Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston by Alicia D. Williams and Jacqueline Alcántara

Hello, Alicia D. Williams! Hello, Jacqueline Alcántara! Thank you for stopping by to celebrate Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston. I cannot wait to share it during my 2021 BOOKS I LOVE presentations next year (which I hope are in person).

Alicia, I haven’t stopped smiling since our episode of Book Joy Live. Experiencing you seeing your Newbery Honor plaque for the first time was so, so, so, so joyful! I hope an in-person celebration happens at a future ALA Annual. CONGRATULATIONS!

What ran through your head (or your heart) the first time you saw Jacqueline Alcántara’s illustrations for Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston?

Alicia: I instantly fell in love. I fell in love with the story all over again. I remember gushing at every page. The animals from the folktales were alive and whimsical. The movement of the characters took me right into the period of the Harlem Renaissance, and I wanted to lindy hop too! Jaqueline’s art captures the essence of Zora’s easy joy and zest for folktales. I’m so excited about this book!

Jacqueline, what ran through your head (or your heart) the first time you read Alicia D. Williams’ manuscript for Jump at the Sun?

Jacqueline: I got a flood of images and emotions reading those first few sentences - Alicia’s writing is so juicy, playful and rhythmic! While I knew of Zora Neale Hurston, I hadn’t read any of her novels before this project, but I did grow up reading Brer Rabbit and other trickster stories. Reading these folktales weaving in and out of the adventure of Zora’s life really drew me in and I was desperate to dive deeper into her life and work!

Alicia, what inspired you to write a picture book biography about Zora Neale Hurston?

Alicia: I’ve always loved folklore. And, one of my favorite books (and movie) is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I checked out Dust Tracks, Zora’s auto-biography, from the library and was blown away. This woman had a life—a life of ups and downs, for sure. Yet, she always seemed to radiate joy. One day, with that book wide open on my table, the first few sentences of her story came to me. I wrote it down, read over it and thought, “Hmph, if I can capture the playfulness of Zora’s storytellin’ then this just might be fun.” So, I gave it a go.

Jacqueline, what was the most fun thing about working on Jump at the Sun?

Jacqueline:Oh boy, there was a treasure trove of exciting people, places, time periods, outfits, animals, relationships and adventures to draw in Jump at the Sun!! I think the thing I loved most was distilling all my research, finding ways to include bits of novels, memoirs and adventures into the compositions. But moreso to make sure all that I gathered about Zora’s character - her courage, resilience and curiosity came through my depiction of her from childhood through adulthood!

Alicia, please finish the following sentence starters:

I hope Jump at the Sun will inspire a greater love and appreciation for oral storytelling. There are griots and storytelling organizations that share African and African American stories and other “lies” with audiences all over the world. Authors are creating their spins on these tales and expanding them into novels. I love it! And, I hope to see younger generations reviving and presenting these stories in the oral tradition as well.

Did you know that oral storytelling was a way that knowledge was passed down from generation to generation? And, studies show that storytelling builds the brain and affects reading readiness. You thought I was going to say something about Zora, didn’t you? Well, you’ve got to read my book for that! 😊

Jacqueline, please finish the following sentence starters:

Picture books rock!

Story is everywhere!

Look for Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston on January 12, 2021. 

From the Newbery Honor–winning author of Genesis Begins Again comes a shimmering picture book that shines the light on Zora Neale Hurston, the extraordinary writer and storycatcher extraordinaire who changed the face of American literature.

Zora was a girl who hankered for tales like bees for honey. Now, her mama always told her that if she wanted something, “to jump at de sun”, because even though you might not land quite that high, at least you’d get off the ground. So Zora jumped from place to place, from the porch of the general store where she listened to folktales, to Howard University, to Harlem. And everywhere she jumped, she shined sunlight on the tales most people hadn’t been bothered to listen to until Zora. The tales no one had written down until Zora. Tales on a whole culture of literature overlooked…until Zora. Until Zora jumped.

Alicia D. Williams is the author of Genesis Begins Again, which received a Newbery and Kirkus Prize honors, was a William C. Morris Award finalist, and for which she won the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award for New Talent. A graduate of the MFA program at Hamline University, and an oral storyteller in the African American tradition, she is also a teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina.

photo credit @eyeshotcha

Jacqueline Alcántara is the illustrator of the critically acclaimed The Field and Freedom Soup. Her favorite days are spent drawing, painting, writing, and walking her dog. In 2016, she was awarded the inaugural We Need Diverse Books Illustrator mentorship.


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