Javaka Steptoe
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Biography: Javaka SteptoeImages from Do You Know What I'll Do

Javaka Steptoe is an eclectic young artist, designer, and illustrator, building a national reputation as an outstanding contributor to the genre of children’s literature. His debut work, In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers, earned him the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, a nomination for Outstanding Children’s Literature Work at the 1998 NAACP Image Awards, a finalist ranking for the Bluebonnet Award for Excellence in Children’s Books, and countless other honors. His books, Do You Know What I’ll Do? authored by Charlotte Zolotow and A Pocketful of Poems authored by Nikki Grimes, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and the ALA Booklist. Hot Day on Abbott Avenue, written by Karen English, received the 2005 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. Steptoe is also the author/illustrator of The Jones Family Express. His most recent illustration projects include Rain Play by Cynthia Cotten, published in 2008 and Amiri and Odette: A Love Story by multi award winning author Walter Dean Myers, forthcoming in January 2009.

Once a model and inspiration for his late father, award winning author/illustrator John Steptoe, Javaka Steptoe has established himself as an outstanding illustrator in his own right. Utilizing everyday objects, from aluminum plates to pocket lint, and sometimes illustrating with a jigsaw and paint, he delivers reflective and thoughtful collage creations filled with vitality, playful energy, and strength.

For Steptoe, "...collage is a means of survival. It is how Black folks survived four hundred years of oppression, taking the scraps of life and transforming them into art forms." As both an artist and educator, he challenges traditional notions of Black art, emphasizing the richness of our collective past through his use of family as a recurring theme and centerpiece. Steptoe explains, "I want my audience no matter what their background, to be able to enter into my world and make connections with comparable experiences in their own lives." Having earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Steptoe is very committed to children’s education, making appearances at various schools, libraries, museums, and conferences across the country, including the American Library Association, the International Reading Association, and Reading is Fundamental, Inc.

Selected Articles in Print

(For online articles, see Connections page.)

Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 9, 2000, Julia Bookman, review of Do You Know What I'll Do?, p. D3.

Black Issues Book Review, May, 2001, "Daddy's Here," p. 76.

Booklist, February 15, 1998, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African-Americans Celebrating Fathers, p. 1007; February 15, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of A Pocketful of Poems, p. 1154; February 15, 2002, Gillian Engberg and Hazel Rochman, review of In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall, p. 1028; May 1, 2003, Gillian Engberg, review of The Jones Family Express, p. 1606.

Boston Herald, January 25, 1998, Karyn Miller-Medzon, review of In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall, p. 61.

Horn Book, January-February, 1998, Deborah Taylor, review of In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall, p. 87; March-April, 1998, Rudine Sims Bishop, "Following in Their Father's Paths," p. 249.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of The Jones Family Express, p. 684.

Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2001, review of A Pocketful of Poems, p. 6.

Publishers Weekly, October 27, 1997, review of In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall, p. 74; December 22, 1997, "Flying Starts: Six Children's Authors and Artists Discuss Their Fall '97 Debuts," p. 28; September 11, 2000, review of Do You Know What I'll Do?, p. 89; January 15, 2001, review of A Pocketful of Poems, p. 76; April 14, 2003, review of The Jones Family Express, pp. 69-70.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 1, 1998, Babette Morgan, review of In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall, p. D6.

School Library Journal, February, 1998, Dawn Amsberry, review of In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall, p. 118; September, 2000, Nina Lindsay, review of Do You Know What I'll Do?, p. 212; May, 2001, Lauralyn Persson, review of A Pocketful of Poems, p. 141; July, 2003, Eve Ortega, review of The Jones Family Express, pp. 106-107.

Image from In Daddy's Arms I am Tall

Honors and Awards

2007 Humanities Washington Grant The Creative Process (Arts and Education)

2005 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Hot Day on Abbott Avenue

2001 New York Foundation for the Arts, Printmaking/ Drawing/ Artist Fellow

1998 Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration for In Daddy’s Arms I am Tall

1998 NAACP Image Award Nomination for In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall

1998 Brooklyn Public Library Honor for In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall

1998 Bluebonnet Award for Excellence Finalist for In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall

Selected Art Exhibitions

Solo Retrospective, Robert Morris College, Springfield, IL: 2008

FORGIVE? Contemplating the Notion of Forgiveness through Depictions of Ideas, Moments and Faith, The Gallery at Harriet's Alter Ego. Brooklyn, NY: 2007

Open Studio Residency, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA: 2007

Read Me a Story: Children's Book Illustration, Corridor Gallery, New York, NY: 2007

Children Should Be Seen: The Image of the Child in American Picture-Book Art, Organized by The Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY and The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA: 2007- 2008

The Pulse of New Brooklyn: A Review of Contemporary Black Art, Museum Of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Brooklyn, NY: 2006

Memory of the Ancestors: Brooklyn Windows, Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, NY: 2001

Legends, Folklore, and Real-life Stories: Illustrations from the Coretta Scott King Award Books, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Ill: 2000-2001

In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall, Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY: 2000

Beyond Once Upon a Time, Creative Arts Workshop, New Haven, CT: 1998

Cityscape, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, New York, NY: 1998

 
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