Written by Scarlett Ruggiero

Photo by Luci Artigas 

On Saturday, Nov. 13, The Book Lady hosted readings of Samantha Thornhill and Quraysh Ali Lansana, both working with Penny Candy, a children’s book publisher.

Penny Candy is a company that brings children books all over the world. Their mission is diversity based; “we were tired of only seeing white faces in the industry,” said Alexis Orgera, co-founder of Penny Candy with Chad Reynolds.

Orgera introduced the first reader by listing what she admires in Samantha Thornhill’s work. Thornhill is a poet, who also taught poetry to actors at the Juilliard School in New York City.

Thornhill read an excrept from her volume of poetry “Watch me Swing,” co-written with Martin Espada. She interacted with the children and explained her love for verse.

“So Pablo Neruda is a poet that I love,” she said, “and he has inspired me to write these odes.”

With a passion that had a hint of slam poetry, Thornhill read “Ode to Chalk,” about an object that reminded her of her grandmother. She later read “Ode to Picking Blackberries,” written for her son’s love of berries.

The second Speaker, Quraysh Ali Lansana was the first author published by Penny Candy. His book, “A Gift From Greensboro,” is a narrative poem about the friendship between a black boy and a white boy, after the Jim Crow laws.

“I am a student of history,” Lansana said, “most of my work is related, connecting current events to history, and history, and both directions.”

While he read the first few pages, the book’s pictures were projected behind him, and the children present were amazed by the funkiness of the illustrations.

Lansana also interacted with the children, explaining what the Jim Crow laws were and asking them to comment on the illustrations, to help them fully understand.

Thanks to the abolition of Jim Crow law, Lansana told the children, he was able to sit next to his best friend at a dinner in Oklahoma.

“There were still people who didn’t like it. But we did, because he was my best friend,” he said, “Even thought we didn’t have the same skin or mother, he was my brother. So this book is about friendship and also about love.”

Executive Director at the Deep Center, Dare Dukes, was present with his wife and children and commented on the necessity of such events. “I think it is important to have live literary events for young people,” he said, “So they can feel the human impact of engaging with language and literature.”

Both Samantha Thornhill’s and Quraysh Ali Lansana’s works are available on Amazon and in Savannah bookstores.