons’ company, Just Us Books, We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices is a treasury of poems, prose and art that offers hope and encouragement to children in these challenging times.

The collection, which has won multiple starred reviews, features the work of more than 50 diverse, award-winning children’s book authors and illustrators including Jacqueline Woodson, Kwame Alexander, Ellen Oh, Jason Reynolds, Margarita Engle, Tony Medina, Sharon G. Flake, Javaka Steptoe, Innosanto Nagara and three on the The Brown Bookshelf team – Tameka Fryer Brown, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and me.

riseauthorsillosI received my hardcover and boxed CD set last week. Every time I read or listen to the words, I’m moved and filled with pride. I hope that every classroom from elementary to high school gets a copy of We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices and it becomes a valued part of home and library collections. It’s the book we need.

Wade and Cheryl Hudson have been doing this work of encouraging, mobilizing and giving back for decades. Just Us Books, their pioneering company, turns 30 next month. The Hudsons are warriors for justice, equity, empowerment and visibility. They do it for the culture, for the children. Let’s give a gift to them and to the kids who will see themselves in this book. Let’s make We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices a bestseller.

Buy a copy today and spread the word. This is a day of celebration and action. Post a review. Share the cover and tag friends. Download the educators’ guide. Use the hashtag #RiseResistRaise and share how the book makes you and children you know feel.

To learn more about how this powerful project was created, watch the Hudsons here. At The Brown Bookshelf, we salute them, editor Phoebe Yeh, the Crown team, the amazing contributors and our future and inspiration – the children. Below, the Hudsons share why we must stand up for change and spread hope:

“Today, our democracy is under attack and much of the progress to make us more just, fair and inclusive that has been achieved through fierce and dedicated struggle, is in peril. There are those who would make us an even more uncivil and less moral country. They view and use meanness and power to get their way, to try to recreate a world from a bygone era where too many of us were victims and not citizens. In a time such as this, we must rise, resist and raise our voices.

hudsonsraiseOur young people are not only watching, they are impacted as well by this onslaught.  We need to rise, resist and raise our voice not only for ourselves, we need to do it for the future of our young people. That is why this anthology is so important. In it, fifty-two creators of books for children and young adults share their voices to offer wisdom, encouragement, love, support and HOPE!

We are so proud to be a part of an outstanding team of diverse authors and illustrators to produce a book for this time.” 


Book Party – So Done

August 13, 2018

We know you don’t want to admit it, but summer is almost over. *heavy sigh* Let’s have one more book party before fall swoops in. Help us celebrate BBS’s Paula Chase and her MG debut, So Done.

They had always been best friends. Until that summer…

So Done Cover Art

Jamila Phillips and Tai Johnson have been inseparable since they were toddlers. In Pirates Cove – a low-income housing project – Mila’s single father does everything he can to support his kids and his community. Tai lives across the street with her grandmother, who is the only family she needs.

When they are reunited after a summer apart, their friendship threatens to combust from the pressure of secrets, middle school, and the dance auditions for a new talented-and-gifted program.

Paula, which character gave you trouble as you wrote So Done?

Tai’s father, Bryant. Honestly, it’s tricky writing adults in kidlit period.  You risk either giving too much backstory and weight or having them too conveniently absent. But, Bryant’s disruptive presence is also why Tai has so much anger inside. How she interacts with her friends and the world around her are linked to that relationship. Portraying him and his effect on her challenged the balance of just how much adult presence to insert.

The Buzz on So Done

A 2018 Fall Junior Library Guild Selection 

“Chase’s Middle Grade debut dazzles,” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Chase vividly conjures the triumphs, tensions and worries percolating in the girls’ low income neighborhood,” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Buy So Done


Barnes & Noble

Direct from the publisher: Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins

Book Party – Minecraft: The Crash

July 9, 2018

Any time is a good time for a book party. Add gaming into it and you’re about to add joy to a young reader’s life when you join us in celebrating the latest from BBS’s own Tracey Baptiste.

Minecraft Cover

When Bianca Marshall, an avid Minecraft enthusiast wakes in the hospital, almost paralyzed by injuries from a car crash, she finds herself drawn into a new VR version of Minecraft which promises her control over  a world at the very moment she’s lost control over the real one. Is her best friend Lonnie in there with her too? And can Bianca help him to return to reality with her? The road to recovery may not be without its own dangers! (High Middle Grade/Young Adult)

Tracey, what was the best part about writing this book?

The best thing about writing this book was working with my son, who was 10 when I started doing the outline. He’d come home from school and look at the wall in my office where I plot. We had a system using sticky notes. The red ones were questions for him. So he’d take a look at the wall, tell me if I was going okay, and answer the questions. When I started drafting, he’d get home from school and read two chapters and give me handwritten notes on the manuscript. I got him credit as a consultant on the copyright page. He earned it.

Read this mini-cerpt:

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I was getting used to moving around in the game. There was one thing that I really wanted to try. Flying. From the top of the hill, I jumped twice, expecting my avatar to soar into the sky. Instead, I tumbled down a few blocks. Must be survival mode and not creative, I thought. I climbed back up and looked around. On the other side of the hill, in the distance, was a eld of brown. A desert biome, I guessed. There didn’t seem to be any villagers or buildings, so I turned and went north, following the curve of the river. I ran past mobs of pigs and sheep, clumps of trees, and elds of owers. Much farther away, things turned green. Swampy. I’d have time to explore all of that later. What I wanted was to check out the village on the other side of the river. So I turned my gaze, and the entire world turned beneath me, pointing me in the di‐ rection of the village near my home base.

Running in the game felt amazing. The world whizzed by me, and the exhilaration of being able to sprint around was intoxicating. I could almost pretend that they were really my legs pumping beneath me, sending me ying through the Technicolor scenery. “Optical illusion,” I said out loud. I knew I was really lying in bed in a hospital room, and the entire world around me was a projection of light that extended only as far as the goggles did. It wasn’t real. None of it.

Buy Minecraft: The Crash

Barnes & Noble


Direct from the publisher: Penguin Random House


Want to know more? Check out this podcast

Check Your Respect

May 7, 2018

I’ve never understood how people can cheer for adults playing professional sports and still form their mouths to question why someone would pursue the creative arts professionally. Athletes literally play a game for a living, but we question dancers? Artists? Writers?

Has capitalism gotten us so twisted that we only covet careers that bring us riches?

Maybe it’s not for me to understand. But, so it’s clear, in my house we respect the Arts as a profession.

My great uncle, Bernard Addison, was a professional jazz musician. He, like many musicians, made a living playing music. That was his real job. Because you don’t recognize his name like you might Duke Ellington or Louis Armstrong, means little. Do you know many doctors beyond your own? Doubtful. Yet, many physicians are out there curing and caring for folks every day. Fame has nothing to do with success.

I am a professional writer. J.K. Rowling I’m not. But with six books under my belt, I think it’s fair to say I could quit my “day” job if I wanted. In time! Despite the number of folks who may not have heard of me, my books are in bookstores and libraries across the nation. Their existence proves my ability to actually make money from this discipline. And I think both my agent and editor would be quite perplexed by those who don’t see writing as a viable career. As would my many author friends who rely on writing as their sole income.

Side Note: Of the Arts, writing seems to be the only one that everyone waves off as easy. Anyone with that belief, come holler at me for a little lesson in “Fear of the Blank Page.” Healthy fear. Respectful fear. But still, fear. If you’re absent of that, good luck writing for a living.

But I digress.

Here’s the crux of my annoyance with people’s utter disrespect for the professional arts:

My teen daughter wants to be a professional Ballet dancer, one day. This is something she’s made clear was her aspiration since about age 10. It is neither a passing fancy or a frivolous dream that her father and I are indulging until she settles on a “real” career.  The reaction people have when they hear that usually verges immediately on – poor dear, let me tell you why that’s such a bad idea.  Or – it’s such a long shot, I hope she has a back up plan.

Okay. Here’s what you should not do when talking to her or me about her desired career:

  • Tell her how hard it is

She knows this. Have you ever danced on your toes for six hours a day all summer while your friends sleep in? Well, she has. Pursuing Ballet is a grind. Technique is key and Ballet teachers are dedicated to the body form being classically correct. When she’s not studying for school or sneaking in a little social time for friends, she’s at dance. She and our entire family sacrifice for her to study Ballet. She knows hard.

  • Remind her how competitive it is

Is pursuing any job not? Are there not often hundreds of applicants seeking a single open position in a company? Ballet is no different. There are hundreds of Ballet companies out there. Just because you may know of only the bigs – American Ballet Company or New York City Ballet – doesn’t mean the others don’t exist. If she can’t find a single position within the many Ballet companies here in the U.S. or abroad – EVER- that would be an amazing feat.

  • Go on about how little dancers make

If she wanted to be rich she would have never chosen Ballet. If she’s okay with a life with little to no frills, then you should be okay with it too.

  • Justify your comments as if you’re just trying to make sure she knows what she’s in for

You’re assuming neither she, I or her father understand what’s involved with pursuing a career where subjectivity reigns. That’s insulting. You’re assuming she’s not doing her own homework by talking to her teachers or reading resources on life in that profession. You’re assuming your comments will somehow deter what’s in her heart.

My daughter is a beautiful dancer with a mother who continues to actively navigate the subjectivity of publishing. It’s not easy, but it’s damned sure not impossible. Don’t think we don’t have conversations about this all the time. She has a mentor who is clear on the rejection ahead. But also, a staunch cheerleader who knows what it’s like to have Art in you that you’re compelled to put out in the world.

Understand, we do this because we have to. Art is breathing for the artist. Please stop smothering us with your fears and concerns. Negative energy is the artist’s natural enemy. We have enough self doubt to fill a stadium. Don’t push yours on us.

Root for us.

Support our work.

Tell others about the artists you know.

We put beauty into the world. That’s never a bad thing.

Day 28.5: YA Panel Part 2

March 1, 2018

We’re pretending that it’s Leap Year by offering day two of our YA Panel with authors Justina Ireland (Dread Nation), Brandy Colbert (Little & Lion) and Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles). Check out the convo as they discuss being vocal on social media and getting on their soap boxes.

BBS: All of you are active on social media. Is anyone ever afraid to be as honest as they are about publishing, politics and culture because it may impact their relationship with publishers, gatekeepers or readers?

littlelion_brandycolbert__spanBrandy: I’m definitely the least outspoken online from this group. But everyone who’s met me knows I will say anything in person.

Dhonielle: I used to be afraid and I never really go in unless you make me BIG MAD. Now, I don’t care as much. I’m like…I’m little and y ‘all think I’m cute and that you can come at me – so nah, sometimes you need a reminder. I will clap back!

Brandy: I just feel like conversations online lose a lot of nuance and it can be hard to read tone and intention.

Justina: I think we need both types, though. I mean, Brandy is going to get invited to places I won’t because people won’t see her as a threat and then she can let me know what’s what when she’s there.

Brandy: Ooh, good point! And I don’t do it purposely to avoid publisher/gatekeeper backlash. But I know I’m better in person.

BBS:  Dhonielle, your clap backs always make me smile because you definitely don’t look like you’d come for someone. Then you do and it’s like – yessss!

Justina: My editor and publisher know what I’m about and I told them that nothing was going to change.  I do give my editor a courtesy heads up when I’m about to go in on a Harper book, though. Just so he knows to expect the hate mail.

Brandy: I think it’s ultimately good to be outspoken, but then I always say that whatever you need to know about my thoughts is in my books. And if you need to know more, catch me on a panel or in person somewhere.

Justina: Great point.

BBS: How about the flip side…do you believe being vocal is something readers are going to come to expect from authors, particularly YA authors? Are the days where keeping your own views separate from your body of work gone?

Justina: Oh, most definitely.

Brandy: That’s a great question. I do at least try to re-tweet people I respect and admire who are more eloquent or educated about a topic. So then anyone who comes to my feed knows, for example, that I fully support Colin Kaepernick and his protests.

Dread nationJustina: I think that with social media such an integral part of life, people assume you are for the same things they are for unless you speak up. For better or worse. So, I fully expect young readers to reach out to their favorite authors when they read something that offends them and go “WTF?” And I think that is the changing face of critique.

There’s a section of the population that wants the media they consume to be from people who uphold their values. Authors are going to have to learn to cocoon themselves or accept being more involved in reader response.

Brandy: But then my question is if you cover these topics thoroughly and make your opinion known in your books, is it okay to let other people have the mic online? I do struggle with that as an intensely private person. But I still want it known what I’m about.

Justina: Oh, definitely. It think it takes all kinds.

BBS:  Where your book topics are concerned, I can see that.  But I’ve seen both Justina and Dhonielle speak out on other topics that wouldn’t necessarily be anything related to what they write. Many authors, now, are so vocal about the political climate. Or feminism.  Things that are controversial and have clear “sides.”

Brandy: Those are the conversations I’m having with friends and colleagues but sometimes it just seems like an echo chamber. And I wonder, do we *really* need my voice added to this right now?

Justina: Yeah, I struggle with this because even though I’m vocal online, I’m also very private.  I never name my kid or husband, and I mostly talk about stuff that has little to do with my day to day life. But I also think it’s important to look at something and say “That’s not okay, and here’s why.” In publishing, that does tend to be an echo chamber.

I mostly am there to make sure the well meaning white liberals in publishing don’t get too comfortable.

Brandy: And we love ya for it.

BBS: What “soap box” are you on related to publishing, the YA community, librarianship/teachers or anything else connected to getting more of our books out there and recognized?

The-Belles-High-Res (1)Dhonielle: I wanna be on the Tell The Truth soap box.

Justina: Go in!

Dhonielle: We have spent so much time catering to white folks feelings and I’m done with that part of the program.

Brandy: I’m on the All of our Stories Matter soapbox.  That’s All of our BLACK Stories Matter, in case that wasn’t clear. I sometimes feel the YA community gets a little too comfortable with *only* promoting stories of black pain. And that makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Dhonielle: Preach!

BBS: Someone else said that recently and it just really hit me that a lot of our books ARE about pain.

Brandy: Yes! And my books fit that mold, to some degree. But it seems like some gatekeepers and readers are only comfortable reading books about black people that take them completely out of their neighborhood or comfort zone instead of confronting, say, the liberal racism in their own backyards.

Dhonielle: Preach, Brandy!

BBS: There’s a difference in exploiting that narrative and trying to help kids find a way through what are real experiences in a community. Yes?

Brandy: Exactly. The exploitation is the key difference.

Justina: I’m on the For Us By Us soap box.

Brandy: FUBU!!

Justina: BRINGING IT BACK!  That includes promoting and supporting younger Black authors and aspiring Black authors. I would also like to see less stories about Black pain and how awful it is to be Black in general, but I think it’s going to be a while before we get there.

BBS: Well here’s hoping that’s not the case! It was my pleasure to bring these ladies to this year’s 28 Days Later spotlights. If anything said here can help make the publishing journey and overall publishing experience better for writers of color, then I’ve done my job.