Andrea Davis Pinkney-Human Dynamo,By Sheilah Egan

With a thesaurus in hand one could begin to list the adjectives that apply to the human dynamo that is Andrea Davis Pinkney. One should start with highly intelligent-having graduated from Syracuse University she immediately moved out on her own and began working as an editor with Mechanics Illustrated. Later she became a senior editor at Essence magazine. Her parents stimulated her intelligence and their active roles in the Civil Rights movement inspired her to think about the experience of African Americans throughout history. In her book, Let it Shine: Black Women Freedom Fighters (1998) she says, “Black empowerment was more than a slogan in our home. It was a deeply held belief that my parents, through their example instilled in their three children. To brand myself a product of the civil rights movement is no overstatement.” Using her excellent research skills she “digs deep” and reads widely before and during the writing of a book. She is dedicated to “fact checking” and the whole “vetting process, after all I am an editor and very aware of the necessity of research.” Her training as a journalist keeps her on target with deadlines and helps with “knowing when a book is finished.”

“Persistent” and “passionate” would be found on the adjectives list. As a writer, Pinkney encourages anyone interested in writing to do so everyday, just as she does. She keeps a notebook handy and practices her passion for words “all the time.” In an interview for Horn Book Magazine (JULY 8, 2013), her husband, Brian Pinkney says “Andrea is fiercely committed to using words to bring history to young people. And, oh, how Andrea loves words!… Words, words, and more words. And articulate? That’s Andrea… Collaborating with Andrea is one of the most incredible joys of my life. We work well together – as parents facilitating the growth of our children, and as an author/illustrator team, combining our unique styles to make books that we hope will inspire children.” Her passion for doing just that is evident in the body of her work, both in fiction and nonfiction picture books and novels.

Observing her as a presenter at a conference is an awesome experience as she describes working as an editor and an author. One cannot help but become as excited as she about the power of language to inspire and up-lift readers. Her work as the managing editor of Hyperion’s Jump at the Sun* imprint is demanding but well served by her expertise in children’s and young adult literature. Cramming every minute with work and writing has Pinkney beginning her day at four A.M. Hearing her talk about her family, one also knows that she is a concerned, active, and loving parent. Here one would need to use the adjectives “powerhouse” and “dynamo.” Her diminutive size (5′ tall if an inch!) belies the energy she radiates. Just being in the same room with her gives one the feeling that everyone can “work harder.” She told the audience at 2013 Shenandoah University’s Children’s Literature Conference that, “Things do not happen on their own. Hard work is the answer but sometimes I do get on a roll and it comes more easily than at other times.”

Her work ethic is astonishing (another adjective!) and the number of books she shepherds as an editor while writing those of her own is simply astonishing. The list of awards and honors she has received might actually be longer than the list of adjectives needed to indicate her powerful presence in the world of literature. Scholastic’s web page for Pinkney includes the following: Andrea’s picture books include Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down, a Parenting Publication Gold Medal winner, winner of the Jane Addams Book Award, the Carter G. Woodson Award for historical works for young people, the Anne Izard Storyteller’s Award, and the Flora G. Stieglitz Strauss Award for Nonfiction; Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride, a Jane Addams Honor Book and School Library Journal “Best Book of the Year,” the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, which also won the Carter G. Woodson Award for historical works for young people; and Duke Ellington, a Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

The Network Journal, a publication for Black professionals, recently named Andrea one of the “25 Most Influential Black Women in Business” and she was named among “The 25 Most Influential People in Our Children’s Lives” by Children’s Health Magazine. She has been selected by Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) to deliver the 2014 Arbuthnot Lecture, a high honor indeed. “We are honored to recognize Andrea Pinkney for her significant contributions to literature for young people provided through a body of work that brings a deeper understanding of African American heritage,” stated 2014 Arbuthnot Committee Chair Susan Moore.

One can only use the expletive WOW!

Grammar aside, my admiration for the work Andrea Davis Pinkney has done for the world of literature knows no bounds. She truly deserves any and all accolades – oh, and did I mention that she is absolutely one of the nicest people on Earth and that she is very funny AND that she can sing AND that she pulls audiences to their feet and has them singing with the joy that infuses every aspect of her life?

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