Better Know a Memphian: Children’s Book Creators Ashley and April Foxx
Meet sisters Ashley and April Foxx. They're the author and illustrator of "Keisha Cane and Her Very Sweet Tooth", a super cute children's book about a little girl with a serious sugar craving.
Here, they answer my question about their inspriations, their favorite books, and the things they love most about Memphis.
Name(s): Ashley and April Foxx
Occupation(s): Author (Ashley); Illustrator (April)
First of all, congrats on the book! Tell me a little bit about it:
Ashley: "Keisha Cane and Her Very Sweet Tooth" is a new book for young readers, featuring the mischievous, Keisha Cane. Keisha’s infamous sweet tooth strikes in the middle of the night and she breaks a cookie jar, sparking a laughable chain of events. Little readers will be able to predict Keisha’s next mishap and will also learn a valuable lesson about making – and fixing -mistakes.
What (or who) inspired Keisha Kane and Her Very Sweet Tooth"?
Ashley: I fell in love with children’s books while teaching kindergarten and first grade in at Memphis College Prep through the Teach for America Program. I really wanted to combine my first love, writing, with my new passion, teaching. So, I created this character who reminds me a lot of myself when I was little girl—full of life, love and mischief.
The illustrations in the book are lovely. How did you determine what you wanted it to look like?
April: When Ashley came up with the idea for the book, she mentioned several illustrators whose style she admires: Ezra Jack Keats, Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert and Christian Robinson. Their use of bold colors, simple overlapping shapes and textured paper definitely inspired us. We wanted to pay homage to these, and other great illustrators, yet develop our own unique style. Our method involved using various afrocentric prints, fabric, notions, felt, cotton, glitter and other random items. I also painted a couple of the backgrounds. There wasn’t a limit to what we might use. If we liked the texture, it would end up on one of the pages.
What ages is the book appropriate for?
This book is perfect for ages 4-8. I had my kindergarten and first grade students in mind when I wrote it.
Do you have any other books / projects in the works?
Ashley: We do! We just confirmed our next non-fiction project: a collection of essays on Fatherhood. It should hit book stands in October.
What was your favorite book as a child?
Ashley: I loved "Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seuss, "Goodnight, Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown, and "Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters" by John Steptoe
April: I loved the Baby-sitters Club series and Ed Emberley’s drawing books.
What three books do you think everyone should read?
Ashley: "Oh, the Places You’ll Go" by Dr. Seuss is a gem. Even though it’s a children’s book, it has great advice for adults. "Charlotte’s Web" by E.B. White is a beautiful tale that has a message about acceptance that even adults should learn. Also, I love "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" because Peter loves mischief.
April: "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams is one of my favorite childhood stories and has a great lesson about self-worth. I also love mysteries and will never forget, in the 8th grade, reading "Where are the Children?" by Mary Higgins Clark. She is still one of my favorite authors. Another book that stands out to me is "The Road to Memphis" by Mildred D. Taylor. I remember being so engrossed in the book, I couldn’t put it down and read it in one day.
What's your favorite thing about living in Memphis?
Ashley: Memphis has so much soul. It also has a warmth and richness that you can’t always find in other cities. I love the music, the food, the people, the culture and our “grit and grind” mentality. I lived in some of the biggest cities: New York, London, Philadelphia, but I found my way right back to the Bluff City. Memphis is more than my hometown, it’s my heart.
April: There’s so much that I love about Memphis. It is a big part of who I am (so much so that some of my friends who live in other parts of the world automatically think of me when they hear about Memphis, because I talk about our city so much). We also have a way of bouncing back if we get knocked down and reaching out to help the next person.
Anything else you'd like to add?
We are so proud of the work being done all around the city to ensure that every child has a quality education. There is so much momentum around education reform and we are excited to see how the lives of students are changed in this city.
The book is available to purchase online at www.thekifanicorporation.com. Twenty-five percent of proceeds will benefit Literacy Mid-South.