Today’s book list is from Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph illustrator Francis Vallejo. His eight picture books come from his heart; he has a personal connection to each one.
8 Diversity Picture Books That Inspire Francis Vallejo
Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey by Gary Golio, illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez
Latino artist Gutierrez, cover artist for Santana, illustrates the real tale of how Coltrane had to fight through tribulations to later record his greatest music. Rudy fasted while he painted the pieces for this book in an effort to find the appropriate spiritual pace and best channel Cotrane’s sound into pictures. [picture book, ages 10-12]
Petrouchka: The Story of the Ballet by Vivian Werner, illustrated by John Collier
Collier beautifully illustrates the classic Russian tale of a clown-puppet who longs to be free. Personally, Collier is a big inspiration for me, and his combination of thin wash paintings combined with pastel heavily informed my technique for Jazz Day. [picture book, ages 8 and up]
Voices of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustratred by Ekua Holmes
I was privileged to meet Carole and Ekua at the Horn Book awards a few months back and discuss the similarity of this project with my own (non-fiction prose covering an important African American movement illustrated in more aggressive traditional mediums). It is a profound book that does not talk down to the reader and elegantly covers tough subjects. [picture book, ages 9 and up]
Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud That Changed Baseball by David Kelly, illustrated by Oliver Dominguez
Latino artist Dominguez is a good friend. We both attended Ringling College of Art at the same time and share a deep interest in Norman Rockwell’s work. Miracle Mud tells the wild tale of how Lena Blackburne discovered a special mud that can be used to prepare baseballs for MLB games. Through vibrant, classical paintings, Dominguez expertly capture mid-century USA. [picture book, ages 7-10]
We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson
African American artist and writer Kadir Nelson is a legend in children’s books and this is one of his best. Another artist sharing a deep appreciation for Norman Rockwell, Nelson creates incredibly complex and sophisticated paintings that do justice to the heroic tales of the Negro League. [picture book, ages 9-12]
Just the Way You Are by Max Lucado, illustrated by Sergio Martinez
Mexican illustrator Martinez re-interprets the classic story of the connection between parents, children, and the individuality of everyone. Martinez is an expert draftsmen, and beautifully illustrates this story with an rich and influential mixed media technique. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Harlem Hellfighters by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Gary Kelley
The legendary Kelley illustrates a story of how 2,000 black Americans from New York took Harlem music into the heart of war. Kelley uses muted pastel drawings and innovative compositions that again, were very influential to my work. [picture book, ages 10-13]
Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo
So we get to the book the wonderful Roxane Orgill wrote and I illustrated! Here is a video of me talking about the project. The book covers Harlem jazz in 1958 and how a young photographer Art Kane organized the world’s greatest jazz musicians to pose for a now iconic photo. I used thin acrylic washes, pastel, and ink to create the pictures and spent 2.5 years researching and sketching, and 6 months for the final paintings. It is my first picture book and I am so humbled by the overwhelming positive response. If you haven’t gave it a look, I would love you to take a chance on this book and let me know what you think! [picture book, ages 8 and up]
Thanks so much for having me. I hope you take a look at the books I’ve listed here 🙂
GIVEAWAY: Jazz Day The Making of a Famous Photograph
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Francis Vallejo is an award-winning, Detroit based, American artist whose works have been exhibited in major national publications, art galleries, and museums. Vallejo earned his Bachelor’s degree from Ringling College of Art + Design in Sarasota, FL and has since created artwork for a host of notable clients including Candlewick Press, Snapple, VIBE, and Camelbak. He has shown in The Anchorage Museum, The Society of Illustrator’s Museum of American Illustration, Gallery Nucleus, and Pixar studios. Vallejo recently debuted his picture book Jazz Day, written by Roxane Orgill and published by Candlewick Press, to much critical acclaim from the likes of The Boston Globe, Esquire, The Washington Post, and Publishers Weekly as well as winning the 2016 Boston Globe Horn Book award for best Picture Book. He is an Assistant Professor of Illustration at the College for Creative Studies. Vallejo’s work can be characterized by traditional media experimentation with a heavy foot in classical picture making and draftsmanship.
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To find more diverse and multicultural books for children, please check out our Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and Parents. We also have Pinterest board full of ideas: