NEW YORK, NY (Spring 2009)
Thirteen African American artists, including award-winning and bestselling illustrators Bryan Collier and Leo and Diane
Dillon, pay tribute to the pioneers who each helped propel their generation into the civil rights movement, and eventually
into the White House.
OUR CHILDREN CAN SOAR
A CELEBRATION OF ROSA, BARACK, AND THE PIONEERS OF CHANGE
written by Michelle Cook with a foreword by Marian Wright Edelman
(April 2009) is a distinctive homage to the artists, athletes, and architects of imagination and determination who paved the
way for themselves, their children, and their children's children. Spare prose and vivid imagery make this a truly unique,
accessible, and inspirational picture book to be savored by readers of all ages.
Bloomsbury plans a 100,000 copy first printing for its April 14th publication. Our Children Can Soar will include
illustrations by Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Award winners R. Gregory Christie, Bryan Collier, Leo and Diane Dillon, E.
B. Lewis, and James Ransome, as well as Cozbi A. Cabrera, Pat Cummings, AG Ford, Frank Morrison, Charlotte Riley-Webb, Shadra
Strickland, and Eric Velasquez. Collectively, this group has won more than thirty awards for their visual storytelling. Each
artist will render a historical figure—such as George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson, Ruby Bridges, and Martin Luther
King—in his or her unique style, reflecting the singular contribution of the person they're honoring.
"It is one of this job's greatest pleasures to watch a team of creative people eagerly collaborating, engaged and inspired by
a project. What a privilege it has been to work with some of the greatest artistic talents of the day," said Michelle H.
Nagler, editorial director, Bloomsbury Children's Books. "This is a unique moment in our nation's history, and naturally we
all want to celebrate it in book form. Hopefully, as befits Bloomsbury's style, we've done so in a lasting and timeless way."
It was nineteen simple, but eloquently phrased words that inspired the publication of this picture book commemorating this
landmark moment in our country's history?the election of Sen. Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. A
phrase, which rose up from Obama's election campaign, became the seed for Our Children Can Soar, encapsulating the cumulative
story that is history: "Rosa sat so Martin could walk; Martin walked so Barack could run; Barack ran so our children can
fly." The refrain informed the text, which highlights pivotal figures in African American history, but it is the thirteen
award-winning and up-and-coming African American artists' contributions that formed the story.
An editor/author writing under a pseudonym, Cook says she is thrilled to collaborate with Bloomsbury Children's Books to
develop this unique and inspirational text.
MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN
A lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans, she is also the Founder and President of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF).
Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families.
The bestselling author of the award-winning Martin's Big Words, among other titles, Collier is himself an inspiration to
young artists. When he's not painting, he spends his time visiting schools and encouraging young artists and readers, as well
as directing mural programs throughout New York City for any child that wants to paint. These murals reflect the culture and
the environment and serve as legacies for the future and the makers of history.
LEO AND DIANE DILLON
During their fifty years of collaboration, the Dillons have earned two Caldecott Awards and have created more than
twenty-five picture books capturing our ever-evolving culture with their vivid storytelling and arresting images such as The
People Could Fly; Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears; Ashanti to Zulu; and Earth Mother.
R. GREGORY CHRISTIE
The three-time Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner has illustrated the biographies of many significant historical and
cultural figures, including Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Sojourner Truth. Christie is a regular contributor to the
New Yorker, paints album covers, travels internationally producing live paintings, and generates work for magazines and
publishing companies in his Brooklyn studio. www.gas-art.com
AG FORD: The New York Times bestselling illustrator of Barack, Ford began drawing at a young age and quickly learned that he
had a talent for depicting what he saw with a pencil and paper. He is also an editorial artist for Black Enterprise magazine,
Highlights for Children, Boys' Life, and the Dallas Observer. http://www.agfordilustration.com
E. B. LEWIS
The Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator of more than thirty-five picture books grew up in
Philadelphia and was inspired to become an artist in third grade by his two uncles. When he's not painting, Lewis visits
schools, hoping to inspire other young artists as he himself was. And he has, as one teacher noted after he met with her
students: "There was one sixth-grade boy in particular that began to cry when you were talking about your life as a child. .
.I think you gave him hope, something he never had, that he could become someone special if he found a passion and worked at
The Children's Book Council named Ransome one of the seventy-five authors and illustrators everyone should know. He has won
numerous awards for his picture books, among them the Coretta Scott King Award, the NAACP Image Award for Illustration, and
he received The Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance Award for The Wagon. He has completed several commissioned murals for
the Children's Museum in Indianapolis, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, as well as a poster
for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Brown vs. the Board of Education. http://www.jamesransome.com
COZBI A. CABRERA
Trained as an art director, Cabrera left creating music packaging to illustrate picture books such as Stitchin' and Pullin'
by Patricia C. McKissack, and Thanks A Million by Nikki Grimes, and makes handmade collectible cloth muñecas (dolls), in
honor of her Honduran heritage. She also runs a retail shop in Brooklyn selling her one-of-a-kind creations.
Her father was in the army and she attended a different school every year until her junior year in high school, she found
that drawing was the medium and means that helped her integrate as a new student. Cummings has said of her more than
twenty-five picture books: "I like to write and draw characters who have a strong sense of themselves, no matter how young
they are. Most of all, I hope readers feel they have gotten something positive out of the time they've spent between the
covers of just one of my books."http://www.patcummings.com
Colorful "tags" were what first brought Morrison attention as an artist; later he became known as a "B-boy-break-dancer" on
the crew of R&B star Sybil and The Sugar Hill Gang. While touring Europe with Sybil, he visited the Louvre and "met his
muse". As he walked its halls, he was consumed by what he saw and was reminded of what he had unconsciously been reaching for
in his graffiti pieces; he recognized realms of color, style, and passionate expression. Now his art graces the walls of the
homes of New Orleans Sen. Gregory Tarver and Bill Cosby, and it has enhanced the settings of television's Malcolm and Eddie,
New York Undercover, and Cosby. Zazzy Miz Mozetta and Sweet Music in Harlem are two of his acclaimed picture books. He was
recently humbled when his work was displayed in conjunction with Romare Bearden originals. http://www.morrisongraphics.com
The acclaimed illustrator of Bird has said that her mother nurtured the artist in her before she even knew what "art" was.
She fostered in her an appreciation of nature and showed her how to find beauty in the most mundane aspects of life.
Strickland grew up in Atlanta during a time of prosperity and growth for the black community and has said there never was the
sense that "I could not. All of the music and media that I was exposed to told me I could. Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder,
The Cosby Show, all of this, infused throughout my childhood, illustrated the idea that life had no boundaries." Strickland
earned her MFA at New York's School of Visual Arts and currently freelances as an illustrator and a graphic designer, using
drawing as a way to interpret her world. http://www.shadrastrickland.com
As a child, Velasquez's love of drawing was strongly encouraged by his mother; from his grandmother he inherited a love of
music; and from his father he developed a love of film. Growing up in this setting, Velasquez says, "becoming an artist was a
natural choice for me. I have never thought of being anything else." Velasquez's first picture book, The Piano Man, earned
him a Coretta-Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. Since then he has beautifully rendered the stories of the
underground railroad, Jesse Owens's Olympic feats, and his childhood hero, Muhammad Ali. http://www.ericvelasquez.com
Among her many awards and accomplishments, Riley-Webb has been the recipient of several Georgia Council and Bureau of
Cultural Affairs grants; was one of fourteen artists nationally to receive the Absolut Vodka's Heritage Award, resulting in a
six-city tour; and was asked by the High Museum to run a workshop comparing her work to that of Jacob Lawrence. She has also
illustrated: Rent Party Jazz; Sweet Potato Pie; and Entrance Place of Wonders, based on poems from the Harlem Renaissance.
Bloomsbury Children's Books USA, a division of Bloomsbury Publishing USA, was launched in 2002 as a general-interest
publisher of children's books for readers of all ages. The imprint publishes such award-winning and best-selling authors as
Newbery Honor winner Shannon Hale, Herbie Brennan, Julianne Moore, Alexander McCall Smith, Dale Peck, Celia Rees, Sloane
Tanen, Margaret Atwood, and E. D. Baker. In the UK, Bloomsbury is the publisher of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.
OUR CHILDREN CAN SOAR
A CELEBRATION OF ROSA, BARACK, AND THE PIONEERS OF CHANGE
written by Michelle Cook; illustrated by various artists
ISBN: 978-1-59990-418-4/$16.99/April 2009
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- Deb Shapiro 646-438-6070