One weathered 40-page book encapsulating almost a decade’s worth of family history led a mother and her two daughters to an Omaha Public Library author event last month.
OPL hosted author Walter Dean Myers, 2012-2013 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, on December 10, 2013 at Joslyn Art Museum. The free public event drew a crowd of over 500 people. Guests enjoyed refreshments, lucky ones got their books signed, and the night was capped with an inspiring presentation by Myers.
Eight years ago North Omaha native Brenda Clark bought Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse by Walter Dean Myers. The book is a collection of 11 original poems, with photographs, about African-American children in the early 1900s. Clark began reading the book to daughters Maya, then 3 years old, and Indira, then 2, on a nightly basis. “For years I read those poems to them. In fact, they memorized some of them. Each girl had her favorite and would make her request. Maya liked ‘Jeannie Had a Giggle’ and Indira liked ‘Jolly, Jolly.’ I used the poem ‘Pretty Little Black Girl’ to teach them to count to 10 [‘Pretty little black girl / Sweet as you can be / Wiggle waggle, wiggle waggle / One, two, three’].”
Clark saw a poster at Saddlebrook Branch advertising the program; this was her chance to meet the author who was an integral part of her daughters’ childhood. That December night, the family met Myers and stayed through his presentation. Clark shared, “His story is of challenge and victory. He gave me encouragement. And his story made for conversation with the girls on the ride home. Indira was shocked that Myers’ dad did not know how to read.”
She came away from the event with an unforgettable keepsake: the author’s signature addressed to her two girls. “The girls and I loved that book. Now that it’s signed I plan to frame it,” Clark said.
“[The program] gave me and my daughters perhaps an opportunity of a lifetime to meet Walter Dean Myers. The Joslyn gave it the perfect ambience. It was a joyful and inspiring event.”
During his talk, Myers chronicled his childhood years growing up in Harlem. Though his adoptive mother was limited in what she could give, he said what she did give him “was the ability to read.” Here’s to hoping Maya or Indira have the latter to say about their mother, too.
OPL hosts an array of author events throughout the year. View our schedule online and plan to attend one of these free events.