Award Winner Profiles 2014


Desmond and the Very Mean Word: A Story of Forgiveness


Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Author

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his lifelong struggle to bring equality, justice, and peace to South Africa. He is the author of God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time as well as the children’s picture book God’s Dream, both with Douglas Carlton Abrams and Made for Goodness, with his daughter Mpho Tutu. He continues to play an important role worldwide as a spokesperson for peace and forgiveness. The Archbishop lives in South Africa with his wife, Leah; they have four children and seven grandchildren.


Douglas Carlton Abrams, Author

Douglas Abrams is the coauthor with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time and God’s Dream.  In addition to Archbishop Tutu, Abrams has collaborated with a number of the world’s great scholars, scientists, and moral leaders. He lives in California with his wife and their three children.


A.G. Ford, Illustrator

A.G. Ford grew up in Dallas Texas. He had an active and creative mindset from the very beginning. As he puts it, “My hands were on everything from pencils, dirt, toys, basketballs, bikes and whatever else I could find and explore. Busy my mind was, and still is. I honestly don’t think I ever had a choice to be an artist or an analytical thinker. My brain had already decided. I am sure to ponder the creative world endlessly.” Ford is the illustrator of the bestseller, Barack by Jonah Winter, as well as Goal! by Mina Javaherbin.  He lives with his wife Brandy near Dallas,

Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad


Monica Edinger, Author

Read interview by Deborah Kalb
A familiar presence in the world of children’s literature and the author of several books for educators, Monica contributes to a variety of publications including the New York Times Book Review and the Horn Book Magazine in addition to blogging at educating alice and the Huffington Post. She has helped select the winners of several awards including the Newbery and originated and co-runs School Library Journal’s Battle of the Kids’ Books. A committed educator, Monica began her teaching career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone and currently teaches fourth grade at the Dalton School in New York City. Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad is her debut book.


Robert Byrd, Illustrator

Robert Byrd was born in Atlantic City and studied at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art. He has illustrated sixteen books for children and has had his children’s book art exhibited at the Philadelphia Art Alliance; The World Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, The Society of Illustrators, New York; the Art institute of Philadelphia; The University of the Arts, Philadelphia; Cricket, 25 Years of Stories and Art for Kids, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He teaches Children’s Book Illustration at The University of the Arts, and Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. He has two grown children, Rob and Jennifer, and lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey with his wife Ginger and two cats.

Once Upon a Time in Ghana: Traditional Stories Retold in English


Anna Cottrell, Author

Read interview by Deborah Kalb
British-born Anna Cottrell had nursed the ambition to visit Africa since early childhood and was able to realize this dream when she retired in 2005; spending three months as a volunteer in Woe, Ghana near Keta, from January to March 2006. Towards the end of this period, she realized she wanted to understand the traditions and experiences which had helped shape the people.  She was introduced to Agbotadua Togbi Kumassah who talked about oral storytelling and took her to visit a group of storytellers in Klikor.  She used an old cassette recorder to record the six stories they told. Learning that the stories were dying out with the death of the storytellers, she returned to Keta and recorded 60 more stories in the towns of Dzelukope, Anyako and Have Domefe. Ten of the stories she collected form the chapters for Once Upon a Time in Ghana. Proceeds from the sale of the book are helping Ghanaian storytellers and their families.


Agbotadua Togbi Kumassah, Translator

Agbotadua Togbi Kumassah was born at Anyako, in the Keta Municipality of the Volta Region of Ghana. He holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of Cape Coast, a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Sociology from the University of Ghana, and a Specialist Certificate in Geography from Advanced Teacher Training College (University of Education) Winneba. He has taught in many schools,and served as headmaster. He retired from the Ghana Education Service in 2003. Kumassah lives in Ghana where he is the current Secretary of Anlo Agbotaduawo Traditional Council and the Agave Clan Union of Anlo.


Kwabena Afriyie Poku, Illustrator

Read interview by Deborah Kalb 
Kwabena Afriyie Poku is a lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. He studied Art at the then University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, and received a Bachelor of Art degree in Painting and a Master of Fine Art degree in 1993 and 1997 respectively. He is presently pursuing a studio-based research doctorate degree. Kwabena has been doing illustrations since the early 1990s. His art comprises illustrations of different styles and techniques including digital format publications for various age categories. In addition to Once Upon a Time in Ghana, his recent book illustrations for Afram Publications include, Alake the Elephant, and cover illustrations for Adventures of Elizabeth Sam and The Lost Princess. He also illustrated Ananse and the Pot of Wisdom, Ananse and the Food Pot as well as comics and editorial illustrations. His work has been shown at several local and international art exhibitions. Kwabena is married to Letitia Maud Poku, a jeweler, and has two daughters.

Bundle of Secrets: Savita Returns Home


Mubina Kirmani, Author

Read interview by Deborah Kalb 
Dr. Mubina Hassanali Kirmani is professor of education and an award-winning author. She brings multicultural perspectives with her unique background being born in Kenya, East Africa with an ancestry from India. She studied at the University of Nairobi and at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was consultant with the World Bank, Washington D.C. in the Women and Development department where she worked to address issues on gender inequities in education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since she joined academia in 1994, she has worked and written extensively to promote multicultural education. She is the author and co-author of several publications including the picture book, Wandering Wind and Oral Literature of Asians in East Africa, a recommended text for elementary and secondary schools in Kenya.

Kirmani currently teaches at Towson University, Maryland where she has trained pre-service and in-service teachers and students across all disciplines to prepare them for diverse professional settings.  She has been Chair of the College of Education Diversity Committee and co-directed the university-wide Multicultural Conference. She is a frequent speaker abroad and in the United States on the subject of teaching and learning in diverse societies.


Tony Siema, Illustrator

Read Interview by Deborah Kalb 
Tony Siema is a freelance illustrator,cartoonist, painter and regular contributor to a children’s magazine in Kenya. Creating a beautiful world for Africa’s children has always been his greatest inspiration. He has been creating beautiful pictures for young children since the age of six. Siema  was born in 1987 in western Kenya in Kakamega County.  He is currently working with Undugu Society Of Kenya creating sign language illustrations for deaf children.