Author/Illustrator Spotlight: Don Tate

All of us have favorite authors, illustrators and books that we hold dear. Such is the case for me concerning the author/illustrator Don Tate. Being a friend of his on Facebook, I have seen the love he has for children and spreading the word about diverse books. His abundant school visits, including a recent one to Brooklyn, New York, capitalizes on his true enjoyment of what he does. I encourage each of you to communicate with your favorite authors and illustrators and give them concrete feedback on their work. I learned that Don Tate founded the Brown Bookshelf, a blog promoting African American books. He also is a member of “We Need Diverse Books” organization. We all know it is African American History month, but celebrating our children, no matter their culture, should be done every day!

The cartoon-like artwork of Don Tate entices young and old to read about people not familiar to them previously. With simple eloquence, he deftly represents the traits and emotions in the biographical display so the reader understands the life and times of the person conveyed. He has illustrated over 50 books for children and received two awards for his authored titles. He garnered the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor for his book It Jes’ Happened : When Bill Traylor Started to Draw from the Children’s Book Council of Notable Social Studies Books and also was awarded the ALA 2016 Notable Children’s Book for Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. For more information, check out this wonderful interview of Don Tate on what lead him to become an author/illustrator.



It Jes' HappenedIt Jes’ Happened : When Bill Traylor Started to Draw.   In 1939, an 85 year old former slave that had been a witness to the Civil War began drawing on sidewalks and pieces of cardboard with his gouache style of art, all the while being a homeless person. His reflection of lifelong memories in rural Alabama made him a very revered self-taught artist. The artful illustrations by Tate truly encapsulate the era and the experiences of Bill Traylor. (9781600602603. 2012.  Gr. 1-5.)

PoetPoet : The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton.  Don Tate integrates historical context into the life story of George Moses Horton, the first African American poet to be published, protesting slavery in the form of poetry. In the nineteenth century, North Carolina slave Moses taught himself how to read and write by listening intently to the children near-by that were privy to education, unlike himself. You can almost hear George Moses Horton talking out loud, telling his story, as you read this book. What a smart man Horton was to have utilized his gift of writing poetry and to have such a positive impact on so many people. (9781561458257. 2015. Gr. 2-4)

Amazing Age of John Roy LynchThe illustrations by Don Tate in The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton respectfully show the path the dignified legislator took to reach his goal and his positive impact on society.    After emancipation, John Roy Lynch sought education as the gift that would lead him to success, starting out in politics by delivering speeches. During the Reconstruction era,  Lynch was subjected to cruelty, prejudice and criticism, but eventually became one of the first African Americans to be a U.S. Congressman where he became a strong advocate for equal rights. His story is history! (9780802853790. 2015. Gr. 2-5)

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