A tuxedo dress, a bow tie. A skirt with music notes. A tiara and earrings in pale purple, designed to match the music notes on the skirt.
That outfit, meant to echo a conductor’s clothing, is the creation of Jamaican illustrator Davia Morris. An illustrated girl now proudly wears Morris’ design on the cover of “Violin Princess,” a book about the power and beauty of music.
“Violin Princess” is one of 21 books to be released at the end of the month by SCREE, a children’s book publisher under the umbrella company GOD Rocks, Inc. The publisher aims to increase Black representation in children’s books, with its books focusing on faith, family and self-love. It’s also helped first-time authors and illustrators, like Morris, get their start.
“SCREE is our foundation for building children of African descent,” GOD Rocks Founder and President Ann-Marie Zoe Coore says. “For building their self-love, their self-esteem, their love for God, their love for humanity, their love for excellence — to build them and to empower them.”
To celebrate the first releases of SCREE, Coore is hosting a party in Silver Spring on July 31. Authors and illustrators will show off their works; diplomatic figures like Audrey Marks, the Jamaican ambassador to the U.S., will attend as well.
“It’s really a celebration day. It’s a celebration of who we are, what we are, where we come from,” Coore says.
The books generally follow a certain script: bold colors, concise language, a vocabulary builder at the back. That’s intentional, Coore says, as a way to help Black kids build up knowledge starting young.
In addition to offering knowledge to its readers, SCREE also provided experience for its authors and illustrators. Morris, who illustrated “Violin Princess,” had never illustrated a book before, but for SCREE, she worked her way through eight.
Morris aimed to pick up a new skill with each book she illustrated: making new brushes for texture, drawing lace and improving her coloring technique. The illustrations were sometimes painstaking, like the outfit she planned for a main character of “Mother Hen.”
“In my brilliant stroke of genius, I made her wear a feather jacket and I drew in each and every single feather individual. I didn’t realize my mistake until afterward,” Morris says. “But it was worth it.”
Sarah Collins, the 14-year-old author of “Lucky’s Day at the Beach with Pinchers,” had likewise never worked on a book before. Her book follows a girl who becomes best friends with a crab at the beach — a story about forming a family without blood ties.
Her favorite part? When the two go swimming. A swimmer herself, Collins says she can visualize that part best. The experience helped her connect with her mom, too.
“I liked having my mom check over my finished products,” Collins says. “She’s really — not strict, but you know, ‘gotta do this and you gotta do that.’ So having her say that it looked good was really exciting.”
Collins is looking forward to seeing the book in person on July 31. She’s also hoping she might be able to sign some copies.
Meanwhile, Morris is looking forward to the effects the books will have on their audiences. When she first started drawing, she says she didn’t draw people who looked like her because she hadn’t seen any examples to pull from. She doesn’t want new illustrators to follow the same path.
Instead, she’s hoping young readers will pick up on the fundamental themes of the books she illustrated.
“Loving yourself, being true to yourself. And recognizing that there’s no path that you can’t take.”
SCREE books will be available on here. SCREE is hosting a release-day celebration at 4 p.m. on July 31 at Silver Spring Civic Building.
Silver Spring Civic Building: 1 Veterans Pl. Silver Spring, MD
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