Don Tate

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Don Tate
Don Tate.JPG
Tate in 2015.
Born Don Tate
Occupation Illustrator, Author
Nationality American
Genre children's books, African-American literature
Notable works
  • Say Hey, A Song of Willie Mays
  • It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

Don Tate, born Dec 21, 1963, is an award-winning author, and the illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children. He is also one of the founding hosts (along with Kelly Starling Lyons) of the blog The Brown Bookshelf - a blog dedicated to books for African American young readers with book reviews, author and illustrator interviews. Likewise, Don is a member of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature.

A native of Des Moines, Iowa, he currently lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and son.


Don is a self-taught painter and digital illustrator, who earned his degree from Des Moines Area Community College. He worked as a publication designer for the Perfection Learning Corporation ( an educational publishing company.) He also worked as an art director at Competitive Edge, an advertising and market research firm, and a graphic artist at a print shop. He worked for the Des Moines Register and the Austin-American Statesman before becoming a full-time book illustrator and author.


Tate began his career as an illustrator with Say Hey: A Song of Willie Mays (Jump at the Sun, 2000), written by Peter Mandel.

His first book as an author is It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie was published by Lee & Low Books in 2012. It has received numerous awards such as a Lee & Low New Voices Honor, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor.[1] It was selected as a Kirkus Best Children’s Books List Selection,[2] a Booklist Editors’ Choice, 2012,[3] and a New York Public Library Top 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing as well as one of Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2012.[4])



It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Lee & Low Books. 2012

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. Peachtree Publishers. 2015


  • The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans Publishing, April. 2015), written by Chris Barton.
  • The Cart That Carried Martin (Charlesbridge, Aug. 2013), written by Eve Bunting. A Junior Library Guild Selection, 2013.
  • Hope’s Gift (Putnam Juvenile, 2012), written by Kelly Starling Lyons. A Winter/Spring Okra Pick by Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA).
  • Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite (Charlesbridge, 2011), written by Anna Harwell Celenza. (Recognized in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times holiday guides.)
  • She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story (HarperCollins, 2010), written by Audrey Vernick,. A Junior Library Guild selection. School Library Journal said, Both author and illustrator are on top of their games as they bring this inspiring story to life.” She Loved Baseball was honored by the Bank Street College of Education as a Best Children’s Books of the Year.
  • Ron’s Big Mission (Dutton, 2009), written by Rose Blue and Corrine Naden, is a Junior Library Guild spring 2009 selection.
  • Summer Sun Risin’ (Lee & Low Books, 2002). Honored by the Bank Street College of Education as “Best Children’s Books of the Year for 2002.” It also received a Children’s Crown Award, 2003 by the National Christian School Association Master List.

Short Stories and Essays[edit]

  • Macaroni and Cheese — with Ketchup, in Cookin' 'N Bookin' Texas Style, written by Tara Henderson Forrest, published by the Texas State Reading Association, Jan. 2004.
  • Stolen Jeans, Smoke Rings, and Self-Esteem in Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves, edited by Miranda Kenneally and E. Kristin Anderson, published by Zest Books, Oct. 2012.

In addition to children’s books, Tate also licenses his art to product manufacturers. KIDZ is a line of juvenile bed and bathroom products including wallpaper, light switches, wall art and drawer knobs. He also has a line of children’s textile/fabric available at specialty fabric shops, which feature his designs. My Peepz, a group of African American characters, is marketed to ‘tweeners and has been successful in the calendar market.[5] According to Tate, "I've raised two daughter, and when shopping for them as 'tweens (preteenagers), I was disappointed in the lack of images that reflect African Americans. I was left wondering, 'where's My Peepz?'" [6]


Tate speaks at schools,[7] public libraries and writing conferences, including the Vermont College of Fine Arts;[8] Texas Writer’s League; Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators; Pathways to Literacy Conferences(International Institute of Literacy Learning).

He has been a featured illustrator/speaker/exhibitor at various literary festivals, including the Texas Book Festival; The Savannah Children’s Book Festival, The Dallas Children’s Book and Literary Festival, Bookamania (Chicago Public Library), and such conferences as: The International Reading Association; Texas Library Association Black Caucus Roundtable, The National Alliance of Black School Educators.

For Further Reading[edit]

Author-Illustrator Don Tate talks Multicultural Children's Books

CBC Diversity: Industry Q&A with Author-Illustrator Don Tate

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Don Tate


External Websites[edit]