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Remember when your teacher would hand out the fliers for book fairs at school? I do. I loved to just read the flier and mark all the books I wanted. I am sure I didn’t get all of them – probably just a couple. It was still exciting to read about all the books and decide whether I would get Encyclopedia Brown or try a new story series.

Even though I’ve been out of elementary school for decades, I still think the fliers are exciting. They’re really a sign that the books are coming, the books are coming. Sometimes I have a chance to look at our children’s book order forms and see what they’ve chosen. Occasionally I will suggest books to them or order things that they haven’t chosen in addition to their choices. Just because I think some books we need to have.

This week is book fair week at my children’s school and they both were able to get a few books today. And I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on all of them, but I did get to read and flip through Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. I hadn’t seen the book yet – so it was a great surprise to see it on our coffee table at home last night.

Nelson, who began his publishing career as an illustrator, always gives us beautiful images. Now that he’s also writing, I feel doubly blessed to hold one of his books. He is also author and illustrator of We Are the Ship, a book about Negro League Baseball – a wonderful, beautiful and amazing book.

I love Nelson’s artwork and hope one day to buy a limited edition print or even an original of his. The faces in his work seem to be telling a story. I feel like I can hear the character – certainly I can see their lives in the light on their faces, the shadows, the creases and burnished places.

Cover of "We Are the Ship: The Story of N...

Cover via Amazon

His paintings / illustrations of Black men capture my heart in particular. In We Are The Ship and Heart and Soul (as well as his other work) I see the incredible range of humanity that happens to be Black and male that I don’t see in other spaces. Strong figures, old and young, beautiful and challenging.

This year I didn’t have a chance to go to our school’s book fair (in past years I’ve volunteered and loved it). But I am already very pleased with the books our kids chose – and can’t wait for my own chance to read them – starting with Heart and Soul.