Wade Hudson is the author of more than 35 books for young readers, including the middle grade memoir Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South. He is the president and co-founder of Just Us Books, along with his wife, Cheryl Willis Hudson. Don Tate is the author of numerous picture book biographies, including Pigskins to Paintbrushes: The Story of Football-Playing Artist Ernie Barnes, and William Still and His Freedom Stories. He is the recipient of the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award, among other accolades. We asked Hudson and Tate to discuss their new picture book, The Day Madear Voted, which traces one Black family’s journey to the polls in 1969.

Wade Hudson: Don, it is an honor to partner with you on this important project. The Day Madear Voted is special to both of us. What interested you in bringing life to the book?

Don Tate: Honestly, the opportunity to work with you was a no-brainer for me, and I was flattered when you reached out to me about creating the illustrations. You are a trailblazer in children’s multicultural publishing with a legacy of important stories. I knew The Day Madear Voted would be another winner!

What sparked the story, and what was your biggest challenge along the way?

Hudson: The idea was born while I was writing my memoir Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South. So many memories resurfaced. I remembered how excited my mother was to have the opportunity to vote for the first time. That memory came back very vividly.

The writer and illustrator usually create a book separately. Can you share your process?

Tate: Research. As an illustrator, I need to know what things looked like. What did people wear during a particular time period? How did they style their hair? In my initial sketch of Madear, I pictured her with straightened hair. But I also knew that during the late ’60s and ’70s, the afro became a huge symbol of Black pride. So I revised my early sketches to reflect that history. It’s important for illustrators to add more information to the author’s words.

“I remembered how excited my mother was to have the opportunity to vote for the first time. That memory came back very vividly.” –Wade Hudson

Why is it important for young children to know about the voting process? Why is it important for them to understand some of the unfortunate history there?

Hudson: Unfortunately, the right to vote is too often taken for granted. What’s lost is the centuries-long war that was waged to keep marginalized people, especially Black people, from voting. Brave folks died fighting to change that. Taking voting for granted makes it easier for that right to be taken away again. So, it is crucial that we share the history, not just via factoids and dates, but by telling real stories that can engage young readers.

Why do you think The Day Madear Voted is important?

Tate: History is important. Our world is complicated, conflicted, and unfair sometimes. If I feel that way, I know children must too. The more children can learn about history, however, the better they can understand circumstances today—knowledge is power—and the better equipped they’ll be to navigate the future.

Wade, I loved how you characterized young Ralph’s experience at the polling station as feeling “like being at church.” Can you talk a bit more about that scene?

Hudson: Don, the Black church has been important in the lives of most Black people for centuries. It has been the center of so many crucial events, whether socially, culturally, or politically. It has been one of the few places where Black people could express themselves freely. That scene, in many ways, is like a religious experience.

The Day Madear Voted is loosely based on a real-life event. During a keynote speech at a recent conference, you stated that young readers will read nonfiction. Can you share more about that?

Tate: I visit elementary schools throughout the country and during my presentations, I poll students about their favorite genre of books. Nonfiction is always tops! I think children find it very satisfying to read a cool story and know that it’s true—this really happened, it’s not made up.

A very important person you often speak about is John Lewis and his famous quote, “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in some good trouble.” What are a few ways young people can make “good trouble,” to advocate for a better future for themselves and others?

Hudson: Often, we think of the big things that make the news when we consider advocating for justice and fair treatment. But the so-called “small” efforts are important, too: writing a letter to express your concerns, speaking up at a meeting, organizing others who share your concern, using social media. Being an activist or advocate for a cause and acting on it is what’s important.

During our many years in publishing, we’ve seen trends come and go, witnessed strides toward more inclusion and seen those strides slow to calculated, measured steps. Now, there is the banning and challenging of books. Are you hopeful?

Tate: Well, after nearly 40 years in the business, I’m certainly not a quitter. I’m going to keep writing important historical stories about unheralded Black figures. And I intend to tell the truth—because that’s what nonfiction writers do. We tell stories guided by research and truth.

How about you, Wade—how are you feeling? Are you hopeful?

Hudson: Yes. There are more people now to address the challenges. Creators of color and other marginalized groups are more empowered and are determined to demand their place at the table. The road to the kind of just and peaceful world that most of us would like to see is long and grinding. As we all play our part, our roles, we continue to move toward it. Progress!

What do you have on the horizon for young readers, Don?

Tate: I have four books on the horizon. Topics include a poet/publisher, Black meteorologists, African American swimmers, and one of the biggest musicians of all time (hint: Purple Rain). But that’s enough about me, what about you!?

Hudson: Well, Cheryl and I have a new anthology coming in 2026. I have a picture book about Black boys in the works and a project with another publisher. And, of course, there is Just Us Books. It’s an exciting time despite the challenges.

The Day Madear Voted by Wade Hudson, illus. by Don Tate. Penguin/Paulsen, $18.99 July 9 ISBN 978-0-593-61574-4