Author Study: Kelly J. Baptist

Eb & Flow

Eb & Flow By Kelly J. Baptist

A ten-day suspension has tweens De'Kari and Ebony seeing the world with a fresh perspective. Don't miss this poignant novel in verse from the award-winning author of Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero.

Two kids. One fight. No one thinks they’re wrong.
 
Flow
I don’t even hit girls . . . is what I’m thinking.
I roll my eyes, turn them to my shoes.
 
Shoes I’ma wear every day till they fall off my feet.
 
Eb
It was all just an accident!
Nobody was trying to mess up
his Stupid Ugly Shoes.
 
Now I’ve got my third suspension of seventh grade.
 
Ebony and De’Kari (aka Flow) do not get along. How could they when their cafeteria scuffle ended with De'Kari's ruined shoes, Ebony on the ground, and both of them with ten days of at-home suspension? Now Eb and Flow have two weeks to think about and explain their behavior—to their families, to each other, and ultimately to themselves.
 
Award-winning author Kelly J. Baptist delivers a novel in verse that follows Eb and Flow as they navigate their parallel lives. Single-parent homes, tight funds, and sibling dynamics provide a balancing act for the growing tweens. And whether they realize it or not, these two have a lot more in common than they think.

The Swag Is in the Socks

The Swag Is in the Socks By Kelly J. Baptist

Xavier Moon is stepping out of the shadows when his great-uncle gives him some outlandish socks and some even stranger requests. A story about heart, confidence, and standing on your own two feet that is perfect for fans of The Season of Styx Malone and The Parker Inheritance.

"An excellent read-alike to Jacqueline Woodson’s Harbor Me or Janae Marks’ From the Desk of Zoe Washington.–Booklist, Starred Review
 
"A warm but authentic picture of a middle schooler figuring out who he is and who he wants to be." –The Bulletin
 
Xavier Moon is not one to steal the show. He’s perfectly content to play video games and sit at his bedroom window watching the neighborhood talk outside.
 
But for Xavier’s twelfth birthday, he receives a pair of funky socks and a challenge from his great-uncle, Frankie Bell, saying it’s time to swag out and speak up. First on the list: get into the legendary Scepter League. Xavier’s grandfather, great-uncle, and father were all invited to join the elite boys’ after-school club that admits only the most suave and confident young men. Xavier has never had the courage to apply before, but his wild socks are getting him some big attention, so maybe it’s time to come out of the shadows and follow in his family's footsteps. Or maybe Xavier will march down a new path altogether.

Isaiah Dunn Saves the Day

Isaiah Dunn Saves the Day By Kelly J. Baptist

Starting middle school is no joke! Isaiah Dunn has more to say in the sequel to the award-winning novel Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero. Friendship, community, and a love of poetry blend in this coming-of-age tale.

Things are looking up for super kid Isaiah Dunn. He and his sister, Charlie, are getting used to staying with Miz Rita, and Mama's feeling better. Isaiah's poetry business with Angel is taking off. Plus, Isaiah has his dad's journals  if he needs advice....

Like maybe now, because starting middle school is hard. His mentee Kobe won't stop making trouble. To fix things, Isaiah will have to rely on every hero he knows--including himself!

Discover the heartfelt and humorous sequel to the award-winning novel Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero.

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero By Kelly J. Baptist

A coming-of-age tale about a boy who proves that with superhero courage--and a few great sidekicks--you can take on even the toughest of odds. Adapted from a story that first appeared in Flying Lessons & Other Stories and perfect for fans of The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson.

Isaiah is now the big man of the house. But it's a lot harder than his dad made it look. His little sister, Charlie, asks too many questions, and Mama's gone totally silent.

Good thing Isaiah can count on his best friend, Sneaky, who always has a scheme for getting around the rules. Plus, his classmate Angel has a few good ideas of her own--once she stops hassling Isaiah.

And when things get really tough, there's Daddy's journal, filled with stories about the amazing Isaiah Dunn, a superhero who gets his powers from beans and rice. Isaiah wishes his dad's tales were real. He could use those powers right about now!

Kelly J. Baptist's debut novel explores the indomitable spirit of a ten-year-old boy and the superhero strength it takes to grow up.

Q&A with Frank Morrison, Illustrator of Standing in the Need of Prayer

What was your biggest technical challenge with Standing in the Need of Prayer?

One of my biggest challenges was the price of gas. I drove to every bookstore I could find in Atlanta. Then I searched the internet. My online research was so intense that between the hours of 2 and 6 pm I became a virtual librarian. Typing away, searching for images of coats, hats, etc. for each time period was a challenge.  Most of the stories that I’ve worked on deal with one time period. Carole didn’t stick to the script. Standing in the Need of Prayer spans from the 1600s to present day. In my research, I was not only astonished, but mentally challenged by the Clotilda. This slave ship arrived in Mobile Bay in 1859 or 1860 in secrecy. It was hidden then burned to hide the evidence of her ship log, which was human cargo. The Clotilda arrived nearly 60 years after Congress passed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves. This act took effected in 1808. Slave traders still had the audacity to continue importing humans into the life, then death, sentence of slavery.

What’s chilling is that I live one state away, just hours from this atrocity, in the state of Georgia. The transatlantic slave trade and the results of its atrocious greed was and still is devastating.  Here’s one point: I was watching a documentary about Pompeii the other day. I heard about their marvelous aqueducts. I learned they had the equivalent of what we would consider fast food restaurants, believe it or not. I saw their mansions, bathhouses, wine jugs.  I can even tell you about their graffiti. Scientists found out what the citizens of Pompeii were doing almost down to the last hour before the volcano exploded. Yet I know nothing about the day my ancestors were stolen, then sold from Africa. I wonder if it rained that day.

Greatest emotional challenge? 

When Rodney King went through his horrifying ordeal, the conversation throughout the barbershops and hair salons, quietly spoken in church, then spread amongst neighbors, neighborhoods, family and friends was, that’s just the one we saw. See, that kind of brutality is and has been going on unseen and unfilmed for years.  That being said, I can’t help to think we’re only looking at a fraction of the brutality during slavery.  I would bet you that all the horrific photos that we see now would only equate to maybe one day in one slave state town, out of the 400 years, 146,000 days — not including Juneteenth — of slavery. Mind you, there are no photos of the final results of Nat Turner’s Rebellion in 1831.

When I ran out of bookstores in Atlanta, I took a trip with my family to do more research. We went to New Orleans. I’ve been there numerous times. Until this book I never thought about ever going to see a plantation. This time I had to. We had to.

The African American man who was our bus driver/tour guide was cheerful, playful the whole ride going.

He told us some good places to eat, talked about the crocodiles, swamps. He told us he’ll laugh and joke with us now because the trip back will be different. I thought to myself, yeah, okay. When we drove by our first plantation house, he told us that it was used in a movie.  It was pushed so far back from the street we really didn’t get a chance to see it well. It seemed surreal. Not too far up the road was our stop. One by one we filed out of the bus. I don’t want to give away too much to anyone that may not have seen or been on the tour. I will say just two words: life changing.

It pulls, it tears, it hurts. These historical stories of injustice, hate, and cruelty are painful. I’m honestly attempting to do my minuscule fraction of a part to pay homage to the millions that couldn’t tell their own stories. On behalf of all African Americans that are the beneficiaries of what they endured, so we can be here today, is thank you enough? I’m speechless like the bus ride home from the plantation.

Does prayer work?

Yes

What can picture books do that an art gallery cannot?

Picture books, for me, are documenting society, a society that high end art galleries and museums overlook. Think about this: if it wasn’t for a painting, we wouldn’t know what George Washington looked like. If the constitution wasn’t written down…need I say more? Over the decades, what is considered priceless or of historical significance has its place. When that impression is captured either on film, paper, or canvas, it’s preserved in cherished monuments, such as museums or blue-chip galleries for generations of society to view, respect and appreciate, or it’s consumed by private collections never to be seen again in public.

The African American Diaspora. Living, loving, laughing with family friends. Everyday lifestyles. Black mothers and fathers with their sons and daughters. These are all absent from these sacred sanctuaries. I was at a museum last week and didn’t see the representation of one Black family until I exited through the gift shop. I bought a children’s book on the way out the door.

That’s what I love about picture books. This literary market allows the author and illustrator to represent their culture unfiltered and unadulterated. Yes, there are edits, but not to the culture. Black girls and boys can see themselves and dream through the powerful images portrayed in these mighty stories – images they most likely won’t see in the high art blue-chip art galleries, nor sadly their local museums for now, until they grow up and change that.  I thank the children’s publishing world for being the trailblazers in the arts. Their acknowledgment of not just my culture, but all cultures. They are unapologetically dope.

Who among the people depicted in this book would you most like to have met?

Duke Ellington. The Duke was self-taught, as I am. If I saw him on the busy, bustling, swinging, streets of Harlem in his day I’m sure we both would notice the fire and passion for our arts in our eyes. That burning sensation to enrich and enlighten the high-nosed folk that we are just as good, talented,  sharp, smart, witty and gifted by God as much or even more than any artist with that sheet of paper called a degree in our trades.  I feel like we would not have to speak. We’d just tilt the brim of our hats as we passed each other, though the static friction from that brief encounter would be enough to light up a block of streetlights. Yeah, man, you know what they say, real recognize real.

Frank Morrison

Frank Morrison started his journey as a graffiti artist in New Jersey, tagging walls with spray paint. It wasn’t until he visited the Louvre Museum in Paris as part of the Sugar Hill Gang’s dance entourage that he realized painting was his true creative path. His work has been featured at Art Basel, SCOPE Miami Beach, and Red Dot art fairs, and shown at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Mason Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta. He is the illustrator of over twenty children’s books, including the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner R-E-S-P-E-C-T, the Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award winner Jazzy Miz Mozetta, and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor books Little Melba and Her Big Trombone and Let the Children March. Frank was a Society of Illustrators Original Art Silver Medal Honoree two years in a row, for The Roots of Rap and R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Random House Teachers and Librarians