Return to Headlines

FPGB Students Connect with Author Vanessa Brantley-Newton

CHCCS Mariposas, a Latinx student group made up of students in grades 2-12, and CLASS (an African-descendant student group at Frank Porter Graham Bilingüe FPGB) had the opportunity to meet acclaimed children’s book author and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton at Flyleaf Books on January 21.

The students prepared for their conversation with the author by attending two evening workshops centered on themes of identity, resilience, diversity and representation in the author's illustrations and poems. 

Janet Peterson, FPGB school librarian, said, "Community, collaboration, and intent were key in making this meaningful experience possible for our students. Everyone had a part to play."

Vanessa B-N at Flyleaf The workshops were facilitated by FPGB School Counselor and Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board member, Barbie Garayua-Tudryn; Fifth Grade Teacher, José Nambo; and CLASS Parent Leader, Courtney McLaughlin, with the help of ESL Teachers Marcela Granda and Mary Prada.  The curriculum was written by Garayua-Tudryn and Nambo with the intent that participating students would: reflect on their identities, lives and traits as girls of color; learn about the life of Vanessa Brantley-Newton; learn about the role adversity plays in a person’s success; learn about what representation is, and why it matters in literature; and work in multi-age, cross-racial groups to share perspectives and make connections using Brantley-Newton’s illustrations.

Nearly 50 Mariposas and CLASS students who attended the previous weeks’ workshops met the author in a special evening event, which was arranged by Peterson and community partner Flyleaf Books.  

Reserved seats at the front of the audience awaited the students when they arrived making it easier for the Q&A session they participated in with Brantley-Newton. Each student received personalized copies of “Just Like Me,” and all had beaming smiles as the students spoke with Brantley- Newton as they received their books.

Brantley-Newton, who is on a national book tour with her latest book, “Just Like Me,” which is a collection of poems about "girls of all kinds" featuring her signature illustrations of diverse children.

Brantley-Newton purposefully represents children of all races and ethnicities in her work, and she has shared how much the ground-breaking representation of a black child protagonist in Ezra Jack Keats' 1960s picture book, “The Snowy Day,” personally and positively impacted her as a child.

"It's so important that children see themselves, their families and experiences represented in books - to feel seen and valued rather than invisible, marginalized, or stereotyped,” Peterson said. “Vanessa Brantley-Newton did a wonderful job of connecting to all our students."

"This is our first ever collaboration between Afro-descendant and Latina girls here at FPG," Barbie Garayua-Tudryn. "This is what we want more of."