African American children's literature
"Artists need to fill themselves to overflowing and give it all back." -- E.B. Lewis
E.B. Lewis almost didn’t become an illustrator. Which means he almost did not open a visual pathway to African American culture and history that can be enjoyed by children in libraries and schools all around the country. He thought of himself as an artist, not an illustrator. When he thought of children’s book illustrations, he imagined pictures that were engaging, funny, sometimes almost cartoon-like. That wasn’t for him.
But an agent saw his work and insisted E.B. look at what was going on in children’s books now. As he sat in a bookshop, poring over the many wonderful books available for young audiences, he realized he wanted to be a part of this. He had been teaching art to special needs kids, a job he would have to set aside because publishers were hungry for his art to accompany the great stories they had already bought from the writers. He plunged into illustrating full time, sometimes working 15-to 18-hour days. He’s illustrated dozens of stories, including a Caldecott Honor book, and several projects have won the Coretta Scott King Award.
From African-American history to folktales to album covers, Kadir Nelson has added his glowing and inspired paintings to dozens of projects and gone on to become an award-winning author himself.