Robert's Snow: Sean Qualls

Back in 2001 or 2002, when I was still Arthur's assistant, I picked up the imprint mail, as I did every day, and flipped through the stack until I came across a postcard.* It showed two separate paintings: the head of an African-American woman with a mustard-yellow scarf around her hair, full lips, and direct, piercing eyes; and another woman, her arms wrapped around her belly, head down and eyes closed. As different as the moods of the two pieces were, they both accomplished the essential goal of illustration: They radiated feeling -- defiance and sadness, respectively -- and they caused feelings in me too. I wanted to talk to the woman with the headscarf, to hear what she had to say, and I wanted to reach out to the woman with the belly, to help ease her pain. And more than that, the paintings were just gorgeous. I turned the postcard over to see the name of the artist: Sean Qualls.

We need to get this guy's portfolio, I thought, and and the next time Arthur stopped by my desk, I showed the postcard to him. He was equally impressed -- I remember we both stood there oohing over the card for a while -- and not long after that, either he or I called Sean. He came in with his portfolio, bursting with talent and energy in every step, and eventually that visit resulted in two gorgeous books: Powerful Words, edited by Ken Wright, on the Scholastic Nonfiction and Reference list; and Dizzy by Jonah Winter, edited by Arthur on the AALB list. Dizzy received five starred reviews and a trumpetful of honors, including a Horn Book Fanfare citation and a BCCB Blue Ribbon.

So it's with great pleasure that I'm featuring his work here for Robert's Snow. This snowflake is called "Snowbird," and as ever with Sean's art, it's suffused with beauty and mood:

(Can't you almost hear the snow falling through that quiet wood?) Sean's other books include The Baby on the Way, The Poet Slave of Cuba, and How We Are Smart. He lives with his wife Selina Alko and their son in Brooklyn. "Snowbird" will be part of the third wave of auctions, from December 3-7, and you can click here to bid. And the full list of Robert's Snow Week 3 illustrators is, indeed, now up here.


* I freely admit it has been years since this happened, and as a result I may be confusing the details of Sean's paintings and what was actually on the postcard. But all his work is beautiful, so the essence of the story is true.