The illustration above is one of the first I took on with the specific intent of building a Children's Book Portfolio. It answers a question for me about what getting into Children's Books can mean. Making a difference for the young ones that are coming up behind me. In remembrance of the recently ended Reading Rainbow televison series.
Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high
Take a look, it's in a book - Reading Rainbow.
I can go anywhere! Friends to know and ways to grow - Reading Rainbow.
I can be anything! Take a look, it's in a book - Reading Rainbow.
Reading Rainbow, Reading Rainbow, Reading Rainbow, Reading Rainbow!
I came across an article on Don Tate's blog. An open letter to the publishing industry by Zeta Elliot. The article largely focusses on the lack of an African American presence within the industry and how the primary reason for this is monetarily driven. Consider me befuddled.
I think I took for granted that most minorities were being represented within the industry. And when I say represented I don't mean standing in the background or the best friend of the primary character. I mean the numero uno character and family that the book focusses on. It seems like I see a lot of books that center on Latin, Asian, Jewish or African American culture. (Which always makes me think of how much research I would have to do to properly illustrate some of them. Which actually is quite exciting!) But maybe I notice it so much because I am looking for it and seeking those companies and publishers specifically since I myself am African American.
A lot of my reasoning for considering the children's book industry to be different was in what my research showed me. A prerequisite of Art editors and directors is to see your ability to draw varied ethnicities, body types, ages and genders. Seeing as how this was a pre-requisite for entrance to the "kingdom". I find it disheartening to learn that 95 percent of the product being placed in the market is not reflective of this. The article speaks towards the lack of African American precense. But I often worry about other minorities as well. It's so important for children to identify with heroes and heroines that look like them and come from the neighborhoods and families that they know and understand.
I can personally testify to how hard it is to have the same people who treat you harshly in reality be the only option of heroes that you have to emulate. Which often leads to a person wanting to be like and identify with the same people they find tearing them down on a daily basis and in the end never really liking or loving themselves.
Knowing that I could be a part of a community that works to provide heroes for everyone is a large reason why Children's Book are so attractive to me. I know the amazing impact these things can have on children and I want to be a part of it. So let's make sure we all work toward providing product that every child can come away from feeling special and honored.