When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part. - We Need Diverse Books
Oge Mora, Vanessa Brantley-Newton and Vashti Harrison are three black female illustrators who are using their talents and love of art and books to bring black and brown skinned characters and diversity to children's picture books. These women are an exemplary examples of #BlackGirlMagic! I love their work, what it represents and how deeply impactful it is on the communities of color.
Being able to share books with not only my own daughters, but all the black and brown skinned girls and boys that enter the library fills me with joy. There is no greater moment at work than handing a stack of books to a child or family and seeing their faces light up when they see themselves in the stories they are reading.
"I always wanted to illustrate children's books and I never grew out of them. Since the field is so incredibly competitive I never thought it was a viable profession, but I am so glad I was wrong!"
Oge Mora is somewhat new to the picture book world, but she knew she wanted a career as an artist and to illustrate children's books even at a young age. Mora graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in illustration in 2012. Her 2018 debut book, Thank You, Omu!, won all the major awards and honors, including 2019 Caldecott Honor and winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award.
As the daughter of immigrant parents from Nigeria, Oge Mora's art work is a reflection of her Nigerian heritage and her upbringing in Columbus, Ohio. Oge Mora fills her books with vibrant illustrations done in a medley of cut paper, paint and china markers collaged together to bring life to her stories that celebrate people coming together.
My Mission: " I want all children to see themselves represented and celebrated in picture books. I desire to intentionally create illustrations that remain indelibly imprinted on the hearts and minds of kids and kids at heart. Images that inspire, uplift and make you laugh out loud."
Vanessa Brantley-Newton is a self-taught illustrator, doll maker, and crafter. She studied fashion illustration at FIT and children's book illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
This phenomenal author, illustrator and storyteller often shares how not seeing herself in books is what drove her to want to write and create characters that beautifully represent all children. Her signature style of vibrant colors and unique patterns and fabrics can not be missed. Vanessa Brantley-Newton's stories and illustrations capture the beauty of all races and backgrounds.
“It’s intimidating to know that my books are in the hands of children but I tried to put care and love into them...”
Vashti Harrison is an author, illustrator, and filmmaker with a love of drawing, painting and storytelling. She attended the University of Virginia to earn her BA in Media Studies and Studio Art with concentrations in Film and Cinematography and her MFA in Film and Video from CalArts.
She is known for the colorful expressive depictions of her characters. Harrison says, “I make my people with simple faces because I want kids to be able to draw them and include what they see so they can turn them into whomever they like”. Vashti Harrison uses her love for both film and illustration to craft beautiful stories for children.
#OwnVoices at Richland Library is a way for African American staff to provide thoughtful and well written book reviews, book lists and blog posts to promote African American authors and their work about the African American experience. The series invites our customers to learn one more way we are continuing the conversation in our community and speaking our voice. Find more resources on race, equity and inclusion, here.