Interview with Katheryn Russell-Brown

It’s back to days of alarm clocks and paying attention in class.
This summer I found a new author who will be easy to pay attention to, for Bookseedstudio’s first interview of the fall semester.

I met the author of LITTLE MELBA and HER BIG TROMBONE
after sweet trombone sounds accompanied her lively library talk.

It was the most musical children’s book signing I’ve ever attended.

Extra fun floated through the room of our downtown library, because Dr. Russell-Brown’s daughter Sasha, a fifth-grader, stood proudly on stage, playing select notes on her very own big trombone.
When the author kindly asked if a little boy in the enrapt audience
wanted to try out Sasha’s big trombone, he did! It almost felt like it
could be a scene from the author’s lyrical Coretta Scott King honor book, illustrated beautifully by Frank Morrison with signature elongated touches. But, we were attending another nourishing event
for readers at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library.

images

Some background, from the story

Melba Doretta Liston grew up pushing the pedals on a player piano, while
beloved aunties danced in the living room. She was blessed with a mom who
bought the seven-year-old girl a trombone on the spot when Melba spied it offered
by a Kansas City traveling vendor. She insisted THAT was the instrument for her!
The rest is history. A history not widely known.
But it’s told for young readers via a spirited storytelling style in LITTLE MELBA.

Melba was one of the first women of any race to become a world-class trombone virtuoso – playing, composing and arranging. The back-of- the-book material shows a photograph of Melba with Quincy Jones. She also played for many others,
including Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin and the Supremes.

artwork c. 2014 copyright, al rights reserved FRANK MORRISON from Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

artwork c. 2014 copyright, al rights reserved FRANK MORRISON from Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Melba experienced discrimination based on her race and for being a woman in a male-dominated artistic realm. Yet she performed all over the world, received many honors such as Jazz Master designation from the National Endowment for the Arts, and she eventually formed her own band. She was composing as recently as the 1990s. She was born in 1926 and died in 1999.

You might suspect the author is a music teacher but at the University of Florida College of Law, she is Dr. Katheryn Russell-Brown, professor of law and
director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations.

I know you’ll want to learn more about the author of LITTLE MELBA and HER BIG TROMBONE (Lee & Low Books) so let me bring her onstage.

Favorite music to listen to.
I’m a rhythm & blues girl, with particular affection for 1970s r & b. My list of favorite bands and singers is long. Let’s see, I love Earth Wind & Fire, the Isley Brothers, the O’Jays, the Spinners, James Brown, the Emotions, the Whispers, Maze, Stevie Wonder, Heatwave, the Commodores, Rufus, Kool & the Gang, the Jackson 5, Deniece Williams, the Dramatics…. I could go on for pages, there were so many amazing groups of musicians.

Author you’d like to meet.
Hands down, Toni Morrison. She writes with a twinkle in her eye. She is a masterful writer. Her fiction has received lots of attention but she also wields a mighty pen when writing non-fiction (“Birth of a Nation ‘Hood) and she’s written children’s books to boot (my kids love “The Big Box”).

What fact about Melba Doretta Liston amazes you the most?
Her incredible intellect and perseverance.

How did you learn about Melba Liston?
I heard a wonderful NPR radio broadcast in 2010 called, “Melba Liston: Bones of an Arranger,” narrated by Nancy Wilson.

Some favorite children’s movies.
I have two favorites. “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (the original with Gene Wilder) is one. It was absolutely magical. I saw it at the MacArthur/Broadway Mall in Oakland in 1971, when it first came out. The movie house was packed with kids who had been dropped off by their parents.

I also love “The Wiz” (1978). The music, the acting, and the production were fantastic. I’m thrilled that it will be back on Broadway next year. I’m taking my kids!

Future projects.
I have a few more stories up my sleeve. Please stay tuned!


Thank you, Katheryn.
It will be a pleasure to listen & stay tuned for more of your books.
Here is a website about LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE
https://www.leeandlow.com/books/2854
Here is a website about Katheryn Russell-Brown
http://krbrown.net/CHILDRENS.html

Those of us who are filling our book baskets with titles to read
this school year will want to add in LITTLE MELBA, which is a Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book, illustrated by Frank Morrison. It fits several good connections including stories on

high-achieving girls & women

African-American role models

musical instrumentals, jazz & orchestras

Here are two websites about children’s books on girls & women
Amelia Bloomer List/ALA
https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/

KidLit Celebrates Women’s History Month (article by Katheryn Russell-Brown,
which includes a link to a video of a grown up Melba, performing)

http://kidlitwhm.blogspot.com/2015/03/little-melba-and-her-big-trombone.html

Here are two websites about books on African-American topics
Coretta Scott King Book Awards
http://www.ala.org/emiert/cskbookawards
The Brown Bookshelf
http://thebrownbookshelf.com/about/

Here is a website about children’s books on music

https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/childrens-music

I hope your school year sings.

Advertisements

Nelson Mandela by J. Patrick Lewis

copyright KADIR NELSON

copyright KADIR NELSON

 

July 18th is a day for Mr. Nelson Mandela, who said,

 

“It is within your hands to make of our world, a better world for all.”

 

Thank you, Anastasia Suen & POETRY FRIDAY & J. Patrick Lewis.

The J. Patrick Lewis poem gives me goose bumps, especially at one line:

Nelson Mandela International Day poem by J. Patrick Lewis.

 

Here is more on Mr. Mandela, Nobel winning peace maker:

http://www.mandeladay.com/

And here is even more, from his Foundation:

http://www.nelsonmandela.org/content/page/biography

And finally, from Alicia Lewis Murray, (I don’t know if there is a Lewis-Lewis connection..)  here is a look at Mr. Mandela from the perspective of children’s books:

http://www.balancingmotherhood.com/2013/12/12/nelson-mandela-childrens-book/

The artwork here is from KADIR NELSON’s exceptional book, NELSON MANDELA as displayed with Alicia’s article.

 

A young poet in character

The poet Naomi Shihab Nye edited the poetry anthology SALTING THE OCEAN, which is afloat with the vibrant writings of young poets. Like Nye, I think that attention paid to young poet voices can build peace, provide future strong leaders and just make any poet’s day.

If you agree, Poetry Out Loud,  is a brilliant program you may want to run out & connect with. I volunteered with POL recently & hope to help out more, next time around.

In the 1950s in my state, Florida, a Putlizer-Prize winning author thought about a young poet.

In doing so, the author created a character not seen often then. An elementary-age poet character. If you know of a recent (within 3 years or forthcoming) picture book or illustrated book (not YA, which pays tribute to teen poet charactersoften enough) for children that features a elementary age character who is a poet, I would like to know for my list.

In the meantime, young poet Calpurnia is a character to consider. She is inspired by her dog, to write poetry:

 

My dog’s name is Buggy-horse

         Of course.

 

Our young poet further writes:

 

Lovely day,

Come what may.

         If I did not love

                           my mother

                                    and my father

 

         I would run away.

         Because

                           it is a running-away

         Kind of day.

from THE SECRET RIVER

 

With the birds chit-chittering outside my open window

 

With the two kinds of azalea in the yard (native & exotic) nodding pink petals on the March breeze

 

With my Western cousins having just swept through town on their way home, enticing us with video of their kayak adventures among manatees, alligators and living whelks

It

feels like

a running-away day.

I can’t run.

Why –

just been away in Boston & then immediately after, Central Florida

hosting a critique meeting soon

have 3 essay deadlines

And mostly, my writing deserves this keyboard time.

But – if you are north of Garden Zone 8 &  your winter has lasted longer than usual this year, is it time for your running-away day?

I hope so, remembering the advice of one of my favorite writers for children, Cynthia Rylant, who said that instead of reading an interview with her online, a writer should probably go and play.

 

Did you guess the adult creator of the young poet who was inspired by her dog?

It is Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, in THE SECRET RIVER.

Timeless, lovely story, in each of its two editions:

 

THE SECRET RIVER  by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

THE SECRET RIVER
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

 

 

THE SECRET RIVER by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings illustrated by  Leo & Diane Dillon

THE SECRET RIVER by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
illustrated by
Leo & Diane Dillon

 

 

 

 

notes – Mother’s Day Weekend 2012

A very good ‘bye & two hellos

Anne Rudloe/Butterflies On A Sea Wind

Suitably for a memorial,  clouds opened up Sunday May 13 in time for umbrellas to pop like mushrooms, among congregants arriving at church to reflect upon the life of author & scientist Anne Rudloe.  Because she was a Buddhist teacher I wondered if we would find jewel- tone prayer flags & sandalwood incense & perhaps the sound of a delicate small gong?  Instead, lovely hymns & also some Gershwin & The Sound of Music. Many smiles & tears. Loving tributes to her life, where she enriched so many. Departure was in pure sunshine, drops dancing off tree leaves, shimmery glints along the path home. Good wishes to Family &  Gulf Marine Specimen folks.

FAITH RINGGOLD. She stood up the whole hour she spoke. She is 81.

&  FAITH RINGGOLD/c. Jan Godown Annino

After decades of world-wide accolades, she still had to outfox an oily art dealer who intended to keep her Clinton family portrait rather than pass it on as intended. With her husband Birdie helping, she put it directly into grateful hands at the White House. Her sparkling mural mosaics are lesser known than the totemic story quilts that are catalysts for children’s books.

She read from her witty new bullying poetry.  Public school kids in NYC knew her as their art teacher, before she quit to spend time with her other talents. California college students call her professor.Thanks, FSU Fine Arts folks.

ANDREA DAVIS PINKNEY. Wow. Never imagined two years ago when I presented at the library on SIT IN, a Brian Pinkney-illustrated history for young readers of Greensboro, N.C. desegregation by brave students, that the author would be presenting on it herself.

The interactive event that covered many children’s literature titles, found us stretching our credulity to see if we thought our cat lounging at home could talk & narrate a story & also asking ourselves how we would respond to hot coffee & catsup being poured on our heads. A lively & deep talk, all the more special because of the all-ages audience.

Pinkney sets her alarm for 4 a.m. She writes every day.  Thanks, LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library folks.

Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney