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The Bulletin
of the Center for Children's Books:

Rising Star
Each month we offer a focus on a particular author or artist. Sometimes we use this space to discuss a rising new talent or an established star, but we also like to celebrate those who now live on only in the rich legacy of their books.. See the archive for focus pieces from previous months.

Rising Star: Kadir Nelson, illustrator

Kadir Nelson is an illustrator to watch. A graduate of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Nelson's images have graced publications from Polygram, Nike, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. His works have been exhibited at the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences in Los Angeles, The Museum of African American History in Detroit, The Society of Illustrators in New York, The Bristol Museum in England, The Citizen's Gallery of Yokohama, Japan and The Center of Culture of Tijuana, Mexico. His first picture book, Brothers of the Knight by dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen (a story of dancing brothers in a theatrically-urban setting) exhibited masterful figure drafting and tight compositional control. Allen's sort-of-sequel, Dancing in the Wings (BCCB 11/00), not only benefited from a tighter, more focused story, but from Nelson's effervescent, high-spirited oil paintings. His characterizations of young dancer Sassy and her supportive, loving family have a dashing panache that is instantly enthralling. Nelson's watercolor and gouache illustrations for Jerdine Nolen's Big Jabe (BCCB 9/00) evoke a sense of plantation life before the Civil War. The sometimes-claustrophobic interior scenes contrast effectively with the sweep of the sun- and rain-drenched landscapes. The depiction of Big Jabe, an original tall-tale hero with echoes of the traditional figures of High John the Conqueror and John Henry, is heroic, solid, and impressive. From the folkloric-style heroism of Big Jabe Nelson segues smoothly to real-life hero Michael Jordan in Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream (BCCB, 12/00). Written by Jordan's mother and sister, this picture book describes the basketball star's early (and sometimes unsuccessful) attempts on the concrete courts of his childhood. Here again, Nelson's masterful control of body language and facial expressions brings the story much closer to reader and listener. Take a look at his website at and make sure you have his books on your shelves.

--Janice M. Del Negro, Editor


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This page was last updated on December 1, 2000.