Happy Book Birthday, Jada!

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Art by Vanessa Brantley Newton

When my daughter was in elementary school, she searched for chapter book series starring girls who looked like her. We found Nikki & Deja, Ruby & the Booker Boys, Dyamonde Daniel, Willimena Rules! and Sassy. She treasured those great stories but longed for more.

Where were the chapter books about black girls who loved science? Where were the ones about black girls who felt awkward as they navigated friendships or froze when faced with public speaking? She read countless series with white characters. She saw them in prime spots in libraries, bookstores and at school. Why weren’t more series with black characters available too?

As a mom, children’s book author and founding member of The Brown Bookshelf, I know how important it is for kids to see their reflections and know their lives matter. Literary icon Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I took her advice.

Kirkus Reviews says this of Jada Jones: Rock Star: “Easy to read and sprinkled with science, a contemporary tale of friendship, loss, acceptance, and learning how to be who you are and rock what you’ve got.” Book 2, Jada Jones: Class Act, is the story of Jada running for student council and finding her voice.

People often ask how I came up with Jada Jones. Well, guess what? I didn’t find Jada. She found me. I heard her in my daughter’s voice, saw her in the eyes and smiles of girls I met when I visited schools. Smart, sincere and big-hearted,  Jada and her friends represent the beautiful kids I know who deserve to be the stars of stories too.

A big thank you to the best team around: illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton, my editor Renee Hooker and the Penguin Workshop crew, my agent Caryn Wiseman, my family and friends. And special thanks to the wonderful children I am honored to serve. Today, I’ll share cupcakes with my husband and kids and toast with sparkling cider. My birthday wish is for Jada to connect with children, help fill a void and soar.

 

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