Sean Qualls

Picture Book Illustrator
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor
Travels from: New York, NY

“Qualls’ multimedia illustrations work their magic not only through depictions of the brown-skinned cousins’ joyful activities, but also through subtle visual contrasts.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Sean Qualls finds inspiration everywhere. Growing up in the 70’s in central New Jersey, his family didn’t have much money for art supplies but he made the best of what was available; discarded paper, blank end pages from old books and sometimes walls much to his mother’s chagrin. Some of his earliest inspirations were the crayons and coloring books his mom would buy for him and his older sister, drawing and handwriting competitions with classmates and an illustrated bible he received for Christmas in the 2nd grade.

He moved to Brooklyn to attend art school at Pratt Institute. After only a year and a half he dropped out but continued to educate himself while working full-time at the Brooklyn Museum.

Sean’s books and illustrations often explore history and non-fiction subjects. His fine art focuses on race & identity and the intersection of history & mythology, ultimately examining how we create our own identities or allow them to be scripted to for us. Together his paintings and illustrations reveal simultaneously unique and universal moments that reveal the human spirit.

Sean has also illustrated Emmanuel’s Dream (Schneider Award recipient) written by Laurie Ann Thompson, Giant Steps to Change the World written by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee and Before John Was a Jazz Giant (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor) written by Carole Boston Weatherford. He lives in lives in Brooklyn where you can also find him DJing on occasion.

Prepare an Invitation for:

Frances In The Country

Neal Porter Books |
Picture Book

Frances is a city kid, but it’s hard for her to fit in. City walls aren’t for climbing, city rooms aren’t for running, city shops and city yards are too crowded, and there are so many rules that Frances can’t seem to follow.

She takes a trip to visit her cousins in the country, where she finds cats for chasing, roads for racing down, ladders for leaping, and fields full of animals. When it’s time to go home, it’s not easy to leave her cousins, but she invites them to visit and see the sights and sounds, lights, thumps, beeps and shines of the city where she returns to her loving mom and sisters.

Liz Garton Scanlon is author of the Caldecott Honor book All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee, and many other books including Bob, Not Bob, illustrated by Matt Cordell, and Another Way to Climb A Tree, illustrated by Hadley Hooper, With Frances in the Country, she deftly balances the appeals of city and country life.

Sean Qualls is the Coretta Scott King Honor artist for Before John Was a Jazz GiantEmmanuel’s Dream, and Giant Steps to Change the World.

Grandad Mandela

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books |
Picture Book

“…profoundly moving…” —Publishers Weekly

Zazi and Ziwelene’s great-grandad is called Nelson Mandela. Once day, they ask their grandmother 15 questions about him and his life. As their conversation unfolds, Zazi and Ziwelene learn that Nelson Mandela was a freedom fighter, a President, and a Nobel Peace Prize–winner, and that they can carry on his work today.

Seen through a child’s perspective, authored jointly by Nelson Mandela’s great-grandchildren and daughter, and published in collaboration with Mandela Legacy Media, this book brings Nelson Mandela’s incredible story alive for a new generation of children.

Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship

Carolrhoda Books |
Picture Book

Two poets, one white and one black, explore race and childhood in this must-have collection tailored to provoke thought and conversation.

How can Irene and Charles work together on their fifth grade poetry project? They don’t know each other . . . and they’re not sure they want to.

Irene Latham, who is white, and Charles Waters, who is Black, use this fictional setup to delve into different experiences of race in a relatable way, exploring such topics as hair, hobbies, and family dinners. Accompanied by artwork from acclaimed illustrators Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (of The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage), this remarkable collaboration invites readers of all ages to join the dialogue by putting their own words to their experiences.

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass

Orchard Books |
Picture Book

Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass chat over tea about their efforts to win rights for women and African Americans.

Some people had rights, while others had none.Why shouldn’t they have them, too?Two friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, get together for tea and conversation. They recount their similar stories fighting to win rights for women and African Americans. The premise of this particular exchange between the two is based on a statue in their hometown of Rochester, New York, which shows the two friends having tea.The text by award-winning writer Dean Robbins teaches about the fight for women’s and African Americans’ rights in an accessible, engaging manner for young children. Two Friends is beautifully illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls, the husband-and-wife team whose The Case for Loving received three starred reviews! Two Friends includes back matter with photos of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage

Arthur A. Levine Books |
Picture Book

I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about. — Mildred Loving, June 12, 2007

For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state’s laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents’ love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court – and won!

School Visit with Sean Qualls

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Coretta Scott King Honor Award
New York Times Notable Book Award
BCCB Blue Ribbon Book Award
ALA Notable Award

Media Kit

By clicking the link below your will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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