Franki’s Weekly Text Set-Celebrating Black Picture Book Authors and Illustrators

This week, we’ll celebrate some incredible Black authors who write and/or illustrate picture books (and more). I worry when we use February to share books by Black authors because these books should be read, studied and incorporated into the curriculum all year. However, I do appreciate a time to celebrate the work and one event I have loved for years is NCTE’s African American Read-In. Whether you are participating or not, the authors I highlight this week have so many incredible books that have so much to teach young readers and writers. And these are 5 must-have Author Baskets in your classroom library.

Oge Mora has become a favorite author/illustator for me lately. I love so much about her work and the power of her stories for our youngest readers. Fiction, nonfiction, cumulative stories–no matter what she writes, love is a thread through all of her books. So much for readers and writers across elementary and beyond.

Vaness Brantley Newton’s Just Like Me is my go-to for baby girl gifts. The cover is one of my favorite covers of all time. Vanessa Brantley Newton writes fiction, nonfiction and poetry and her illustrations are colorful and draw the reader into every story.

Derrick Barnes is another author who writes incredible picture books (he also has a great nonfiction baseball book that I had to include because I LOVE it!). Each of these books is a celebration and I was thrilled to see that The Queen of Kindergarten is coming soon! (You may recognize Vanessa Brantley Newton’s illustrations on a few of his books.) The stories that celebrate children and the poetic language make these books must-haves.

If you’ve heard me talk books lately, you know that Daddy Speaks Love is one of my new favorites. I think it took this book and looking up the author to realize how many of Leah Henderson‘s books I love. Her writing, the topics she chooses, and her author’s notes are all gifts to readers.

Carole Boston Weatherford shows up in so many of my Text Sets (as you may have noticed) as her work is brilliant and so good across grades and ages. Her writing teaches us about people and times in history in a way that is accessible and honest. Her expertise combined with her writing means that I need every book she writes. I can always count on Carole Boston Weatherford’s work to be work I want to share with children and that I know will help us understand our world better.

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Franki’s Weekly Text Set–Authors Who Write Across Formats and Genres

Finding authors we love is also so important to any reading community, and when we find an author we love, we want to read everything by that author.I love authors whose work spans formats and genres. I love this for readers and for writers in the classroom. As a middle grade teacher, it was so important to. me that both chapter books and picture books are valued in the classroom. Making sure we had author baskets that spanned both is critical. I also love authors that children can grow up with-who have written books for a variety of stages. This week, we’ll take a look at several authors who have such a huge variety of books. This is important for our readers and for our writers.

This week, we’ll start off with the two authors who inspired this text set-Kyle Lukoff and Donna Barba Higuera. Last week, when the awards were announced, I was THRILLED to see Too Bright to See because I am a huge fan. A must read for everyone. And The Last Cuentista was one I had on order but hadn’t read yet. When I looked dup the author after she won the Newbery, I realized she had written a picture book I love-El Cucuy is Scared Too!–and I mentioned to my friend Stella, how much I LOVE authors who write both picture books and chapter books. For our readers, especially in middle grades and beyond, having baskets of books by authors who write both picture books and chapter books can put renewed value in picture books for older children. And as writers, studying an author’s body of work, across formats is always so powerful. Thinking back, I don’t think I thought hard enough about all of the author baskets I SHOULD have had in my classroom like these.

Since we are talking about awards, let’s move right to Grace Lin, who won the 2022 Children’s Literature Legacy Award!! Grace Lin has written so many incredible books–from middle grade novels to picture books, to early series books to math board books. She writes across so many formats and genres. One of my favorite authors to read and definitely a favorite to study as a writer.

Kate Messner and Jess Keating are two of my favorite middle grade writers. I love that they write fiction and nonfiction that is so engaging for this age. And they both write a great deal of both fiction and nonfiction which I love. And so many interesting topics across nonfiction. I also love how often they weave their nonfiction interests into their novels. Both authors have nonfiction series books which I am a huge fan of!

Andrea Davis PInkney and Kwame Alexander have each created such a beautiful collection of poetry in various formats and genres. These two authors have so much to offer both readers and writers. I love that both authors invite readers into poetry in various ways and also invite readers to expand what they read–once they discover one book, they’ll want to read others by the author and naturally expand the types of things they read. And our writers can learn so much about word choice, etc. Love these two!

I will read anything and everything that Jacqueline Woodson and Kate DiCamillo write. These two are both brilliant writers who understand children so well. Their books are well loved by all ages. As with the other authors, they both write such a variety of books. These are also two authors readers can grow up with, always finding something new as they grow as readers. Lucky us to have these two in the world of children’s literature.

This week’s books were linked at Bookelicious. If you don’t know Bookelicious, check it out today. It is an online independent children’s bookstore with an incredible selection of children’s books and many supports for young readers. Lots of great free events for teachers coming up that you can check out and register here

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