african, author spotlight, black lives, community

Author Spotlight – Oge Mora

Oge Mora may remind you of the work of Ezra Jack Keats with her collage illustration style, which is a beautiful comparison. Keats was revolutionary in pushing for the inclusion of Black children in picture books even though he was a white man. His work has influenced multiple generations of picture book author-illustrators, Mora included. Mora grew up in Columbus, Ohio but now resides in Providence, Rhode Island, after attending the Rhode Island School of Design. RISD has been an incubator for some of the best people working in children’s literature today. They must certainly be doing something right at that school. As you look over these titles, you’ll quickly see that Mora’s interests lie in making books about people coming together and growing.

Thank You, Omu! (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Written & Illustrated by Oge Mora

For ages: 3-6
Omu has decided to make a big pot of stew today, and the scent is drawing in all the people from her neighborhood. The pot is full of a rich red stew that Omu has been looking forward to, but she gets interrupted by a little boy who follows his nose. Omu will share from her pot; there’s more than enough for her and any visitors. A parade of neighbors begins showing up, and by the end, everyone has a smile on their face and a full belly from their neighbor’s gift. Oge Mora does an excellent job of highlighting the importance of community and mutual aid. More often than not, we have no one else to rely upon outside of our neighbors. They show immense gratitude for Omu and surprise her with dishes of their own making, wanting to share in the bounty. A wonderfully illustrated book about a world we should be lucky enough to live in.

Everybody in the Red Brick Building (Blazer + Bray)
Written by Anne Wynter
Illustrated by Oge Mora

For ages: 3-6
The noises that make up an evening in an apartment building are at the center of this picture book. Starting with the wailing of a baby, this snowballs into a parrot’s wake-up call to a cat setting off a car alarm, and more. By the middle of the book, everyone is awake in the middle of the night and doing what they can to silence the sounds in their respective space. It is a series of comforting quiet sounds that lull everyone back to sleep. The shhh of a street sweeper and the gentle tinkling of wind chimes calm everyone down. This book has fantastic collage-style illustrations from Mora and an excellent introduction to onomatopoeia, with characters represented by a sound in the text rather than a noun. This would be a great read-aloud, particularly if the kids join in for the sounds.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read (Anne Schwartz Books)
Written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
Illustrated by Oge Mora

For ages: 5-8
There is a common misnomer that older people cannot learn and change. Mary Walker proved that wrong. The Emancipation Proclamation passed when Mary was 15 years, erasing her status as a slave in the American South. However, there wasn’t much support provided to the freed slaves, so Mary and her family struggled. She was given a Bible, but the whole thing was squiggles. Like most former slaves, Mary could not read because it had been illegal for her to know how. Mary would find a husband, have children, and outlive them all. In 1963, she was 113 when she decided to join a reading class offered in her neighborhood. By 1969, Mary could read and had become a local celebrity for her incredible accomplishment. Hubbard & Mora tells Mary’s story in this remarkable book that reminds us there is never a time when it is too late for us to grow and learn. Change should not be feared but embraced.

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