TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour

The TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour is your opportunity to learn from and build personal connections with extraordinary book creators and their brand-new titles. Included in all Virtual Book Tour posts are original interviews with authors and illustrators, lesson plans, an activity designed for young people, and much more!

Welcome, Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera!

Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera on Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

In this post, we feature author Suzanne Slade, whose titles include A Computer Called Katherine, and Cozbi A. Cabrera, an author and multi-media artist whose works include My Hair Is a Garden. You can hear them speak about the inspiration for their new picture-book biography Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks and try their fun “invitation to imagine” activities. You’ll also find other resources to explore. Thanks for joining us, and let us know what you think in the comments below!


Author Suzanne Slade, illustrator Cozbi A. Cabrera, and the cover of their picture-book biography Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brookds.

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

  • Written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
  • Published by Abrams Kids
  • Release date: April 7, 2020

Writing about love, loneliness, family, and poverty, Gwendolyn Brooks showed readers how just about anything could become a beautiful poem. This picture-book biography follows the poet from early girlhood into her adult life, exploring the intersections of race, gender, and the ubiquitous poverty of the Great Depression—all with a lyrical touch worthy of the book’s subject. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, receiving the award for poetry in 1950. A bold artist from a very young age, Brooks will inspire young readers to create poetry from their own lives.

An interior image from Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks showing multiple images of the poet as a young child writing poems.
An interior spread from Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks depicting a beautiful sky with pink clouds.

Explore Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

Listen to Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera talking with TeachingBooks about creating Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. You can click the player below or experience the recording on TeachingBooks, where you can read along as you listen, and also translate the text to another language.


Invitation to Imagine

TeachingBooks asks each author or illustrator on our Virtual Book Tour to share a writing prompt, a drawing exercise, or just an interesting question to spark curiosity and creativity. Enjoy the following activities contributed by Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera.

Imagination Activity with Suzanne Slade

Create your own Poet-Tree! First, draw the trunk and branches of a tree on a piece of paper or larger poster board. (You can make the tree any size you wish!) Cut out leaf shapes from colored construction paper (green, red, yellow, and/or orange). Or, you can use white paper and color the edges of the leaves with crayons, if you like. Copy a favorite poem, or write a few lines from a poem, on each leaf. Or, you may write your own short poem on a leaf. Fill several leaves with poetry. Tape or glue your finished leaves on the branches of your tree. You’ve created your own Poet-Tree!

Imagination Activity with Cozbi A. Cabrera

This activity is called “Inside/Outside.” If you’re inside, what would a bird perched by your window observe? Describe the details. What part of what you’ve just described would you place on the little bird’s wing, to fly away?


Finish This Sentence . . . with Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera

As part of our Virtual Book Tour, TeachingBooks asks authors and illustrators to complete short sentence prompts. Enjoy Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera’s responses.

“Where I work is…”

I work and write at home in my dining room. When I get stuck and am not sure what to write, my dog Corduroy takes me out on a walk to get some fresh air and fresh ideas. He’s a smart dog! You can see him in the picture below.—Suzanne Slade

An image of Suzanne Slade's dog.

While working on this latest project, I was surprised to discover…”

While working on this latest book project I was surprised to discover just how extreme the segregation through discriminatory housing covenants and active disenfranchisement was in Chicago during Gwendolyn Brooks’ childhood. She had quite a bit to overcome.—Cozbi A. Cabrera

While working on this book about Gwendolyn Brooks, I had the opportunity to read her handwritten poetry journals, where I found many unpublished poems. One of those poems titled “Clouds” is included in the back of Exquisite. “Clouds” has never been published before, so I’m excited readers will be able to discover this lovely poem for the first time! You can see the poem in Gwendolyn Brooks’ own handwriting below.—Suzanne Slade 

An image from Gwendolyn Brook's journal, showing a handwritten copy of a poem, "Clouds," which is published for the first time in Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks.

“A surprising thing that helps me work is…”

A surprising thing that helps me work is sweeping my floors clean, clearing out my desk or sewing or painting table and gathering up my supplies prior to sitting down and getting to work. If it’s especially hard to sit down because there are numerous things calling for my attention, I avoid email, social media, turn off my phone ringer, and grab a bucket of hot water and soak my feet. Try getting up and attending to other things now! If there’s outside noise that I’m unable to tune out (I’ve had plenty of practice tuning out, growing up in NY), I simply don a set of headphones. It’s all about outsmarting distraction, the bane of focus!—Cozbi A. Cabrera

“My favorite books as a child were…”

My favorite books as a child were all things Nancy Drew, Judy Blume, and a little volume called How To Make Doll Clothes, by Emily R. Dow, given to me by my mother at the age of nine.—Cozbi A. Cabrera


Thank you!

To wrap up this Virtual Book Tour, we thank Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera for signing books for all of us!

The title page of Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, signed by the author, Suzanne Slade
The title page of Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, signed by the illustrator, Cozbi A. Cabrera.

More Connections to Suzanne Slade, Cozbi A. Cabrera, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks


Explore all of the titles featured in the TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour: one link with author interviews, lesson plans, activities, and more!

All text and images are courtesy of Suzanne Slade, Cozbi A. Cabrera, and Abrams Books and may not be used without expressed written consent.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply