Author Spotlight: Patricia C. McKissack

It is a great honor to spotlight the prolific and pioneering author, Patricia C. McKissack. This spotlight is tinged with a bit of sadness. On Friday, April 7th, McKissack passed away due to cardio-respiratory arrest. She is renowned in the world of children’s literature for books she published on her own and as part of a writing team with her husband, Fredrick L. McKissack, Sr., who died four years ago. Their fiction and nonfiction children’s books told the stories of African and African American people—our history, culture, traditions, folktales, and myths.  Nearly twenty years ago, in Black Books Galore!, they discussed writing much-needed stories by and about Black people. It is, unfortunately, a topic that is still being deliberated:

“In the past there was a dearth of books for, by, and about African Americans. We have tried for twenty years to fill the void—and with some measure of success. But we can’t rest on our laurels or claim a victory, because there is still too much work to be done. We hope our books encourage young children to read, but we also hope our effort will inspire young children to write. The work must go on!”

McKissack, a native of Smyrna, Tennessee, was a middle-school teacher and editor before embarking on a writing career. Both of her former professions gave her tremendous insight into writing and publishing for children. Although McKissack penned many solo books, she wrote most of her titles—over one-hundred—with her husband. Both her solo and collaborative projects won numerous awards and honors, some include The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural, Black Hands, White Sails, Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman?, and Black Diamond: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues.

Many would be surprised to learn that McKissack, who described herself as “an original Trekkie” has also written a science fiction series, The Clone Codes.  Her last book, Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin, & Turn It Out!: Games, Songs, and Stories from an African American Childhood,  was published in January. She left a magnificent legacy of stories for enjoyment, learning, teaching, and inspiration. Listed below are some of her works. Go here and here in our directory for more titles. Also, watch her 2011 National Book Festival presentation. Our Stories Matter.

“To me, reading is like breathing; both are essential to life.”

Books:

Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin, & Turn It Out!: Games, Songs, and Stories from an African American Childhood (2017)

Never Forgotten (2011)

Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt (2008) 

The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll (2007)

Precious and the Boo Hag (2005)

Loved Best (2005)

Days of Jubilee (2003)

Goin’ Someplace Special (2001)

The Honest-to-Goodness Truth (2000)

Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers (1999)

Let My People Go: Bible Stories Told by a Freeman of Color (1998)

Mirandy and Brother Wind (1998)

Ma Dear’s Aprons (1997)

Rebels Against Slavery: American Slave Revolts (1996)

Black Diamond: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues (1994)

The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural (1992)

Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman? (1992)

Flossie and the Fox (1986)

The Clone Codes Series

The Clone Codes #3: The Visitor (2012)

The Clone Codes #2: Cyborg (2011)

The Clone Codes #1 (2010)

Miami Jackson Series

Miami Jackson Sees It Through #3 (2002)

Miami Jackson Makes the Play #2 (2001)

Miami Gets It Straight #1 (1999)

Messy Bessey Series

Messy Bessey’s Family Reunion (2000)

Messy Bessey’s Holidays (1999)

Messy Bessey and the Birthday Overnight (1998)

Messy Bessey’s School Desk (1998)

Messy Bessey’s Garden (1991)

Messy Bessey’s Closet (1987)

Sources:

Patricia C. McKissack, Honored Children’s Author from Chesterfield, Dies at 72 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Patricia C. McKissack (Scholastic)

Black Books Galore! Guide to Great African American Children’s Books – Donna Rand, Toni Trent  Parker, &Sheila Foster

YouTube: Patricia McKissack: 2011 National Book Festival (Library of Congress)

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