"The Land of the Gifted"
Story by Krystyn Jones
Music by Adam Qutaishat and Krystyn Jones
Illustrations by Ana Gonzalez
Online, video, and hard copy books available in Fall, 2021.
Want a copy sent to your school, daycare, or other center? E-mail for details!
In the summer of 2020, as we thought about ways to continue bringing musical theatre to our community in a safe and unique way, Executive Director Meghan Randolph began to resurrect an old idea for a children's book that she'd been kicking around for a few years. With little direction, she began doing some research, and came across the article "Black Lives Matter in Children's Books Too," from CNN. From there, the Children's Book Project was born.
The arts community has long been working to improve accessibility and representation. One thing we've learned is just how important it is to introduce kids to positive depictions of themselves at an early age. We also know that music and theatre enhance children's empathy, understanding, IQ, verbal skills, and more.
So, why not combine both? A story for now that will make a difference for a long time in the future, told with music that moves the narrative forward as in a musical. And so, we started learning about trends in children's books, tropes and fallacies in storytelling, and ways that our book could be most impactful. We committed to a BBIPOC creative team who could share their lived experiences in telling the story and found a remarkable group to write, illustrate, and compose the piece, which would feature characters that are pathetically underrepresented in children's literature, including BBIPOC kids and kids with disabilities or mental health conditions.
When it's all done, this multi-faceted project will consist of:
Print versions of the book in English and Spanish, with a playlist included to hear the songs as the book is being read.
E-books in English and Spanish with the same playlist included.
An online "read-aloud" video featuring the illustrations, voiced, sung, and narrated by local youth actors and including an ASL translator.
Free distribution to 100 Dane County libraries, schools, and community centers
Sales of the books for whomever would like a copy
Visits to schools and libraries across Dane County to do readings, sing-alongs, and discussions with kids
Online educational content that will include the sheet music and an adapted short play version for kids to act out with their friends.
Keep an eye on this page as this large project continues to develop! In the meantime, check out our research on children's books, literacy, music, and more, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for updates as the creative process moves along!
Statistics and Research
Racial inequities in characters and authors
There is a striking need for children's books that are both written by and feature BBIPOC (Black, Brown, Indigenous, People of Color) characters. Madison is fortunate to be home to the Cooperative Children's Book Center, a nationally-renowned source for collecting official data on children's books. According to their research, a staggering 50% of children's book characters are white, and 27% are non-human. See their most recent diversity statistics here.
Additional articles and resources:
"Children's books can help start a conversation about race..." The Washington Post
"50 children's books that celebrate diversity" - The Every Mom
"Anti-Racism Books For Kids" - The New York Times
Inequities in the depiction of characters with disabilities
According to the Cooperative Children's Book Center, only about 3.4% of children's books depict a person with a disability. Sadly, most of those books use the person with the disability as a means to inspire a non-disabled person.
"75 books about children with disabilities." - Exceptional Thinkers
Improvement of learning and cognition through music
10 Reasons Why Arts in Education Is so Important for Kids - Learning to Lift
How Children Benefit from Music Education in Schools -NAMM Foundation
How Can Music Inspire Social Change? -Facing History
Literacy in Wisconsin schools
Nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin school kids can't read or write at grade level - The Center Square
Phonics in focus: Advocates push Wisconsin for 'science of reading' - Wisconsin State Journal
Fifty Top Literacy Statistics - Ferst Readers