The 2022 Children’s Book Week will include the first annual Floyd Cooper Day, in recognition of the late children’s book author-illustrator who is credited with portraying African American experiences through his storytelling. Teachers, librarians, and booksellers across the country will be encouraged to hold readings of his books on Friday, May 6, and to display his works throughout the week-long initiative. The event will celebrate Cooper, who died last July after illustrating more than 100 children’s books in more than 30 years.

The grassroots effort came together when several industry organizations and fellow authors—including The Brown Bookshelf, Highlights Foundation, and African American Children’s Book Project, along with Patti Gauch, Traci Sorell, Wade and Cheryl Willis Hudson, and Torrey Maldonado—reached out to the Children’s Book Council about honoring Cooper. “A brainstorming group headed by [author] Kelly Starling-Lyons suggested a Floyd Cooper Day, and I said we’d be honored,” explained Carl Lennertz, executive director of the Children’s Book Council. “We’ll hold it every year on the Friday of Children’s Book Week.”

Recreating History

Cooper was known for his pastel-drawn illustrations that depicted Black lives with historical accuracy. His works garnered numerous industry accolades, including three Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Citations and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award in 2009. In an informal poll conducted by Lennertz last month, Cooper’s friends listed these five books as their favorites: Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre (2021), Juneteeth for Mazie (2016), A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story (2020), Max and the Tag-Along Moon (2013), and Ruth and the Green Book (2010).

“A brilliantly gifted artist and storyteller, Floyd Cooper’s greatest legacy beyond the incredible body of work he leaves behind is how he made [readers] feel in his presence and how encouraging he was,” Sorell said.

“Floyd was music and magic, charm and cool, brilliance and benevolence. His name has power. We have to keep saying it, remembering and sharing what he means to us,” Starling Lyons said.

To help promote Floyd Cooper Day, the CBC is compiling a complete in-print bibliography to post on the Every Child a Reader website. In February, an announcement page will be part of a larger email blast, and testimonials from librarians, educators, and booksellers will also be gathered. “As this celebration evolves, we’ll post downloadable themed lists and activities based on Floyd’s work, as well as compile links to his many talks posted online,” Lennertz added.

Ideas for display themes of Cooper’s work or personal recommendations for favorite books can be submitted to the CBC.