Fly by Brittany J. Thurman and Anna Cunha

Hello, Brittany J. Thurman! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! Thank you for stopping by to celebrate FLY, your debut picture book! The cover is so JOYFUL. It makes you want to fly alongside her. What ran through your heart the first time you saw Anna Cunha’s cover illustration and Karyn Lee’s cover design?

Brittany J. Thurman: Thank you so much John! I have been longing for this moment! I physically gasped when I first saw the cover for FLY. I am certain my heart gasped, too. I felt a range of emotions, from joy, to feeling mesmerized, and ultimately a sense of serendipity. Anna has perfectly captured the essence of Africa. She is a confident go-getter who is 100% unbothered by naysayers, aka, her brother. The colors are warm and give off such an inviting tone. From the moment I saw the cover, I wanted to bring it with me everywhere.

I love the incorporation of birds on the cover and Anna has so delicately placed them throughout. From the birds blending into her double Dutch ropes, Africa’s yellow dress, natural hair, and the serene look on her face, we know this is a character who feels free.


Scenario: Your local public library asks you to fill out a shelftalker about Fly. What do you write on it?

Brittany J. Thurman: Considering I used to work in the children’s department at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, this is my kind of question! Here is what I would write:

If you love double Dutch, then you will jump into FLY!

When Africa sees a poster announcing an upcoming double Dutch competition, she wants to compete. Only problem is, Africa does not know how to double Dutch. Her brother thinks there is no way she can try, but her brother is wrong. Even Grandma used to double Dutch. Africa comes up with a plan to ask each of her friends for their double Dutch tips, but even they don’t know. Lucky for Africa, each friend teaches her a different kind of winning move, like how to dance and step and somersault. Soon, competition day arrives, and Africa has all the tools she needs to fly!

Perfect! 


Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Fly’s endpapers are majestic. They immediately transport me to my childhood. I am reminded of Kenya Dolls, four square and playing outside in my Sunday dress. The endpapers are playful, warm and I want to frame them to my wall.

Double Dutch is that game I never learned to play. (But I’m on a mission to try!) I am in constant awe by the movement of jump ropes, the sound of feet against pavement, and hands clapping together. When I see people double Dutch, I am awestruck over their confidence. I remember being so terrified to even move toward the two spinning ropes! To jump straight into the swift ropes takes skill, coordination, and nerve. Double Dutch is a statement that says, “I got this.”

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me...why did you name her Africa?

When I worked at a library, there was a patron who had a name like Africa’s, only spelled a bit different. For so long I thought, what does it mean to have a name that is your truth? I remember being a kid and being in a constant state of reluctance to claim Africa as part of my heritage. I lacked information and representation. There was so much I did not understand until I began to accept who I was in all its fullness. I recognized to love my skin and my history. My skin is that history. It is my ancestors. It is their strength, dignity, and endurance. It is all the stories passed down that my family knows and the stories that they have yet to hear. I wanted a name to represent how proud I, and so many other people, are to be Black.

Africa is not only her name, it is her birthmark. The strength of her history is with her, always.


Thank you, Brittany! 


Brittany J. Thurman was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and has since lived in Kentucky, Germany, and North Carolina. She studied theater at Kingston University in London, England. Though she loves to travel, she has never forgotten her roots and calls her grandmother her rock. She lives Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Fly is her picture book debut.


Anna Cunha is a Brazilian illustrator, living and working in Belo Horizonte. She graduated with a degree in fine arts from Universidade do Estado de Minas Gerais and got a graduate degree in illustration from EINA Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. She has illustrated more than twenty books for Brazilian and foreign publishers and has won the Aeilij Prize for her work. She’s also been nominated several times for the Jabuti Prize, the most prestigious Brazilian literature prize, been awarded with a special mention at the João-de-Barro Prize, and was one of the Brazilian entrants for the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava.


Look for Fly on January 11, 2022. 

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books' Description: 

Africa’s grandmother was a double Dutch legend, and Africa knows she can become the same. Her brother scoffs when she signs up for a double Dutch competition, though—how can she hope to compete when she’s never done it before? But Africa has all the tools she needs: memories of her grandmother, her bestie Bianca’s dance moves, her friend Omar’s rhythm, and her classmates’ Mary Mack timing and cartwheels.

If Africa can pull everything together to jump some winning moves, she might just fly, but it’s the birthmark in the shape of her name that tells her she’s always been a winner.

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