Ashley and April Foxx bring their dream of publishing a picture book to life
“Keisha Cane had a very sweet tooth. It often got her into the middle of mischief.” Kids are sure to be hooked by a picture book that starts off with such an intriguing promise. Keisha sneaks out of bed late one night in search of cookies to settle the rumble in her tummy. When a cookie jar crashes to the floor, she climbs a wobbly stool and reaches for a broom. Whoops!
Young readers will enjoy predicting the events that follow. In Keisha Cane and her very sweet tooth, Keisha’s mother assures her daughter she’ll still be loved even when she makes mistakes. But she reminds her that it’s better to ‘fess up’ so others can help her solve problems. Happily, mother and daughter wind up back in the kitchen to share, what else? — chocolate chip cookies. (Kids will also enjoy the playful cat that turns up in every scene).
The picture book, for readers ages 4 to 8, is the creation of sisters Ashley and April Foxx. Ashley brings her classroom teaching experience to the writing side of the project. She previously taught kindergarten and first grade at Memphis College Prep and now serves as the school’s third-grade literacy coordinator. April, who honed her artistic talent earning a BFA at the University of Memphis, chose a collage style for the book’s vibrant illustrations.
The women published the book through their company, Kifani Press. Kifani means unique in Swahili. Their mission is to increase the number of books that feature African-American characters. “It’s a scavenger hunt to find books written by African-American authors that have African-American characters and also meet K-2 standards,” says Ashley. “It’s important for children to see their faces in books and also to see that authors are African-American. Then they’ll know that they can be in a book or write a book.”
Their picture book incorporates K-2 standards and vocabulary words. Teacher resources include lesson plans and worksheets.
Last summer, Ashley shared her story concept with her sister, who eagerly offered up her artistic talents. They raised $8,000 through Kickstarter, a website that matches artists, writers, and musicians with donors who support creative projects. Once the book debuted in April, the pair set off on a two-week book tour, visiting schools in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Raleigh. They shared donated books with students. “The best part of the job is reading to children and seeing their smiles,” says Ashley. “When I was writing, I imagined places where they would giggle or gasp.”
Next they will publish several children’s writers who have signed on with Kifani Press. For Ashley, 30, and April, 33, the chance to share literature with kids is a dream job. “We couldn’t have done this without all of the champions in our lives. We’ve had support from the local teaching community, from Teach for America, and from Literacy Mid-South.” The book is affectionately dedicated to their parents. They hope to eventually expand their company with film, fine arts, events, and retail divisions.
Have your book signed at the All About Families Expo on August 3rd, at Wolfchase Galleria. It’s available at Laurelwood Booksellers and online at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and thekifanicorporation.com.