Happy Friday, Friends! It’s an honor to be Piedmont Laureate. Thank you for the warm welcome and support.

During my tenure, I look forward to offering panels, readings, programs and workshops that build bridges and focus on the brilliance, beauty and hope of children’s literature. There’s power in stories, reading those written by others and using your voice to tell your own. I want to honor both.

Part of my mission this year is to raise awareness of the outstanding authors and illustrators in the Triangle and around the state. In celebration of Black History Month, I’m starting by shining a light on Black children’s book creators who call North Carolina home. I’m inspired by their work and grateful for the ways they empower, captivate and affirm young readers.

There are so many that I’m saluting them in two posts. Part I is below. Look for Part II next week. Please check out their books and consider adding them to home, school and library collections.

Derrick D. Barnes

Newbery Honor Winner. New York Times bestselling author. Two-time Kirkus Prize Award Winner. Derrick has written more than a dozen books for young people that touch hearts along with snagging critical acclaim. His beloved titles include Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and I Am Every Good Thing, both illustrated by Gordon James (see below) and The King of Kindergarten illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton (check out her work next Friday). Learn more about Derrick at www.derrickdbarnes.com.

Tameka Fryer Brown

With award-winning books including Around Our Way on Neighbors’ Day illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb, My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood illustrated by Shane W. Evans and Brown Baby Lullaby illustrated by A.G. Ford, Tameka has become known for her jazzy, poetic style and picture books packed with joy and meaning. She has more gems on the way including a bio on Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress and the first to run for a major party nomination for president. Learn more about Tameka at www.tamekafryerbrown.com.

Tracy Deonn

She knocked it out of the park with her debut young adult novel, Legendborn, earning a spot on the New York Times bestseller list and winning the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent. Set on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, Tracy’s stand-out title has been called a reimagining of Arthurian legend and thrilling celebration of Black girl magic. Learn more about Tracy at www.tracydeonn.com.

Judy Allen Dodson

Historian. Archivist. Librarian. Advocate for Diverse Children’s Books. With her poignant debut novel, Escape From . . . Hurricane Katrina, you can add author to her stellar list of roles. In a powerful story of courage, determination, resilience and family bonds, Judy gives us twin heroes who weather a devastating storm outside and the emotional storm of a mom battling cancer. Learn more about this Junior Library Guild title and what’s on the way at www.judyallendodson.com.

Chrystal D. Giles

Her acclaimed middle-grade debut, Take Back the Block, explores gentrification, heritage, friendship and home. It is a Junior Library Guild selection and Kids’ Indie Next Pick. Chrystal’s poem, “Dimples,” is featured in the poetry anthology, Thanku: Poems of Gratitude. Learn more about her at www.chrystaldgiles.com.

Fracaswell “Cas” Hyman

Actor. Producer. Award-winning TV writer. Cas is full of storytelling magic. What a gift that he uses his talent to create middle-grade novels too. His first book, Mango Delight, earned a starred Booklist review and was named a Teachers’ Pick by Amazon. Lucky for us the charming sequel, Summer in the City, debuted last year. Learn more about Cas at www.fracaswellhyman.com.

Gordon C. James

He says this on his website: “When people see my art I want them to say, I know that person, I know that feeling.” Gordon has people around the country feeling seen and loved. His award-winning books include Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, one of the most decorated books at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards, I Am Every Good Thing and Let ‘Er Buck! written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Learn more about Gordon at www.gordoncjames.com.

Did you enjoy learning about these creators? Come back next Friday to discover more.