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
  • Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

Don Tate (IPA: /dɑn tet/) (born December 21, 1963) is an American author and illustrator of books for children. He is also an activist promoting racial and cultural inclusiveness in children's literature. He notes that as a child he had to read the encyclopedia to discover a multicultural world; based on the children's books of his day he "thought the world was white".[1] He co-founded the young African American blog The Brown Bookshelf and helps run the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign to improve diversity of material in children's books.[2]


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

His first book as an author, It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, was published by Lee & Low Books in 2012. It is a "captivating"[3] biography of folk artist Bill Traylor, a former slave. The book received numerous awards such as a Lee & Low New Voices Honor Award[3] and an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor.[4] It was selected as a Kirkus Best Children’s Books List Selection,[5] a Booklist Editors’ Choice, 2012,[6] 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.[7]

Tate's 2015 illustrated picture book Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton tells the story of the 19th century slave in Chatham County, North Carolina who subsequently became the first African American in the Southern United States to write a book.[8] Tate was inspired to write about Horton via a friend; he researched his life in the University of North Carolina archives.[9] The Wilson Library at UNC hosted the national launch of the book on September 3, 2015.[10][11] A review in the School Library Journal called the book "A lovely introduction to an inspirational American poet."[12] The Boston Globe called it "a moving biography of a slave who taught himself to read using a discarded spelling book".[13] In 2016, Tate won an Ezra Jack Keats Book Award,[14] A Christopher,[15] and a Texas Institute of Letters book prize.[16]



  • 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


  • Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream on Inventions (Charlesbridge, May. 2016), written by Chris Barton. A Junior Library Guild Selection, 2016.
  • The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans Publishing, April. 2015), written by Chris Barton. A review in the School Library Journal said Tate was "the best possible artist for this story."[17]
  • 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.
  • Black All Around! (Lee & Low Books, 2003), written by Patricia Hubbell.
  • 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.
  • Say Hey! A Song of Willie Mays (Hyperion Books for Children , 2000), written by Peter Mandell.

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.

Other activities[edit]

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. Tate created the calendars due to a lack of African Americans on existing products.[18]

Tate speaks at schools,[19] public libraries and writing conferences, including the Vermont College of Fine Arts;[20] Texas Writer’s League; Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators; Pathways to Literacy Conferences(International Institute of Literacy Learning).

Tate has been a featured illustrator/speaker/exhibitor at various literary festivals, including the Texas Book Festival,[21] The Savannah Children’s Book Festival,[22] The Dallas Children’s Book and Literary Festival, Bookamania (Chicago Public Library),[23] and such conferences as: The International Reading Association; Texas Library Association Black Caucus Roundtable[citation needed] and The National Alliance of Black School Educators.[24]


He and his family live in Austin, Texas.[25]

Further reading[edit]

Author-Illustrator Don Tate talks Multicultural Children's Books

Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Don Tate


  1. ^ "CBC Diversity: Industry Q&A with Author-Illustrator Don Tate". Children's Book Council. October 21, 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Vane, Sharyn (April 10, 2015). "Local authors leading campaign for more diverse children's books". Austin American Statesman. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Englehart, Kathy (September 1, 2012). "Louise Borden and Don Tate write biographies about men who changed the world: Young Readers". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  4. ^ "Awards & Honors". The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  5. ^ "Best Children's Books of 2012". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "Best-of-the-year nonfiction, middle readers, 2012". Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth. American Library Association. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  7. ^ "Best Children's Books of the Year, Five to Nine, 2012 edition" (PDF). Bank Street College of Education. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  8. ^ Baker, Elizabeth (September 2, 2015). "Former slave poet honored in book". The Daily Tar Heel. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  9. ^ "Five Questions for Don Tate, Author of Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton". UNC Library News and Events. August 26, 2015. Retrieved October 21, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton Book Launch Sept. 3 at Wilson Library". UNC Library News and Events. August 12, 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  11. ^ "The Story Of George Moses Horton, Enslaved NC Poet Turned Published Author". WUNC 91.5. September 3, 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  12. ^ Stone, Sarah (July 24, 2015). "Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton: SLJ Review". School Library Journal. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  13. ^ Gardner, Jan (September 5, 2015). "'Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton' by Don Tate". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  14. ^ "2016 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award Winners". Ezra Jack Keats Book Award. April 8, 2016. Retrieved April 8, 2016. 
  15. ^ "FAMILY, FAITH, COMMUNITY, AND SOCIAL ISSUES CELEBRATED IN 67th ANNUAL CHRISTOPHER AWARD WINNERS". The 67h Annual Christopher Awards Announced. April 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Texas Institute of Letters". Annual Literary Awards Conducted by the TIL. April 2016. Retrieved April 16, 2016. 
  17. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (September 10, 2015). "Review of the Day: The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton". School Library Journal. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  18. ^ "Don Tate: Musing in Black". Soul Citi. Retrieved October 24, 2015. 
  19. ^ Famous Author and Illustrator Visits Polser Elementary Hawk Pride Daily, retrieved May 7, 2013
  20. ^ "Spotlights". Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  21. ^ "Reading Rock Stars 2014 - Houston Authors". Texas Book Festival. November 10, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Savannah Children's Book Festival Travelling Programs". Retrieved October 22, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Bookamania Chicago: A Free Celebration of Children's Books Coming to Chicago's Harold Washington Library Center". Chicago Now. November 5, 2012. Retrieved October 22, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Illustrator Interview: Don Tate, The Brown Bookshelf". Children's Books and Reviews. Retrieved October 22, 2015. 
  25. ^ "About Us". The Brown Bookshelf. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 

External links[edit]