Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Melodious Maker Don Tate and a PRIZE by Arree Chung

Don Tate's work is pure music. His images flow in an amazingly melodic way (I don't know how he does it without sound). One of the best parts about Don's work is the wonderful use of perspective he uses in his illustrations. This perspective draws the viewer into the story, and who wouldn't want to live inside a book?

Don has received many awards for his writing and illustration including an Award for ALA Notable Children’s Book and an Ezra Jack Keats Book Award in 2016 for Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. Don speaks at many fairs, festivals and conferences. He is also a founder of The Brown Bookshelf – "a blog designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers"


Dani: How did you get started in illustration?

Don: I’ve been drawing forever, at least it seems like. I started illustrating professionally right out of college, when I started freelancing for the Perfection Form Company (Now Perfection Learning Corporation), in Des Moines, Iowa, where I grew up. It’s an educational publishing company that creates supplemental educational products aids such as work books, teaching guides, basal books, as well as picture books to be used in the classroom. Later I accepted a full-time job there, where I worked as a book designer, but I also became the in-house illustrator. Occasionally, I traveled with PFC to reading conferences where they exhibited. That’s where I learned about trade publishing. Eventually, I left to pursue my trade publishing dreams.

Dani: What do you think is your greatest achievement in kidlit?

Don: When I let go of fear and allowed myself to express myself through words in addition to pictures. I always say I had no interest in writing, but I don’t think that’s quite true. I had an interest in writing, but I guess I didn’t think I was smart enough, or equipped enough, or articulate enough, to write. To me, writing a book was for people who had high educational degrees, went to law school, studied English in college. None of that was me, so I stuck to painting pretty pictures. Eventually, I allowed myself to let go and write. And it was the best decision of my career. My next book, STRONG AS SANDOW: HOW EUGEN SANDOW BECAME THE STRONGEST MAN ON EARTH (Charlesbridge) publishes in two weeks, and it’s already received two starred reviews. I've now had three books publish that I've written, with three more under contract. I’ve actually received more accolades as a writer than I have as an illustrator—and I’ve been a writer for a short time.

Dani: Can you talk a bit about The Brown Bookshelf and it's importance to kidlit?

Don: The Brown Bookshelf was started by YA authors Varian Johnson and Paula Chase—Hyman, as a way to highlight other authors and illustrators writing for children. Historically, books by People of Color, have gone under the radar of the children’s literature community. Varian and Paula got tired of their books publishing and seeming to get ignored by the wider publishing community. So that’s where the Brown Bookshelf was born. They bought on me and several other authors and illustrators, where we conduct interviews, industry news, and generally cheer on African American children’s book creators. While the topic of diversity in children’s books is of utmost importance to us, we’ve chosen to focus on supporting our “own voices,” while partnering with others, when we can.

Dani: What's one thing that illustrators should do to help their work appeal to a diverse audience?

Don: Think about the world around you. What does that world look like? It’s likely diverse. It’s likely a world made up of all kinds of people. Draw that.

Dani: Is there any words of wisdom you'd like to share with the illustrators working on a dummy this month?

Don: Master the page turn. What is going to get your reader to turn the page? Ask a question to be answered on the next page. Action/reaction. Study books by Eric Rohman, Brian Floca, Dan Santat. They’re some of the best at getting a reader to turn the page.



Arree Chung is giving a copy of "Out" to one lucky winner!

To win this prize please let Don how much you liked his post, and don't forget to thank Arree for his prize!

Arree Chung is a true picture book ninja. He has created many ninja (and non-ninja) books. You too can learn to be a picture book ninja with Arree's new course: http://www.storytelleracademy.com. I took his summer course and it was absolutely wonderful. So much vital information for those creating picture book dummies!


  1. :3 thank you for the post Don! Encouraging read for the morning.

  2. Thanks for sharing with us your own fears regarding your writing skills, which happily for us were proven wrong. Love your stories and illustrations.

  3. "Master the Page turn" is sage advice! Thank you for the encouragement

  4. You are remarkable, Don! And thank you Arree for giving away such a great prize. You both are remarkable men in the kid lit world.

  5. Terrific. I love seeing how your career grew. Talent and hard work!

  6. Wow beautiful illustrations Don! Thanks for giving away your book Arree!

  7. Great post Don and thanks Arree for the great prize.

  8. And we are certainly glad you did conquer your fear of writing Don! Thanks for the great post, and to Arree too for his generous prize.

  9. Thanks Don. First time I've heard of the Brown Bookshelf. I'll have to check it out. Love your illustration style. Arree, I hope I win your prize.

  10. Don, you give this fellow illustrator and hopeful author a lot of inspiration. I also look forward to the time when I can join the group of diverse author/illustrators. Thanks for sharing your story.

  11. Thank you for sharing Don, and thank you for the book prize Arree. :)