Jen Bryant Books ;
Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson
written by Jen Bryant
illustrated by Cannaday Chapman
Abrams Books for Young Readers, November 12, 2019
ISBN 978-1-4197-3653-7, hardcover $17.99
A celebration of August Wilson’s journey from a child in Pittsburgh to one of America’s greatest playwrights

“I don’t write for black people or white people;
I write about the black experience in America.
And contained within that experience,
because it is a human experience,
are all the universalities.”

August Wilson

August Wilson (1945–2005) was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who had a particular talent for capturing the authentic, everyday voice of black Americans. As a child, he read off the soup cans and cereal boxes, and when his mother brought him to the library, his whole world opened up. After facing intense prejudice at school from both students and some teachers, August dropped out. However, he continued reading and educating himself independently. He felt that if he could read about it, then he could teach himself anything and accomplish anything. Like many of his plays, Feed Your Mind is told in two acts, revealing how Wilson grew up to be one of the most influential American playwrights. The book includes an author’s note, a timeline of August Wilson’s life, a list of Wilson’s plays, and a bibliography.
Honors and Recognition
Junior Library Guild selection
National Book Festival choice for Pennsylvania
Society of Illustrators 2019 Original Art Exhibition
Read about the book's creators
Visit illustrator Cannaday Chapman’s website
Follow Cannaday Chapman on Instagram
Feed Your Mind Teaching and Discussion Guide
Read Jen’s interview with actor Melanye Finister
See selected photos from Jen’s research in Pittsburgh, PA
Read more about the August Wilson House
and the Daisy Wilson Arts Community
From PBS' American Masters,
“August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand”:
Read about the Obamas going to an August Wilson play!
Michelle Obama and President Barak Obama on their way to an August Wilson play
First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama (Photo credit Aude Guerrucci)
Bryant’s poetic descriptions effectively chronicle Wilson’s artistic journey. Chapman’s illustrations, created using ink, colored pencil, acrylic paint, and cut paper, bring the narrative to life. Characters feel as though they’ve been captured in mid-dialogue. … This empathetic and informative study of August Wilson’s early years explores the complexities of the black experience in America. A book that will resonate not only with bookworms and fans of the playwright but with black children wishing to see themselves reflected in the world around them. (School Library Journal, starred review)

Written in verse, Jen Bryant’s beautiful, informative text is worth reading slowly. There is a lot to take in and think about. It is also worth lingering over Cannaday Chapman’s splendid mixed-media illustrations. They are a nice combination of interior and exterior moments and get to the emotional heart of Bryant’s poems. (The New York Times)

One of America's greatest modern playwrights is introduced to generations of younger readers in this lyrical picture book. August Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning African American dramatist, is best known for his 10-play Century Cycle, which chronicles the African American experience through different decades in the 20th century. Because his work is targeted toward adults, many young readers might be unfamiliar with Wilson's life or achievements. Thanks to this timely and elegant picture book, that oversight is now corrected. Conceptually separated into two acts, the book frames Wilson's life as a play in free-verse form, immersing readers in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, a multiracial enclave where Frederick August Kittel Jr. is raised by his hardworking single mother. Act 1 chronicles Wilson's search for his name and voice, and Act 2 showcases his extraordinary life's work of using them to bring the African American experience to the stage. The book's primary goal may be to present Wilson's life, but it is also an eloquent love letter to literature and a celebration of its power to inspire, to instruct, and to provide hope, guidance, and direction. Bryant's accomplished free verse and newcomer Chapman's evocative, realistic illustrations operate in perfect synergy, celebrating the genius of Wilson the playwright while never losing sight of complications, hardships, and imperfections of Wilson the man. A must-have for those who want children to learn about one of the stage's greatest bards. (Picture book/biography. 6-9) (Kirkus Reviews)
Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson
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