I must confess, I’m particularly annoyed by African American celebrities who jump into the children’s book fray because “there are no books for our children,” to which I respond, Huh? Spike Lee made such a claim in a year when I, alone, had five books published. So, I take it he is not only unaware of my contributions to the field over the last 30-plus years, but has also missed out on the substantial catalog of books by Angela Johnson, Pat and Fred McKissack, the Pinkney clan (Andrea, Gloria, Sandra), Tonya Bolden, Sharon Flake, Jerdine Nolen, Carole Boston Weatherford, Wade and Cheryl Hudson, Julius Lester, Walter Dean Myers, Rita Williams-Garcia, Eloise Greenfield, Virginia Hamilton, and so on, and so on. Then there are the host of award-winning illustrators who have brought black books to life: Tom Feelings, Kadir Nelson, George Ford, Eric Velasquez, R. Gregory Christie, Bryan Collier, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Javaka Steptoe, E.B. Lewis, Brian Pinkney, Myles C. Pinkney, and Caldecott winner Jerry Pinkney, and so on, and so on.
To be sure, there is room in the market for many more authors and illustrators of color. And one can certainly harp on the fact that too few black books make the featured wall in the children’s section of, say, Barnes and Noble—which is a rant for another day. But to say that there are no books featuring African American children means that these celebrities have failed to do their homework! Their loudly spoken assertions constitute a slap in the face for those of us African American authors and illustrators who have long toiled in the field. Shame on them!