Friday, May 2, 2014


As a child of the 60's, I really didn't see myself in many picture books. I didn't see me reflected in Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty Magazines or Golden Children's books. My parents would buy my sister and I these wonderful books and magazines because it was important to be a kid, but it often saddened and frustrated them that the books didn't reflect the people in our home. One day, I went to school and a teacher named, Mrs. Russell, put me on her lap and showed me a wonderful book by Ezra Jack Keats. That book would change my life. "The Snowy Day". Mr. Keats would be one of the first illustrators of children's books that would have a chocolate boy center stage in his book. Peter looked like me. He was beautiful. I never heard a word Mrs. Russell read honestly. It was the pictures that told me the story. It was Peter's cute little brown face against his cozy red snowsuit. It was his mama who looked just like my mama! It had everything to do with his daddy that looked like my daddy. Peter and I were sister and brother in my head and the pictures that Ezra created proved it. The Snowy Day is 50 years old and I just turned 50 last year. It saddens me deeply that we still don't see children of color in books as often as I would like. Of the 3,500 pictures books created last year, only 95 represented people of color. We live in a very multicultural world and it is my joy to be reflected this in the books and product that I create. I would hope that others would begin to feel the same. Don't get me wrong, we have a few, but not enough. I love Mr. Keats's reply to an editor. She asked," Why did you make Peter black? Are you trying to make a statement or something?" Mr. Keats answered, "I put Peter there simply because he should have been there all along." I feel the same way. I believe that ALL children should be represented in Children's book! They all need to see themselves in everyday situation that encourage imagine, diversity , problem solving and community. Every child deserves this. #WENEEDDIVERSEBOOKS

10 comments:

Mechelle said...

Hey Vanessa! I just made the big 50 a few months ago. You are so right that we need more representation in children's books. I thought it was a lot more than what you quoted. Hopefully, the publishers will take notice, but we also need to support these books.

Melissa Saylor said...

Amen, my friend.

Bella Sinclair said...

What a beautiful and earnest post, dear Miss V. I agree. And in children's books, especially, there's potential for positive impact. Teach the children while they are young that there is value in loving and respecting everyone. To think that you are like Mr. Keats to another young child out there...sends waves of happiness through my soul! xoxoxoxo

betsy said...

Beautiful post, Vanessa. xx

Ces Adorio said...

Vee, what a thoughtful post and I understand how you feel about being able to identify with characters as a child. When we were growing up in the Philippines we had books written by local authors and comic books where the characters were Filipinos, so it was easy to identify with them. However, when we went to school, our medium of instructions was English and so we read a lot of books written in English. Sometimes it was difficult to identify with the characters especially if they were talking about snow. Anyhow, I remember still imagining how it would be like to be a kid playing in the snow. I am glad that with today's technology, resources and more authors, we are able to write more books where kids may be able to identify with the characters.

Minnie said...

Well I'm a little older than 50 and I agree it has gotten a lot better but there is still room for improvement. Bless you my friend :-)

Shell said...

Yes and Yes!!! I know you are helping to change this by illustrating books too.

MMm.. said...

I'm so glad I stumbled upon your page. You're a brilliant illustrator. Your girl is so cute. Adore her pants. :)

kj said...

Your talent is equal to your ability to articulate this, vee. Mr, Keats' answer is so spot on. As you know, it's not just about identification. When you don't see yourself and when others don't see you, you start to feel invisible. It's then a small step to 'less than'

You are a treasure and I hope you know it and own it. And damn if you didn't just make a literary decision for me!

Love
kj

Lisa M Griffin said...

I loved this! Plus it was great to be at NESCBWI this past weekend and be a part of this while it all went viral! Great share & big HUGS to you my dear friend. :)