Children’s books will always be relevant. They provide various benefits for kids including literacy, opportunities to bond with family, friends, teachers, etc., knowledge, entertainment, imagination, and creativity, to name a few. A few years ago, Emmy award-winning television host, bestselling children’s book author, marketing executive, and entrepreneur, Markette Sheppard, wrote My Rainy Day Rocket Ship (May 5, 2020; Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), which is especially timely during this age of quarantine amid the pandemic crisis. The picture book, illustrated by Charly Palmer, is about a boy who is stuck at home with nothing to do but create.
“He does a lot of low-tech imagination, using things around his house to create a whole new world and a different place,” Sheppard tells So Booking Cool. “I’m excited for kids, especially now, because I wrote this story a few years ago, and it’s coming out at a time when, you know what? We are at home. You can play any video game you want, and a kid is going to get bored with it. But what can you do with all the toys and the things you have around the house to make your own fun? That’s what the story is about.”
My Rainy Day Rocket Ship has received positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, in which the latter praises the book for its storytelling and visuals, and the former highlights the family bonding aspect of the tale.
In addition to Sheppard wanting to pen a story that incites youth to take an internet and/or gaming breather, her mission as an author is also personal, especially as a parent. When reading to her son, who she calls her muse, she reveals she could not find him represented in stories. “There is a study that shows that there are more books written about talking animals or personified animals than children of color,” Sheppard says.
Last June, the School Library Journal published an article regarding an updated infographic about diversity in children’s books. The annual study, conducted by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, examines the percentage of books depicting characters from diverse backgrounds. The most recent statistics, for 2018 presented the following: 1% (23 books) of Native American Indians; 5% (170 books) of Latinx; 7% (218 books) of Asian Pacific Islander/Asian Pacific American; 10% (301 books) of African Americans; 27% (864 books) of Animals/Other; and 50% (1,558) of White.
“Instead of thinking why don’t “they”–you know how people always say ‘why don’t they make a book for us?'” Sheppard remarks. “There is no they, that’s what I realized. I have to be the person to do that. So I decided I don’t want to read a book about the Civil Rights movement to my toddler, ’cause those books are out there. It’s scary, and it’s sad, and there’s a time and a place for that in a child’s learning.
I want to read a story about a little brown child who is having fun, and playing, and living, and breathing, and being creative because that is our day-to-day reality more than it is reading a book about what happened in Selma, Alabama.”
Watch the full interview to learn more about Sheppard including how she is managing in the COVID-19 pandemic; her next book; how she has grown as a storyteller and her goal to write more character-driven books; the positive reception What is Light? has received from parents of multiple races; whether Sheppard believes one should become an author to increase representation; why she and Denene Millner Books make a great team; the time she was told she wasn’t good enough; her platform Glow Stream TV; and more! For more information and to connect, visit Sheppard’s Facebook.