Meet Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson, the family publishing team, and CEO founders of Just Us Books, Inc. founded in 1988, one of the most successful and popular premier Children’s Book companies in modern history.
WADE HUDSON is the president and CEO of Just Us Books, Inc. an independent publishing company he founded with his wife, Cheryl Willis Hudson. His career as a writer spans more than three decades. After his involvement in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, he was a newspaper reporter, playwright and public relations specialist. In 1988, Mr. Hudson’s passion for writing and life-long mission to help foster positive self-image within the young Black community helped propel the launch of Just Us Books, an independent publisher that specializes in Black-interest books for children and young adults. In addition to serving as the company’s president and CEO, Mr. Hudson has written nearly 20 books for children including Jamal’s Busy Day, Pass It On: African American Poetry for Children , Poetry From the Masters: The Pioneers and Powerful Words. Hudson serves on the board of many organizations, including the Langston Hughes Library at the Alex Haley Farm, operated by the Children’s Defense Fund, and has received numerous honors, including the Stephen Crane Literary Award. In 2003 Mr. Hudson was inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. He lives in New Jersey with his family.
CHERYL WILLIS HUDSON has authored many books for young children including AFRO-BETS ABC and 123 Books, Hands Can, Good Morning, Baby, Glo Goes Shopping , Many Colors of Mother Goose and Bright Eyes, Brown Skin, co-authored with Bernette Ford. She has also co-edited a number of titles including How Sweet the Sound: African American Songs for Children (Scholastic, Inc.), Kids’ Book of Wisdom: Quotes from the African American Tradition and In Praise of Our Fathers and Our Mothers.Just some of Just Us Books, Inc. honors and awards include:
Black Board Bestseller's Award, 2003 (Come By Here, Lord)
ABA Black Board Bestseller's Award——1995 (AFRO-BETS series)
MPEC Award (Multicultural Publisher's Education Council, 1991, 1992, 1993)
Stephen Crane Literary Award (Newark Public Library——2001)
NJ Entrepreneurs of the Year——1997
Benjamin Franklin Award (Publishers Marketing Association——1991, 1994)
Reading Rainbow Review Book, 1993
Black Caucus/American Library Association Black Writers Conference Award
United Brothers and Sisters Communication Systems Best Selling Book of the Year Finalist, 1992
New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age, 1993
Multicultural Council Seal of Approval, 1998
Horn Book, featured review, 1997
CCBC Choices, 1997
Children's Book Council's NOT JUST FOR CHILDREN ANYMORE! selection, 1998
Boston Globe's Top 25 in Multicultural Reading, spring 1992
NCSS Children's Trade Book in the field of Social Studies Honor, 1992
Booklist——starred review, 1991
The company’s wide variety of quality books not only "make a difference" in hundreds of thousands of young children’s lives worldwide, but the publishing company was just honored by the top advisory board of the YOUnity Reviewers Guild of America as the "Children’s Book Publishing Company of the Decade."
As a teacher, I have personally read dozens of titles from Just Us Books over the past decade to youth in my classrooms, large after school programs and as a mobile storyteller that have entertained and educated youth. Very often, children have asked me to reread historical books from Just Us Books to get an opportunity to role play as the characters, a new way of helping children of today learn their history and recognize those who have come before them. Now a series of 8 new books hit the market, and already a big buzz has swept the literary world as Atlanta Braves star, Brian Jordan enters the literary arena with his latest headlining news children’s book title, "I Told You I Can Play."
Just a little history on Brian Jordan, he’s a native of Baltimore. "He’s excelled in football and baseball during high school and college. So it was no surprise that he became one of a few athletes to play both sports on the professional level. He played for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons for several years and made his Major League Baseball debut in 1992. During a career that includes his selection as an All-Star, Jordan has played for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Texas Rangers and the Atlanta Braves, his current team. In 1998, he founded the Brian Jordan Foundation, a non-profit youth organization that is committed to creating and supporting programs that improve the quality of life of underprivileged children and their families. Jordan, his wife Pam, a former All-American basketball player, and their four children live in Atlanta. I Told You I Can Play! is Jordan’s first picture book for children. It is based on his childhood experiences," and expected to make its way into the homes, schools and hearts of boys of diverse cultures everywhere as a martyr of excellence for youth with dreams of playing sports professionally. You can expect to hear big things soon from this author. He’s already been mentioned by popular on-air radio personalities commending him for taking on dual careers.
Parents, teachers and children all around the nation have added Just Us Books to their homes, schools and libraries since the company’s inception, but we were primarily amazed by the successful company’s work ethic and quality of books that have taught a nation of young lings how to read, familiarize themselves with the alphabet and excel in the demanding and rigorous classroom environments of today.
Just Us Books, Inc.’s motto has always been "to develop an independent publishing company specializing in books and learning materials for children and young people." However, JustUs Books,. Inc. focus on Black history, Black cultureand Black experiencesarewhythis innovative company is now consideredone of the leadingpublishers of Blackinterest titles for youngpeople. The company is also noted as being the pioneering companyof Black interest booksfor youth.The company’s massive booksales may very well hit the billion dollar mark at the rate of growing popularity for JUST US BOOKS.
Based on a very brief biography on Mr. Wade Hudson, we found out he is a member of the prestigious Author’s Guild, successfully completed his studies at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and worked for a number of civil rights organizations during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was a news reporter, sports writer and a public relations specialist which entailed mastery of marketing skills that walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
Additionally, Wade Hudson has written a number of plays that have been professionally produced, plays for young people. The extraordinary media and press news reflecting Hudson’s life reflects a man of integrity and historical prevalence to African-American history as a martyr of excellence.
He is also highly sought after by publishing companies as a marketing consultant which may seem to compete with his ability to produce and write some of the best children’s books on the market, but the marketing guru is able to perfect both areas and has received some serious fan fare and support from the literary community and children’s book lovers at large.
The book I read to my own students every year is the powerfully enriching and necessary treasure for every teacher’s classroom which include, AFRO-BETS ® Kids: I'm Gonna Be. It has sold beyond 350,000 copies to date. It is not uncommon for teachers to order a class set as treasurable gifts for each student within a classroom. Every young boy regardless of race, has read Anthony’s Big Surprise which is as popular as the Dr. Suess series. Must have books for every parent’s libraryare: I Love My Family, Pass It On: African-American Poetry for Children, How Sweet the Sound: African-American Songs for Children, Five Brave Explorers, Five Great Inventors and Five Bold Freedom Fighters, all published by Scholastic, Inc.
Just Us Books has an elite repertoire of authors we wanted to highlight and whose books are modern day treasures. Several have new titles we are suggesting every parent order and create a perfect gift basket for children during the holidays.
ROSA GUY, whom I had the fine pleasure of meeting at the QBR: Phillis Wheatley Awards, and whom many know is featured as my childhood mentor who started my fascination for writing in addition to Langston Hughes, is the author of two fiction titles under the SANKOFA BOOKS imprint. Ruby and New Guys Around the Block. Are works of fiction for young adults. Guy was born in Trinidadand immigrated with her family to Harlem at the age of seven. Orphaned as a teen, Rosa and her sister lived in many different foster homes, and Rosa quit school for the working world when she was 14. But she always loved to read and write, and soon joined the American Negro Theatre and attended New York University where she studied theater and writing. She later co-founded the Harlem Writers Guild, a writing workshop for aspiring Black writers. Rosa’s own literary debut, Bird at My Window, was published in 1966. She has since written more than a dozen other published works, many of which are rooted in experiences from her own childhood. Much of her writing for young adults also deals with family and family members’ responsibility to care and love one another. In July 2005, Rosa was honored for her great body of literary work with the Phyllis Wheatley Award, given by the Harlem Book Fair. She lives in New York.
MARI EVANS is a major figure in African American literature and the Black Arts Movement, Mari Evans is an educator, musician and writer who writes extensively about issues concerning the Black family and community. Her published work for children includes I Look at Me, J.D.; Singing Black: Alternative Nursery Rhymes for Children; and Dear Corinne, Tell Somebody! Love, Annie, a book about child abuse. Continuum, a new collection of adult poetry,(Black Classic Press) and her book of political essays, Clarity as Concept: A Poet’s Perspective, (Third World Press) are forthcoming. Evan’s stage musical, "EYES," adapted from Zora Neal Hurston’s classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, has played to standing room only audiences in Chicago and other major cities across the United States.
is a major figure in African American literature and the Black Arts Movement, Mari Evans is an educator, musician and writer who writes extensively about issues concerning the Black family and community. Her published work for children includes .; ; and , a book about child abuse. , a new collection of adult poetry,(Black Classic Press) and her book of political essays, , (Third World Press) are forthcoming. Evan’s stage musical, "EYES," adapted from Zora Neal Hurston’s classic novel, , has played to standing room only audiences in Chicago and other major cities across the United States.
Mari Evans is internationally known for her work, including her classic poem "I Am a Black Woman" and she is the recipient of the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. Mari lives in Indiana and lectures throughout the country.
DENISE LEWIS PATRICK comes from a storytelling family. Her father wrote poetry, and she followed in his footsteps, penning her first writings at eight years old. A native of Natchitoches, Louisiana, she earned a B.A. in Journalism from Northwestern State University, then moved to New York City to begin her professional writing career. She has since written over 25 books for children including Red Dancing Shoes and Martin’s Friendship Lesson. Denise took inspiration for her most recent book, Ma Dear’s Old Green House from childhood summers filled with cousins and fun at her grandmother’s house in Louisiana. Now grown-up, Denise lives in New Jersey with her husband and their four sons in a green house of her own.
CAMILLE YARBROUGH is a dancer, actress, singer, teacher, television producer and activist as well as a writer, Camille Yarbrough was born in Chicago. She has achieved success as a professional dancer, and as an actress has appeared in many stage productions and on daytime television soap operas. As a children’s author, Yarbrough has penned several highly acclaimed books, including The Shimmershine Queens, Cornrows, a Coretta Scott King Award winner and The Little Tree Growing in the Shade. Yarbrough lives and works in Harlem. Tamika and the Wisdom Rings is published under the Just Us Books imprint, SANKOF BOOKS.
dancer, actress, singer, teacher, television producer and activist as well as a writer, Camille Yarbrough was born in Chicago. She has achieved success as a professional dancer, and as an actress has appeared in many stage productions and on daytime television soap operas. As a children’s author, Yarbrough has penned several highly acclaimed books, including The Shimmershine Queens, , a Coretta Scott King Award winner and . Yarbrough lives and works in Harlem. is published under the Just Us Books imprint, SANKOF BOOKS.
The collaborative efforts of husband and wife team CORNELIUS VAN WRIGHT and YING-HWA HU haveproduced many wonderful books for children. Among their published works are An Angel Just Like Me, Coming Home: A Story of Josh Gibson, Baseball’s Greatest Homerun Hitter, and Zora Neale Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree. Van Wright is a native of New York and Hu was born in Taiwan. They reside with their daughter and son in New York City.
We also pay homage to the late James Haskins, award-winning author JAMES HASKINS. 1941 - 2005, Author of more than 100 books for adults and young people, James Haskins was a professor at the University of Florida. He won numerous awards and honors for his published work, including the Carter G. Woodson Award, Coretta Scott King Award and the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for excellence in the field of music.
I feel like a part of me is gone. I have held so many of James Haskins books in my hands to read to youth. May his legacy be remembered forever. Disilgold Soul honors James Haskins with the Legend Lifetime Achievement Award 2005.
Haskins’s latest books include Keeping the Faith: African American Sermons of Liberation; The March on Washington and Freedom Rides: Journey for Justice, both recently released under Just Us Books’’ Sankofa Books imprint. His book, The Harlem Renaissance, will be re-released by Just Us Books in fall, 2005.
For parents and teachers who want to get a head start and help youth learn the alphabet, Just Us Books, Inc. offers alphabet t-shirts at www. Justusbooks.com. We salute Just Us Books as a Children’s Book Pioneer.
Disilgold: What can you tell the Disilgold community about yourself that will explain why Disilgold has sought you for a perSOULnalized interview?
Kelly: First, I want to say thank you. It’s an honor to be featured in this space. You’ve interviewed literary icons like Haki Madhubuti, Nikki Giovanni and Amiri Baraka. As an emerging author, I feel blessed that you’ve welcomed me to the Disilgold family. More about me . . . . I’m an award-winning journalist who writes for children to empower, entertain and explore. I write to give them a mirror in which they can see and hear themselves. I write to give back and create.
Disilgold: What is your latest book about?
Kelly: My forthcoming picture book, One Million Men and Me (Just Us Books, $16.95) will debut February 2007. It will be illustrated by Peter Ambush. The story takes readers on a special journey with a girl who was with her daddy the day black men made history at the Million Man March.
Disilgold: How long did it take you to complete your book?
Kelly: This one has been building a long time. The seed was planted when I attended the Million Man March as a journalist. I went to record the thoughts and feelings of a group of young men from Syracuse. But I ended up being transformed myself. Witnessing the love and unity of one million-plus black men was an incredible experience. I felt hopeful, inspired, strong. So many moments moved me to tears. One in particular -- a little girl walking past the Reflecting Pool clutching her daddy’s hand – struck deep in my heart. I thought about that girl and the men of the March a few months before the 10-year anniversary. I wrote down some ideas for a picture book. The story stalled. So I tucked it away. A few months later, I attended a black fatherhood conference in Raleigh. Seeing those men together made me flash to images from the March. After that, I was able to go home and write One Million Men and Me. The story rushed out. It took just a few days to get it how I wanted. Disilgold: What were the happiest moments you have experienced while writing your latest book?
Kelly: My happiest moment was when I finished the draft. I thanked God for blessing me with a way to honor the beautiful black men who stood together at the Million Man March and pass that history on to another generation. I am so thankful to Just Us Books for signing my story and making the dream of this book come true.
Disilgold: Describe your writing style?
Kelly: It depends on what I’m writing. The primary storyline of my first book, NEATE: Eddie’s Ordeal, explores the relationship between a 13-year-old student-athlete and his civil rights veteran father. I used a contemporary tone with that one. One Million Men and Me is more lyrical and atmospheric. When I write, I let my heart lead.
Disilgold: How did you develop your writing style?
Kelly: I’ve dreamed of being a writer since I was a child growing up in Pittsburgh. Like most of my friends, I couldn’t wait for the latest Right On! magazine but I also devoured The Writer and Writer’s Digest. My style comes from practice. I read authors I admire. I try to write something every day. I’m always working to be a stronger writer.
Disilgold: Do you have a favorite author of all time or someone who inspired you to achieve your goals as a writer?
Kelly: My mom writes plays, poetry and fiction. She used to make up bedtime stories with my younger brother and me as the stars. She’s my biggest inspiration. My favorite children’s book author is Jacqueline Woodson. I love her voice and the subjects she explores. My favorite adult authors are Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison.
Disilgold: Where do you see yourself as a writer ten years from now?
Kelly: I see myself teaching young people to tell their stories. I hope to have published a dozen children’s books that speak to the experience of our kids.
Disilgold: What marketing tips can you provide to new authors?
Kelly: Start early and close to home. Begin by spreading the word to family, friends, associates. Ask them to tell everyone they know. Invest them in your success by sharing good news and asking for support during tough times. Remember to thank everyone who helps you. Create a website. Make sure it’s on point. Double-check for typos, grammatical errors. Believe in your work.
Disilgold: What other projects are you working on?
Kelly: I’m working on two novels – a middle-grade novel about a shy, 13-year-old girl and her relationship with an over-the-top aunt and a young adult novel inspired by my teen years of hanging with my girls.
Disilgold: What are your top ten favorite books right now?
Kelly: Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson,
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers,
The Covenant With Black America, edited by Tavis Smiley, M.C. Higgins the Great by Virginia Hamilton, In Praise of Our Fathers and Our Mothers: A Black Family Treasury By Outstanding Authors and Artists compiled by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson,
Snug in Mama’s Arms by Angela Shelf Medearis, The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake,
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Anne Brashares,Daddy Was a Number Runner by Louise Meriwether.
Disilgold: When do you write and for how long?
Kelly: I write during my daughter’s naps. I write in the evening, in the wee hours of the morning. I write when the house is hushed and my thoughts are loud.
Disilgold: Do you have a favorite location for writing?
Kelly: Lately, I’ve been writing on my laptop in a cozy chaise in the living room.
Disilgold: What method did you use to write or organize your book?
Kelly: I drew from my memories when writing One Million Men and Me. I started by creating small scenes. Then, I organized them chronologically.
Disilgold: What three words best describe your writing style?
Kelly: Expressive. Heartfelt. Rooted.
Disilgold: What other hobbies do you pursue when you aren't writing?
Kelly: Hobbies? Who has time for those with a little diva in the making? J No, seriously, I love listening to music, dancing, watching movies, researching family history.
Disilgold: Are there any hidden jewels or talents that you possess that many of your readers may not know?
Kelly: Hmmm. I can sing the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish (okay, off key ;) and can also perform it in sign language. I love to step – Chicago-style.
Disilgold: Where can folks buy your latest book?
Kelly: One Million Men and Me debuts nationwide February 2007. To pre-order an autographed copy, please send a note to email@example.com. No money is due until the books are available. Eddie’s Ordeal, book #4 in the middle-grade series NEATE, is available now from Justusbooks.com, Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and select bookstores around the country.
Disilgold: Where can folks meet you?
Kelly: I live in Raleigh, North Carolina and often participate in programs at local libraries. I also attend a few national literary festivals each year. More information is available on my website, www.kellystarlinglyons.com.
Disilgold: What have been some of your toughest obstacles as a writer?
Kelly: Sometimes it’s tough trying to balance family life with pursuing my writing dream. Being a wife and mom are my biggest blessings and most important jobs. But I feel my writing is a calling too. Staying true to that mission takes faith, creativity and perseverance.
Disilgold: This section of our interview requires brief responses. Are you ready to" Get PerSOULnal" Interview?
Kelly: As Ready as a Literary Diva. The "Get PerSOULnal" Interview
Disilgold: What time do you awake normally every morning?
Kelly: 6:30 a.m.
Disilgold: What is your writing fuel in the morning?
Kelly: Special K cereal with sliced bananas – sometimes my husband hooks me up with sweet potato home fries and bacon.
Disilgold: What early morning rituals have followed for many years?
Kelly: I wake up and start singing.
Disilgold: What are your favorite foods to snack on while writing?
Kelly: Peanut M&M’s and pretzels (gotta love the salty-sweet combo).
Disilgold: Do you watch television or listen to the radio when you're writing, and if so, what do you watch or listen to mostly?
Kelly: Sometimes I’ll play certain songs to evoke a mood. I listened to freedom songs when writing the sit-in scene in my first book, "Eddie’s Ordeal."
Disilgold: What is your favorite book of all time?
Kelly: M.C. Higgins the Great by Virginia Hamilton.
Disilgold: What is your favorite magazine of all time?
Kelly: Emerge was my favorite of all time. I’ve always been a fan of Ebony and Essence too.
Disilgold: Do you have an exercise regimen to suggest for busy writers?
Kelly: Write something every day. Even if you have just a few minutes to spare, get something down.
Disilgold: What is your everyday outfit?
Kelly: Now, that it’s nearly summer, I love to wear pretty, patterned skirts and solid-colored tops.
Disilgold: What is your pet peeve?
Kelly: People who are selfish.
Disilgold: If you could inspire a child, what would you say?
Kelly: You matter. Believe in your destiny. Dare to dream and achieve.
Disilgold: What is your favorite motto?
Kelly: To whom much is given, much is required.
Disilgold: What is your favorite time to put your writing pen down and rest?
Kelly: When my daughter is awake and ready to play/read/snuggle.
Disilgold: Have you traveled anywhere besides your hometown and if so, where?
Kelly: Bermuda, Montreal, Toronto, Aruba, 35 states
Disilgold: Where is your dream vacation?
Kelly: In Bermuda, I felt completely at peace. The people embraced me like a native. The scenery inspired me to create. I loved the quiet beauty and dignity of the country. I could go back there again and again.
Disilgold: What do you particularly like about the literary world today?
Kelly: I love the diversity of the voices. When I was a girl, I saw so few books that featured black children. Now, I go into stores and libraries and see books with black children, Asian, Native American, Latino children. They make me smile.
Disilgold: If you could leave one word of advice to people in general, what would it be?
by Lynette Velasco
Reviewed by Heather Covington
Zinzi is about "a child's journey to self-fulfillment, giving and caring" by Lynette C. Velasco, that every parent and teacher must give as a gift to every child. Pride, respect and dignity overwhelm each page that interchangeably illustrates and radiates with Zinzi's discovery of her ancestral past roots as a queen in Egypt. You'll particularly fancy the illustrative references throughout this magnificent book that engulf responsibility from the young character, Zinzi, and as she wears full safety gear while skating down the streets of her barren neighborhood one day.
Her feelings of un-fulfillment in noticing a changed environment leads her to entertain herself and bring life to her neighborhood. The picture of her jumping in front of the setting sun is breathtaking. Later on, you can feel her emotions while she stands gazing over her family while they are engaged in communication at the table, and something many families do not entertain today. She is thinking back in time to when she was an African princess.
There's mother talking and laughing with Zinzi while stirring some hot tea after family time. You can just feel the warmness and smell the sweet aroma piping from this beautiful book that is deserving of a Caldecott Award. Reader's will be swept away when able to envision Zinzi reading a book about Egypt. You can feel her pride as she finally is able to reinvent herself as an African Princess among Carmen and Asi by reenacting a ceremony that children from 5 to 99 will enjoy.
Children who read this book will watch the young Zinzi become an African Princess right before their eyes, and are invited to eat a delicious array of her delicious yummy treats like Banana Milkshake, Orange Julius, Apple Sauce, Fruit Salad, Carrot Cake, Cream Chees Frosting, Cream Cheese Fudge, Pumpkin Bread, Homemade Peanut Butter, Zinzi Punch, Frozen Peach Cubes, Sweet Popcorn Mix, Zinzi Toast, Three Quick & Easy Dips and Baked Crisp Tortilla Chips, Banana- Strawberry Yogurt Smoothies and Breakfast Bread Puddings.
SWEET LAVENDER IS DISILGOLDS BEST PIQUE FOR CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THE YEAR/2003
Sweet Lavender takes place in the fictionalized town of Cecilia, Louisiana in the early 1960’s. It is a touching story about a young black girl that is learning the realities of life while growing up in a small southern town. In the story, Rae Lynne Jonston talks about the night that her father brought home his illegitimate child whose mother died giving birth. Then shortly after, her father suddenly vanishes leaving his wife to raise both children. Follow this moving story of one girls twelve year search for her souls contentment.
It is an unforgettable saga comprised with the elements of love, bitterness, laughter, and loneliness. Terry a. O’Neal walks you through the story using heartfelt emotions and experiences that are components from day to day life. Like O’Neal’s poetry, Sweet Lavender overflows with essence and grace; capturing the poignant aspects of life and living.
Terry a. O’Neal is a poet and novelist. Sweet Lavender is her very first fiction novel. She is the author of two volumes of poetry, Motion Sickness and The Poet Speaks In Black. She is also the author of the children’s book Ev’ry Little Soul. O’Neal’s upcoming volumes of poetry entitled Journey Song and In a World of My Own are both due to be published in March 2004.
O’Neal was born in Stockton, California in 1973. After she was married in August of 1991, she moved to Sacramento, California, where she currently resides with her husband and three children.
Cover Art By Lydell Jackson
This book also received a Best Book Cover Award/2003 by R. Covington former Art & Design Top Award Medalist.& F.I.T. graphic arts designer.
Where is Terry a. O'Neal today!
Terry has successfully debuted a children's anthology entitled,