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Time to plan for Juneteenth…

29 Mar
For bookings, contact Carmen Oliver:

ALA Youth Media Awards

29 Mar

It’s been a few years since any of my books were honored at the ALAYMA. I think the last was Freedom in Congo Square

Who’s Zoomin’ Who? The Weatherfords are zoomin’ you!

29 Mar

Author and illustrator, mother and son,
An award-winning duo, two for the price of one.
We’ve toured as far as Africa and the Middle East.
What’s cooking now? An enlightening virtual feast.
On the menu, books and lessons from our careers,
and powerful poetry that pleases students’ ears.
We’ll share our research and how we create.
We’ll talk injustices that have sparked debate.
We’ll spotlight heroes and anti-racist themes.
We’ll answer tough questions and inspire big dreams.
We’re coming to your school via Skype or Zoom.
We can’t wait to visit. Book your date soon!

Free downloads: R-E-S-P-E-C-T poster & teachers guide

26 Mar

BOX by the Numbers

24 Mar

R-E-S-P-E-C-T backstory

15 Dec

Why and how I wrote a picture book biography of Aretha Franklin.

Behind Marilyn Monroe’s Mask

16 Sep
Mask with Marilyn’s red pout and signature beauty mark.

Read my article on Medium.

Book Birthday Musings on BEAUTY MARK & Marilyn Monroe

8 Sep

While the #MeToo movement rocked Hollywood, I noticed teens of all ethnicities rocking Marilyn Monroe gear. The seeming irony led me to re-examine the 1950s sex symbol and to write Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe.

My research found a woman who was so much more than the blond bombshell she portrayed. In the book, Monroe emerges as a feminist, businesswoman and ally, who spoke up against sexual harassment, rebelled against the studio system, started her own production company, and used her clout to fight racism.

Beauty Mark, the first young adult book about Monroe, reveals that Marilyn’s relevance is as enduring as her allure.


26 Aug

My picture book biographies are encomia–also known as paeans or praise songs.

Over the years, I have sung the praises of divas, athletes, jazz legends, photographers and freedom fighters, among them Harriet Tubman, saxophonist John Coltrane, the Obamas, and most recently, Aretha Franklin. I paint my subjects as they might wish to be seen.

Often, my encomia take cues from the subjects themselves. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, illustrated by Frank Morrison, takes its title from, and riffs on, Aretha’s 1967 hit.

Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream and You is a call-and-response litany of virtues and values. And Before John Was A Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane blows like a saxophone.

Vivid verbs rev up Racing Against the Odds: The Story of Wendell Scott, Stock Car Racing’s African-American Champion, illustrated by Eric Velasquez.

And my biographies of photographers are deliberately cinematic.

My classic biography, Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, follows Harriet’s spiritual quest. With allusions to African-American spirituals, the narrative unfolds through conversations between Harriet and God.

Stay tuned for my first encomium to a writer, and more to women leaders and to natives of Maryland and North Carolina, states I call home.

Interactive Books (no batteries required)

15 Aug

A teacher friend told me that Freedom in Congo Square was the first book that one struggling student learned to read. The student’s mother, also a teacher, cried as her daughter read aloud. No doubt, the book’s interactive elements played a part in this small victory. Interactivity fosters reading comprehension and fluency.

My interactive books fall under three categories: books with rhyming refrains, books with call-and-response, and books with hooks. These structures engage listeners during read-alouds.

Refrains Like Playground Rhymes

Both Sugar Hill and Jazz Baby use repetition to celebrate Black culture. The recurring line “Sugar Hill, Sugar Hill where life is sweet” conveys Harlem’s energy. “Jazz baby, jazz baby” signals the interplay between musicians and listeners. One toddler loved Jazz Baby so much that he slept with the book.


With the phrase, “You can be a King,” this un-biography lifts up leadership traits that students can emulate. Before John Was a Jazz Giant, also repeats part of its title to conjure the sounds of Coltrane’s childhood.

Books with Hooks

The Roots of Rap is written as a rap lyric. Freedom in Congo Square is a day-of-the-week countdown celebrating a New Orleans landmark. And R-E-S-P-E-C-T echoes Aretha Franklin’s hit song, using hyphenated terms such as T-A-L-E-N-T and P-R-O-U-D to chart her journey from the church choir to international fame.

Young readers often put these infectious read-alouds on repeat and soon memorize the verses. So, these interactive texts virtually read themselves.