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Versify at Harvard Book Store

Last night, we snagged press passes (thank you Spencer at Harvard Book Store!) for an event at First Church in Cambridge, MA, celebrating the launch of Versify, Kwame Alexander’s new imprint with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Alexander — along with Versify authors Lamar Giles, Raúl the Third, and Kip Wilson — are on a multicity bus tour, and we caught them on Day 2 (and we caught a glimpse of their tour bus, wowza!).

Kwame began with some background about Versify, including much love to both of his parents and to Houghton senior executive editor Margaret Raymo and editorial project manager Erika Turner. He then talked about how each of the authors on the debut list became part of the Versify family. Kwame’s first text was to Lamar: “I want to publish your breakout middle-grade novel.” Lamar’s response: “Great! Wait, now?”

Lamar, Raúl, Kip, and Kwame each read from their work – Lamar’s fantastical The Last Last-Day-of-Summer; Raúl’s bustling, comics-inspired picture book ¡Vamos!: Let’s Go to the Market!; Kip’s WWII novel in verse White Rose; and Kwame’s The Undefeated, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (who also created the gorgeous new cover for the upcoming May/June Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: The Coretta Scott King Book Awards at 50). They also spoke about their inspiration. We Need Diverse Books founding member Lamar wrote the book he wished he’d had as a young person; Raúl wanted to highlight the mercados of his childhood (specifically El Mercado de Cuauhtémoc in Juárez); high-school German class was where Kip first learned about the White Rose Society; and Kwame’s poem, which first appeared on an ESPN website, was inspired by a piece he had written for his young daughter after Barack Obama was elected president.

The Q&A featured questions by the many children in the audience, by educators (including one middle-school-teacher friend of Cindy’s who had brought her entire class), and by, ahem, a Horn Book editor who may have been digging for gossip about Tour Bus Life. Check out the rest of the tour schedule and get to an event if you can — it was tons of fun, or as Kwame said about his mission for Versify: “intelligent entertainment.”

We will be featuring a Five Questions interview with Raúl the Third in our upcoming Horn Book Herald: Spring News e-newsletter — sign up! And look for a conversation between Kwame Alexander and Nikki Giovanni in the May/June 2019 Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: The Coretta Scott King Book Awards at 50.

Slide 1
The Versify tour bus. Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter
Slide 2
Lamar Giles, Raúl the Third, Kip Wilson, Kwame Alexander. Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter
Slide 3
Lamar Giles. Photo: Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter
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Slide 5
Raúl the Third. Photo: Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter
Slide 6
Slide 7
Kip Wilson. Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter
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Slide 9
Kip Wilson and Kwame Alexander. Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter
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Slide 11
Raúl the Third, Lamar Giles, Kip Wilson, and Kwame Alexander sign their Versify books. Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter
About Elissa Gershowitz and Cynthia K. Ritter

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. Cynthia K. Ritter is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide.

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