First my big news: My first picture book, Grandmama’s Pride, which has stayed in print for 11 years, was released in paperback this month! I was able to create a promotional page for it in the Book Blast of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) website. The SCBWI Book Blast runs until November 18th, showcasing books published in 2016 and written (or illustrated) by SCBWI members. You can visit my page and leave a comment.
In addition to promoting my own book, I had the idea that the Book Blast was an opportunity to get a close-up look at the diversity situation by looking at the sampling or cross section of the current crop of children’s books it offered. I wanted to know the portion of these books about black children, and the portion of those by black authors.
In the Book Blast, 372 books by traditional publishers and 398 independently published books are included, 770 total. I haven’t actually read these new books yet—so I’m basing my categorizing just on the images on the covers and on ascertaining the author’s identity to the best of my ability. Since SCBWI is international, not all the authors are from the United States. Some of the books may be E-books. I’m not looking at Latinx, Asian, or First Nations children and authors, although these groups and others are represented. I also wasn’t able to look at artists. If this kind of scrutiny seems petty, unnecessary, or divisive, you might want to read my last post, Diversity in Children’s Books.
Traditionally Published Books
Of the traditionally published books, 32 showed a black or biracial-black child or adult on the cover, sometimes in combination with other children. (One book by a black writer featured dinosaurs on the cover; another featured aircraft.) 14 books were by black or biracial-black authors—less than half of the 32. Why do publishers continue to think that someone else can tell our stories better than we can? The 14 books comprised 3.76% of the traditionally published books. Here’s the list:
- Alexander, Kwame. Booked
- Birtha, Becky. Grandmama’s Pride
- Frazier, Sundee T. Cleo Edison Oliver, Playground Millionaire
- Hohn, Nadia. Malaika’s Costume
- Hooks, Gwendolyn. Tiny Stitches
- Johnson, Suzan. Aiden the Soccer Star!
- Kendall, Christine. Riding Chance
- Lester, Julius. The Girl Who Saved Yesterday
- Price, Dorothy. Nana’s Favorite Things
- Lyons, Kelly Starling. One More Dino on the Floor
- Trice, Linda. Kenya’s Art
- Weatherford, Carole Boston. You Can Fly: the Tuskeegee Airmen
- Weber, Jen Funk. Been There, Done That: Reading Animal Signs
- Woods, Brenda. Zoe in Wonderland
Independently Published Books
Of the 398 books published independently, 33 featured cover images of black or biracial-black children. 20 books were written by black or biracial authors. (Five of the twenty showed no people on the cover.) The books by black or biracial-black authors comprised 5% of the 398 independently published books. The list:
- Anthonio-Williams, Shameen E. Tulsa Girl
- Burks, Lauryn. Pretty Hand Goes to Paris
- Carter, Tyrone. Tyrone Carter, Kid Scientist
- Cheston, Dexter. Behind the Scenes Looks for FW ’16 – Nail Color: Designer Coloring Book
- Dasent, Joann Frasier. A Farmer, His Son and Their Mule
- Duchatelier, Geraldine and Ford. Ford Says: Listen to Safety Rules
- Duchatelier, Cassandra. Counting by the Lake
- Green, April. The Adventures of Princess Dane Nala: Dane, What About Me?
- Jackson, Nakisha. I Love You Anyway
- Little, Sylvia Hawkins. Illumination: Lewis Howard Latimer Thank a Black Man, Book 1
- Mays, Belinda. 7 Days with Daddy
- Morris,Claudia. Dusty the Circus Mouse
- Prather, Dominique A. A Pajama Extravaganza Mystery
- Richards, Sandra L. Rice and Rocks
- Sherard, Donna. The Splendiferous Adventures of Ryan Odongo: Swahili Safari
- Smith, Charmaine. Skinny Minnie
- Smith, Caylen. Imperfect Hearts – Book 3 of the Guardian Series
- Taylor, Tracy Carol. Something Wicked in the Land of Ahhhs
- Thompson, Dietrich. Joshua’s Amazing Gift
- Topping, Latoyoua. The Big Move
It appears that black authors may be more successful publishing independently, with freedom to have longer titles, and dogs, mice, or teeth as main characters. But the drawback to small press and self-publishing, is that the author must do all her own publicity, marketing, distribution and sales, and possibly her own editing, art directing, and book design, too. Many schools and most libraries won’t consider self-published books. They don’t have the means to evaluate them and there is no one to make sure the books meet standard criteria or to vouch for their quality—two more jobs that publishing houses do).
I really appreciate SCBWI’s including the independently published books in this promotion. They don’t get much press. They look just as exciting as the traditional offerings, and I plan to read as many as I can of each. Black writers and our readers clearly need both types of publishing to get our books out, and we need publicity opportunities for both types, like the Book Blast.