The BiblioFiles Presents: Christine Kendall

Just posted! An interview with Christine Kendall, author of Riding Chance and her newest novel The True Definition of Neva Beane.

Riding Chance is the story of Troy Butler, an at-risk youth who is struggling with the death of his mother, the sadness of his father, and getting into trouble. Troy’s life changes profoundly when his social worker enrolls him in a prevention program that teaches him how to work with horses and play polo. Inspired by the real-life organization Work to Ride in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Riding Chance is an incredible story about trust, grief, reconciliation, and finding your flow.

In The True Definition of Neva Beane, we meet twelve year-old Neva. Always full of questions, Neva finds herself facing some deeply personal ones as she grapples with changes in her life, including her developing body, her relationships with her friend Jamila, her brother Clay, and her growing political awareness.

Kendall is especially talented at inviting her readers in like friends and family. Her dialogue, descriptions, and pacing are so natural, the reading experience feels more like a conversation as her characters share their neighborhoods, relationships, inner thoughts, conflicts. All the while, Kendall asks us to think deeply about the myriad of issues she presents – racial identity, police profiling, social justice, family difficulties. It makes for a deeply personal and enlightening read.

A nominee for the NAACP Image Award, Kendall is an active member of the literary community, including being a juror for the New York City Book Awards, and co-curator and host of the award winning reading series Creative at the Cannery.

Follow this link to the BiblioFiles interview


Image courtesy of Christine Kendall

Studio Snapshots: Stevie Lewis

Get ready to be amazed… this studio is on wheels! Today, we’re visiting Stevie Lewis. For half the year, Stevie, her partner, and her dogs (Kiki and Tigger, seen smiling above) travel to hiking and rock climbing destinations. And Stevie takes her work with her in a sweet van she customized herself! An animator for four years, Stevie has also illustrated a number of beautiful picture books. Her newest releases, I Am Thinking My Life (Bala Kids), and We Are Better Together (Henry Holt) will be available in 2022.


Picture 1: Here’s a picture of my workspace, which I share with my partner while we’re on the road in our van. I built out the van (all by myself!) before I met him, and we travel as often as we can. I usually work from the road on my computer.

Picture 2: Having a van home makes traveling feel very comfortable. I can park anywhere, and gather endless inspiration from the outdoors. Here’s the van parked off a road in Moab, Utah, where I enjoyed painting and drawing in the desert.

Picture 3: Another view of the kitchen/studio/living room area. It’s so important to stay organized living in such a small space!

Picture 4: The trunk is where we keep our outdoor climbing, camping, and biking gear, as well as any art supplies I bring on the road with me.

Picture 5: Sometimes I”ll bring my art outside, and use traditional mediums like color pencil and gouache. I can’t bring too many supplies with me on the road, but I can manage a few paints and pencils! I’m looking forward to having a real, non-moving art studio someday!


Images courtesy of Stevie Lewis

The Best of the West

Recently, I was delighted to connect with writer and musician, Mifflin Lowe. His latest children’s book, The True West (Bushel & Peck, 2020), is a journey to the American West and focuses on the individuals often left out of the popular narratives. Here we meet African American, Latino, Asian, and American Indian soldiers, inventors, workers, pioneers, cowboys…AND cowgirls! Filled with historic photos, amazing facts, helpful definitions, and illustrations by Wiliam Luong, it’s a fantastic, fascinating, and dynamic resource. I lassoed Mifflin for a few questions about his work…

How did this project come to be?

I wrote a picture book and an animated film called The Awesome, Amazing, Occasionally Incredible Adventures of Cowboy Howie, about a mixed race boy from New York City who dreamed of being a cowboy. In his imagination the city’s canyons turned into the Grand Canyon, dogs became wolves, pigeons became eagles etc.

What was the research like for the book? Did you, for example, get a hankering to visit some Western locations? Saddle up Old Paint?

Research was fascinating. I did it mostly online and I learned a ton about the people and the life in the West. The people were all tough and I mean that in the best possible way — the were incredibly resilient from Calamity Jane to Stagecoach Mary Fields to Fox Hastings to Bass Reeves.

Mary Fields

Who was your favorite person to research?

Well maybe Annie Oakley – she was under 5 foot tall and could shoot a dime thrown in the air at 20 paces, and shoot while standing on the back of a galloping horse. Also, Bass Reeves who was a Black lawman who arrested over 3,000 criminals — more than Wild Bill Hickok and Wyatt Earp put together. Bass is supposedly the person the Lone Ranger was based on. Bass always left silver dollar at the scene of a crime he’d solved — like the Lone Ranger did with his silver bullets. Also, Jackson Sundown, the Native American rodeo rider who was probably the best ever and Mamie Hafely who used to jump off a five story tower on the back of her horse into a pool of water

Jackson Sundown

What’s one thing that surprised you when working on this book?

How strong, determined and hard working all these people were. They never gave up and never gave in.

Chinese Railroad Workers

In the Calamity Jane chapter, you mention the “flat-out cool’ nicknames from the Wild West. What would your nickname be?

Mr. Smartypants, maybe? Naw, I don’t know… maybe Muffin… like Mifflin…people sometimes make the mistake.

Muffin Lowe


Images courtesy of Mifflin Lowe and Bushel & Peck Books. Illustrations by Wiliwam Luong.