Toni Morrison, American novelist, essayist, editor, teacher and professor emeritus. And, Library Aide.

Sometimes, I find out more about people after their death than I knew when they were alive. I think this just serves to remind me that I leave a legacy, that we all do. I didn’t know that Toni Morrison had worked as a Library aid in Lorain, Ohio. Reflecting on that work, she stated that, “I didn’t get far in my career as a librarian, but that experience opened my eyes and shaped my future.”

I’ve been wondering lately who those people are that continue to influence African American literature. Who is inspiring young Black authors and how is the continuity of  Black traditions in literature being passed on. It’s a question I’ve not always asked in interviews most honestly because I’ve not always understood the significance of knowing this. So often in interviews, it seems like an obligation to ask “Who inspires you?” but, it indicates something about structure, voice, theme and aesthetic that impress a narrative. It speaks to the urgency of #ownvoices and to the preservation of a people’s story.

With the passing of Toni Morrison, we’ve lost an important voice in literature. I can’t help but wonder about her impact specifically on children’s literature. Which children’s authors were directly or indirectly influenced by her? What I do know is that she does leave a direct legacy in the world of children’s literature. Writing for children seemed to be an important part of her career. 

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Please, Louise with Slate Morrison and Shadra Strickland; Simon and Schuster.
Inspired by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Toni Morrison’s experience working in a library as a young girl, this engaging picture book celebrates the wonders of reading, the enchanting capacity of the imagination, and, of course, the splendor of libraries. 2014

The Tortoise or the Hare with Slade Morrison and Joe Cepeda; Simon and Schuster.
In the well-known tale of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” everyone remembers that “slow and steady wins the race”—or does it? In this energetic retelling of a favorite fable, it’s the speedy Hare who crosses the finish line first, but it’s Tortoise who has the tale to tell when he discovers that the race, not the winning, is what matters most. While winning is important, isn’t making a true friend the best prize of all? 2010

Little Cloud and Lady Wind with Slade Morrison and Sean Qualls; Simon and Schuster.
Little Cloud likes her own place in the sky, away from the other clouds. There, the sky is all hers. She is free to make her own way and go where she wishes. Can Lady Wind show Little Cloud the power of being with others? Will Little Cloud agree there is strength in unity and change her ways? 2010

Peeny Butter Fudge with Slade Morrison and Joe Cepeda. Simon and Schuster.
There is no one like Nana in the whole wide world. She is the best. Nana knows how to take an ordinary afternoon and make it extra special! Nap time, story time, and playtime are transformed by fairies, dragons, dancing, and pretending — and then mixing and fixing yummy, yummy fudge just like Nana and Mommy did not so many years ago… 2009

Remember: The Journey to School Integration; HMH Books for Young Readers.
Toni Morrison has collected a treasure chest of archival photographs that depict the historical events surrounding school desegregation. These unforgettable images serve as the inspiration for Ms. Morrison’s text—a fictional account of the dialogue and emotions of the children who lived during the era of “separate but equal” schooling. Remember is a unique pictorial and narrative journey that introduces children to a watershed period in American history and its relevance to us today. 2004. 2005 Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner.

The Loin or the Mouse? (Who’s Got Game?) with Slade Morrison and Pascal Lemaitre; Scribner.
In this charmingly subversive reinterpretation of a classic tale, the Morrisons and Pascal Lemaitre take a hilarious look at bullying. 2003

Poppy or Snake? (Who’s Got Game?) with Slade Morrison and Pascal Lemaitre; Scribner.
In this clever riff on Aesop, Poppy feels guilty when he accidentally drives over Snake, and he decides to risk being bitten in order to free the sassy reptile. But smake wants more. This is a sly tale about who gets the last laugh. 2003

The Ant or the Grasshopper? (Who’s Got Game?) with Slade Morrison and Pascal Lemaitre; Scribner.
A graphic novel based on the fable, “The Ant and the Grasshopper” finds two youngsters alternately preparing for winter and continuing to enjoy the warm weather, parting ways when the weather turns cold. 2003

The Book of Mean People with Slade Morrison and Pascal Lemaitre; Hyperion Books for Children.
In Toni Morrison’s second illustrated book collaboration with her son, Slade, she offers a humorous look at how children experience meanness and anger in our world. The world and its language can be confusing to young people. To them, meanness can have many shapes, sizes, and sounds. ” My mother is mean when she says I don’t listen. She says, “Do you hear me?” I can’t hear her when she is screaming. This wise child knows that meanness can be a whisper or a shout, a smile or a frown. Young readers know about meanness, too, and will feel satisfied by having their perspective championed in The Book of Mean People. 2002

 The Big Box with Slade Morrison and Giselle Potter; Jump at the Sun.
To make this group of kids abide by the rules, the grown-ups create a world inside a box . . . with toys, games, treats, and gifts, but these clever children are able to find their way out of the box and back into reality. 1999

One thought on “Toni Morrison, American novelist, essayist, editor, teacher and professor emeritus. And, Library Aide.

  1. I fell in love with Toni Morrison’s writing right after my Mother died – twenty one years ago. Her writing got me through some intense grief, and took me out of my head when I needed it. Such a sad loss.

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