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Because I am married. Because I am a mother. And because I am not willing to put on a bathing suit and wear it on television. To attack ethnic-identity awards solely on the basis of their eligibility requirements only takes the awards at face value. If one digs a little deeper, the merits of these awards become clear. An important aspect of ethnic-identity prizes is that they bring new authors and illustrators into the fold. In 1995, the CSK was expanded to include the New Talent Award (now renamed in honor of John Steptoe).
Just as the Art Institute of Chicago has premiered its new show on Van Gogh and Gaugin in Arles, a new picture book about the topic has come out for young readers. Authors are not limiting themselves to popular painters such as Van Gogh. From Chuck Close to Diego Rivera to Jackson Pollack, modern artists are showing up in books for even young children. I think what those publishers and museums are recognizing with their active outreach programs is that many children are drawn to creativity, to innovators who take risks and make us see the world in new ways.
I invited an illustrator friend, an African American woman I had recently signed to illustrate a picture book, to attend the lecture with me. She was new to the field. She had illustrated only a few books, two of which I edited. Of special interest to me was the number of young people in the audience, editorial assistants and junior editors who would someday be acquiring and editing books of their own. ) The lecture was chronological, moving from the earliest picture books to current ones. I eagerly awaited the section that would cover the 1960s, when African American illustrators such as Tom Feelings, Jerry Pinkney, and John Steptoe came onto the scene.
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