African-American Children’s Book Fair set for Feb. 3
Children’s author Sharon Flake is using her North Philadelphia roots to help children develop the love of reading.
Though she has not been to the African-American Children’s Book Fair in several years, when she arrives from Pittsburgh she will bring her Disney books that capture the voices of youngsters who live in neighborhoods like Germantown and East Falls, near her old “stomping ground” around the 33rd Street side of Fairmount Park.
Young African American boys will find their counterpart as the main character in “You Don’t Even Know Me.” For Flake this book came about as she noticed that the average Black boy is invisible. He is often overshadowed by the stereotypical rebel or troublemaker who gets most of the press.
“Writing from a child’s perspective is something I was called to do,” Flake said. “I started out writing in college and just knew even before that I could tell stories from a kid’s perspective. After working in P.R. at the University of Pittsburgh for 18 years I finally took that leap of faith to do what I was originally called to do.
“I am writing in the voice of those African-American boys who feel that no one is listening to them,” she added. “That’s why the first story in my collection of short stories is about a boy who wants to get married. So often we don’t think of Black boys wanting to grow up, fall in love and get married.”
Around the time President Barack Obama was elected as the first African-American president, Flake penned “President of the World.”
Though the idea for the book was birthed before the president announced he was running for office, the Philadelphia-born author remembered that while growing up boys she knew had high aspirations.
“I guess on some level I completed it because of President Obama, but I was thinking of this one along with ‘Broken Black Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street,” she said.
Through the eyes of the “Queen of 33rd Street” Flake captures the African American girls’ voice. This is the girl who is precocious, imaginative and creative. She is extremely bright, but has the challenge of exploring how she will use that aptitude.
“My stories have a moral but it’s done creatively,” Flake said. “It has honesty and frankness. When children leave they know the value of writing and rewriting, as well as things that they can take on their journey through life.”
So, Flake is looking forward to returning to Philadelphia to read to local children.
“I love the children who live here,” she said. “I believe that their story reflects the hopes, dreams and challenges of other young people living around the world.”
Flake will be joined at the fair by many of African-American authors and illustrators. They include Vanessa Brantley Newton, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon. Also present will be Kerri Conner, Jerry Craft, E. B. Lewis, Walter Dean Myers, Marilyn Nelson, and many others.
The African American Children’s Book Fair will be held at the Community College of Philadelphia’s Gymnasium, 17th and Spring Garden streets on Saturday, Feb. 4 from 1 to 3 p.m.
For more information, including a full list of authors and illustrators visit http://theafricanamericanchildrensbookproject.org/.