Cheryl Willis Hudson (1948-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1948, in Portsmouth, VA; Education: Oberlin College, B.A.; post-graduate work at Northeastern University. Religion: Baptist.
Office—Just Us Books, 301 Main St., Ste. 22-24, Orange, NJ 07050.
Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, art editor; Macmillan Publishing, New York, NY, design manager; Arete Publishing Company, Princeton, NJ, assistant art director; freelance art director, graphic designer, and design consultant; Just Us Books, Orange, NJ, co-founder and publisher, 1988—.
Afro-Bets ABC Book, Just Us Books (East Orange, NJ), 1987.
Afro-Bets 123 Book, Just Us Books (East Orange, NJ), 1987.
(With Bernette G. Ford) Bright Eyes, Brown Skin, Just Us Books (East Orange, NJ), 1990.
Good Morning Baby, illustrated by George Ford, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.
Good Night Baby, illustrated by George Ford, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.
(Compiler) Hold Christmas in Your Heart: African-American Songs, Poems, and Stories for the Holidays, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
(Compiler, with husband Wade Hudson) How Sweet the Sound: African-American Songs for Children, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
Let's Count, Baby, illustrated by George Ford, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
Animal Sounds for Baby, illustrated by George Ford, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.
(Editor, with Wade Hudson) Kids Book of Wisdom: Quotes from the African-American Tradition, illustrated by Anna Rich, Just Us Books (East Orange, NJ), 1996.
(Editor, with Wade Hudson) In Praise of Our Fathers and Our Mothers: A Black Family Treasury by Outstanding Authors and Artists, Just Us Books (East Orange, NJ), 1997.
(Adapter) Many Colors of Mother Goose, illustrated by Ken Brown, Mark Corcoran, and Cathy Johnson, Just Us Books (East Orange, NJ), 1997.
The Harlem Renaissance: Profiles in Creativity, Newbridge (New York, NY), 2002.
Hands Can, photographs by John-Francis Bourke, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2003.
What Do You Know?: Snow!, illustrated by Sylvia Walker, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of poems and illustrations to Ebony Jr! and Wee Wisdom. Designer and art director for graphic-novel series Pink Flamingos, Simon & Schuster.
In less than a decade, Cheryl Willis Hudson and her husband, Wade Hudson, created a successful book publishing company, Just Us Books, that publishes, markets, and distributes several titles each year. Specializing in children's books and learning materials that portray African Americans, Just Us Books is a leader in meeting the needs of this market segment. Measured in financial terms, the success of Just Us Books is noteworthy. The company grossed more than one million dollars in sales in 1995, and, after only eight years, had more than three million books in print. Keeping in tune with the needs of readers, creating a quality product and employing savvy marketing techniques are some of the Hudsons' keys to success. Cheryl Hudson once told Something about the Author that she "strongly believes that African-American children have a right to see themselves portrayed positively and accurately in the literature of this society." She added that the company "specializes in books and learning materials for children that focus on the African American experience."
The couple divides the work amongst themselves and their staff. As president, Wade manages the business aspects of the company, such as marketing, while in the capacity of publisher, Cheryl handles such editorial aspects as coordinating writers and illustrators and developing the final product. The Hudsons are also the authors, compilers, or editors of many of their company's books. "What distinguishes us from the majors [large, commercial publishing houses]," Cheryl Hudson told Donna Whittingham-Barnes in Black Enterprise, "is that our products are designed to truly reflect black culture. Our children see black characters that are substantial and unique. They see themselves and their surroundings on the pages of our books." Since they published their first two works, Afro-Bets ABC Book and Afro-Bets 123 Book (both written by Cheryl), the Hudson team has successfully created books that reflect the diversity of American society.
Bright Eyes, Brown Skin exemplifies the Hudsons' goal of reinforcing the self-esteem of young African Americans. In the work, which Cheryl coauthored with Bernette G. Ford, four African-American children exuding self-confidence are happily at play in school. The illustrations show the children drawing, dancing, and playing games, and the text, in the words of Anna DeWind in School Library Journal, is a "poem extolling the beauty" of these exuberant young people. Kathleen Horning, writing in Booklist, concluded that Bright Eyes, Brown Skin may be a "favorite in preschool story hours," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that there is a "great" need for books which provide images of happy, confident black children. DeWind added, however, that the boys and girls depicted in the illustrations appear too cheerful and wondered if "real live children" might have "difficulty relating" to those in the book.
Hudson is the author of Good Morning Baby and Good Night Baby, also featuring African-American children, both of which are designed for toddlers. Good Morning Baby follows a little girl as she goes through her daily morning routine of waking, dressing, eating breakfast, and leaving the house with her father. In Good Night Baby a little boy gets ready for bed with a bath and a story. The books' text, with few words, emphasizes the beauty of the babies, as do the realistic illustrations which take up most of each page. A Publishers Weekly critic remarked that these books serve as "a gratifying addition" to "multicultural literature" for babies and toddlers.
Among Hudson's other books are collective biographies of African-American inventors and explorers and anthologies of music and poetry. How Sweet the Sound: African-American Songs for Children is a compilation that includes traditional spirituals, protest songs, street cries, and popular soul tunes, accompanied by information about the composers. Hold Christmas in Your Heart: African-American Songs, Poems, and Stories for the Holidays is a compilation that celebrates the holiday season. Hudson includes selections from Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, and Paul Dunbar, as well as two of her own short verses.
When Hudson and her husband decided to collaborate on a book that parents and children could enjoy together, they had no trouble finding material. In Praise of Our Fathers and Our Mothers: A Black Family Treasury by Outstanding Authors and Artists brings together some four dozen works—poems, paintings, interviews, memoirs, and illustrations from various writers and artists—that celebrate the African-American family. According to Horn Book reviewer Rudine Sims Bishop, "Shared values are … woven through these works, including an emphasis on creating and surrounding oneself with beauty; a high regard for education; the necessity to maintain a life of the spirit; and the need for familial and cultural continuity." Bishop added, "This is a black family album, which will appeal to readers across generations and across cultural boundaries as well."
In Hands Can Hudson shows preschoolers engaged in such activities as clapping, waving, and tying shoes. The author's "rhythmic, rhyming text bounces along in a satisfying way," noted Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan. Martha Topol, reviewing Hands Can in the School Library Journal, called the work an "inviting offering" that gives young readers "an almost sensory experience" while learning "how their hands help them to explore" their environment.
Both Hudson and her husband are advocates of diversity in literature. "We pull from African American culture to make meaningful books," Cheryl Hudson told Nick Sullivan in Home Office Computing. She added, "We've also been able to combine educational value with entertainment and mass-market appeal."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 15, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.
Baltimore Sun, March 1, 1997, p. D1.
Black Enterprise, December, 1989, p. 24; March, 1991, p. 21; November, 1994, p. 100.
Booklist, January 1, 1989, p. 788; December 1, 1990, Kathleen Horning, review of Bright Eyes, Brown Skin, p. 756; January 15, 1993, p. 899; March 15, 1993, p. 1359; September 15, 1995, Mary Harris Veeder, Hold Christmas in Your Heart: African-American Songs, Poems, and Stories for the Holidays, p. 170; April, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of In Praise of Our Fathers and Our Mothers: A Black Family Treasury by Outstanding Authors and Artists, p. 1321; February 15, 2001, Henrietta M. Smith, review of Let's Count, Baby, p. 1160; October 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Hands Can, p. 327.
Emerge, October, 1996, p. 26.
Essence, July, 1991, p. 100; December, 1992, p. 106.
Home Office Computing, September, 1991, pp. 42-43.
Horn Book, March-April, 1997, Rudine Sims Bishop, review of In Praise of Our Fathers and Our Mothers, pp. 217-218.
New York Times, October 14, 1996, p. D7.
Publishers Weekly, November 16, 1990, review of Bright Eyes, Brown Skin, p. 55; December 6, 1991, p. 71; November 9, 1992, review of Good Morning Baby and Good Night Baby, p. 81; January 18, 1993, p. 471; May 17, 1993, p. 78; September 18, 1995, review of Hold Christmas in Your Heart, p. 98; January 20, 1997. p. 400.
School Library Journal, December, 1988, p. 117; January, 1991, Anna DeWind, review of Bright Eyes, Brown Skin, p. 76; February, 1992, p. 74; April, 1993, p. 97; April, 1993, p. 97; May, 1993, p. 99; October, 1995, p. 38; November, 1995, p. 90; December, 2003, Martha Topol, review of Hands Can, pp. 116-117.
Just Us Books Web site, http://www.justusbooks.com/ (May 23, 2005), "Cheryl Hudson."
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