Coming Attractions

Posted August 13th, 2014

I love it when children’s books do well in the world. I was excited to join Katherine Paterson at the film premier of Bridge to Terabithia, a couple of years ago, and can’t wait for The Great Gilly Hopkins to hit the big screen. I’m all a-tingle just thinking about the wide release of Lois Lowry’s, The Giver.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars, and the growing number of other Hollywood treatments based on children’s and young adult books.  But—there is a but.

Where, oh where are the films based on children’s and YA titles written by authors of color? Why is no one optioning some of the worthy titles by these authors?

Books into Movies

My question is as much to black filmmakers and black movers and shakers (and Latino, and Asian, and—well you get my drift) as it is to anyone else. There may not be as many moneyed POC in Hollywood as there are whites, but there are certainly a number of heavy hitters I could name. Why aren’t they stepping up to the proverbial plate? I know they have production companies of their own, so why aren’t they making moves to acquire the rights to works by Walter Dean Myers, or Joseph Bruchac, or Angela Johnson, or Grace Lin, or Sharon Draper, or Christopher Paul Curtis, or Matt de la Pena, or Jacqueline Woodson, or—well, we’ve got a decent list of our own. (We may be small, but we are mighty!) And mind you, I’m talking about award-winners, and bestsellers, so the book-to-film audience is there, in case anyone asks. I just wish our affluent counterparts in the film industry would rise up to the dollars and sense to be made by developing our books for the big, or small, screen.

Oprah Winfrey, Will & Jada Smith, Spike Lee, are you listening? BET, what about it? Tyler Perry, what do you think?

What’s it going to take, huh? Look, I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. (Is anything important ever?)  I’m just saying it’s going to be worth it.

Celebrity Children’s Authors and the Publishers Who Love Them, Part 2

Posted August 16th, 2010

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!