Children’s Author Bernette Ford Dies At 70

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Children’s book author and editor Bernette Ford died June 20 at the age of 70, The New York Times reported. Ford was a pioneer in making children’s books diverse, including opening more opportunities for Black authors and illustrators to create. 

In addition to serving as vice president of Grosset & Cartwheel and Scholastic Books, Ford was one of the first Black executives at a major children’s book publisher. In 1991, she established the Cartwheel imprint at Scholastic before forming her own company, Color-Bridge Books in 2002. 

Ford authored a number of books including Bright Eyes, Brown Skin which she wrote with Cheryl Willis Hudson in 1990 through Hudson’s Just Us Books. The book featured four Black child characters, illustrated by Ford’s husband George Ford, doing ordinary activities and was written with a subtle emphasis on Black pride. 

“Bernette’s firm yet gentle editorial touch with the text was brilliant in expressing the pulse of what’s now called Black joy in kidlit,” Hudson told The Times in an email. “George’s illustrations captured the energy and essence of four Black children simply enjoying one another’s company.” 

As head of Cartwheel, Ford also oversaw the publishing of books like Clifford the Big Red Dog series and the classic I Spy books. 

At an industry conference in 2014, Ford said, “All children, Black and white and brown and yellow and red, need to see themselves and their lives reflected in the books they read,” The Times reported. 

Click HERE to find more of Ford’s books for Black children. 

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