Storytelling with Soul

TFK chats with award-winning author and illustrator Kadir Nelson

Nov 03, 2011 | By TFK Kid Reporter Claire Duncan
DAVID HARRISON

TFK Kid Reporter Claire Duncan talked to award-winning author and illustrator Kadir Nelson about his new book Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. Here’s what he had to say.

TFK:

In your book Heart and Soul, why did you choose a fictional main character [the grandmother] to tell the story of non-fictional events?

KADIR NELSON:

I chose the grandmother to show how ordinary people who weren’t famous contributed to the freedom of all people and showed courage even when nobody was noticing them.

TFK:

You’ve won several Coretta Scott King Book Awards for your work. How does it feel to win those when you’ve written about Martin Luther King, Jr.?

KADIR NELSON:

It’s an honor to win any awards and it’s meaningful to win those that honored Martin Luther King Jr., someone who made such a difference for all of us.

TFK:

What came first, the illustrations or the writing?

KADIR NELSON:

Some of the illustrations were ones I had done before and I added the others as I wrote the story.

TFK:

How did you do the illustrations? Are they paintings or drawings?

KADIR NELSON:

Some are very large paintings. I use my easel and paint on a canvas.

TFK:

How do you share these stories with kids in an appropriate way? Some of them are pretty tough, like the stories of slavery.

KADIR NELSON:

Kids don’t want to be talked down to. It’s important to tell the truth. The grandmother was able to tell the stories in a no nonsense, straightforward way.

TFK:

How do you decide what to work on?

KADIR NELSON:

It’s important to really care about the work. If I don’t love it, I don’t work on it.

TFK:

What are your favorite types of books to illustrate?

KADIR NELSON:

Good stories. I look for stories that I am interested in and that are worth sharing.

TFK:

What are your hopes for the future? If you were to write a sequel to Heart and Soul, what would you hope would be in it?

KADIR NELSON:

I would hope that people would be more loving toward each other, and as for the rest of what might come next I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.