Former Chronicle columnist receives national book awards

Carole Boston Weatherford recently won National Book Awards for her work.

Former Chronicle columnist receives national book awards
February 10
13:31 2021

The list of accomplishments for Carole Boston Weatherford just got longer. Two of her books were recognized with Library Association Youth Media Awards, the highest honor for children’s literature.

Weatherford won a Newbery Honor for her book “BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom,” illustrated by Michele Wood, and her book “R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul,” that won a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for its illustration by Frank Morrison.

“I have been in the business a long time and I have won honors before, but I just wasn’t expecting it and I wasn’t expecting it for that book either,” said Weatherford. “You know, you write something a few years back and you think it’s good and it comes out … last year was the pandemic year and I just wasn’t expecting anything because of that, I guess.”

Weatherford says she had heard of the story about Henry “Box” Brown previously. She was visiting a school in the mountains of North Carolina and a librarian suggested she should write about Brown. She took the librarian’s advice and soon began working on the project that eventually became BOX.

Box tells the story of one of slavery’s most daring escape attempts. Following the sale of his wife and children, Brown decided to ship himself from Richmond, Va., to Philadelphia, Pa., in a wooden box. The book features a series of six-line poems, reflecting the structure of Brown’s box, Weatherford said in a press release.

“At first it was a picture book for young kids and over the years I expanded it to a collection of poems for kids in middle grades,” she said. “That was the result, and it was a long time in the works. It took a while to find a publisher and that’s why it was so surprising that the book won the Newbery Honor, even though I have been in the industry a long time and have had lots of honors.  

“It was just kind of an unlikely subject because it was about slavery and you just never know what judges are going to select from year to year, but I am very honored that it won.”

Writing about the subject of slavery in a children’s book is not an easy task. You have to cover the subject matter while also being careful not to be overly graphic about the atrocities committed against Black people during that time.

“I don’t condescend to children, I give them the truth,” she said about her writing. “I may not depict the truth in graphic terms like I might for an adult audience. I try to explain concepts for children in the midst of the storytelling.

“I think children are more sophisticated than what we give them credit for. You wouldn’t give them a steady diet of that topic anymore than you would give a child a steady diet of sugar. Yes, the topic is something we as adults don’t want to talk about, but our kids need to know their history. The analogy that I use is, ‘If children were not too young to be enslaved, our children are not too young to know about slavery.’”

Weatherford has been a fan of Aretha Franklin since she was a child. Her father was a big fan of hers, so it was an honor to write about the Queen of Soul, she said.

“It was a big deal, and we were very happy about that,” she said about her book winning the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. “I grew up listening to Aretha Franklin when I was a teenager, so that book was special to me. My dad was into Aretha Franklin, so it kind of took me back writing the book.”

Weatherford began writing in her 20s. She said as a youth, pursuing a career in the arts was seen as impractical by many in the Black community. “It was not something that you saw a lot of in the Black culture,” said Weatherford. “Although those people existed, you didn’t necessarily meet them. You didn’t meet authors, or the visual artists or the performing artists. You may view them from the stage or read their books, but as a child, it may not even dawn on you that they’re making money, or that it’s a career path.”

Luckily for Weatherford and readers, her parents encouraged her passion for writing. Once she was bitten with the writing bug, it stuck with her from then on. Weatherford has written for several organizations, including The Chronicle as a freelance columnist and editor.  

A big part of Weatherford’s mission in writing has been to highlight African American culture and history, she said. She feels it’s important for Black children to see themselves in books, because they rarely see that.

“Schools aren’t necessarily teaching our children a complete history, they never have,” she went on to say. “Not even we adults have a complete history, so in some cases, when I write a children’s book and a child and an adult sit down together and read it, the adult may be learning about the subject matter for the first time as well.”

Weatherford’s latest book continues her theme of chronicling African American history. The book is entitled “Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre,” illustrated by Floyd Cooper. It is a children’s book that tells the story of “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Okia., and the brutal cruelty the people in the Greenwood District of the city suffered through by the hands of white Americans in 1921.

“I spend a good bit of the book recreating Black Wall Street and revisiting the community’s heyday,” she said. “After I have created the setting, I go on to show the event that led up to the Tulsa Race Massacre. At the time, there were 10,000 people living in the Greenwood community where Black Wall Street was located and over 300 people were killed in the massacre and Black Wall Street was burned down.

“It is a difficult topic, and it helps being paired with an illustrator like Floyd Cooper, who can interpret those themes and choose moments that children can connect with, on both sides of the tragedy. I am really happy to see the book out there and it’s been well received.”

Weatherford has more books coming out later that deal with topics in the African American community, as well as books for children of younger ages. To view other books written by Weatherford, visit her website at

About Author

Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors