New York City’s Just Us Books: Multicultural Stories for Growing Children

The only independent children’s book publisher that dedicates the total sum of its efforts to printing and distributing African American children’s books, Just Us Books started as somewhat of an after thought. The company’s founders, Wade and Cheryl Hudson, had initially meant to land an existing major book publisher for the book that they co-wrote.

The title of that book was AFRO-BETS R A B C Book. As noted at the company’s official website, the couple was met with a series of rejections. One editor even told them that, “There’s no market for black children’s books.”

African American Children’s Books

Rather than to allow the rejections that were often preceded by compliments to deter them, the Hudsons published AFRO-BETS R A B C Book on their own. That first printing which sold 5,000 copies within a matter of weeks marked the start of Just Us Books. Parents and teachers alike heralded the book, hungered for more.

Five years after New York City’s independent children’s book publisher opened its doors for business Scholastic contacted Cheryl and Wade and set up a production partnership with Just Us Books. The publisher has also acquired books from other publishing houses and worked with household name authors like Omar Tyree, Carmille Yarbrough, Mari Evans and Valerie Wilson Wesley.

Just Us Books offers an online book catalogue for young readers, parents, teachers and school administrators to learn more about their titles. The New York City children’s book publisher also has created t-shirts and caps and a Kids Club.

Book Resources for Teachers and Librarians

The teacher and librarian center includes an electronic newsletter, black history fact timeline, free articles and the ability for administrators to request authors to do readings at their schools. The parent’s center includes fun contests and prizes, information about popular characters in series books, avatars and wall paper images free to download on the Internet.

Wade and Cheryl Hudson have written about 20 titles printed by Just Us Books. They have also brought more than 25 other authors, illustrators, an administrative staff and editors on board since 1987. Their titles have won the Publishers Marketing Association’s Ben Franklin Award, the Children’s Book of the Year and the African American Academy of Arts and Letters.

More Awards for Just Us Books

Other honors bestowed upon Just Us Books’ titles are the National Council of Social Studies Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies Honor and the Multicultural Publishers Exchange Book Award of Excellence. Titles published by the New York City company include Anthony’s Big Surprise by Wade Hudson, Just An Overnight Guest by Eleanora Tate, Kid Caramel by Dwayne Ferguson and Ruby by Rosa Guy.

Celebrating Multicultural Books in New York City

Other independent multicultural children’s book publishers based out of New York City include Lee & Low Books which is located on Madison Avenue. Founded in 1991, books published by Lee & Low have won the Coretta Scott King, Jr. book award, the Parent’s Choice Award, Child Magazine’s best books award and the Jane Addams Peace Award. Seven Miles to Freedom by Janet Halfmann, Summer Sun Risin’ by W. Nikola-Lisa and Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars by Mark Weston are a sprinkling of the multicultural titles published by Lee & Low Books.

Holiday House is an independent publisher in New York City that publishes mainstream and multicultural books for children including poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Also located on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue, Holiday House was founded in 1935, making it one of the oldest independent children’s book publishers still in existence. Keeper of Soles by Teresa Bateman, A Hero and the Holocaust by David Adler and The Story of Noodles by Ying Chang Compestine are a few of the children’s titles published by Holiday House.