Javaka Steptoe

MONTEREY COUNTY — Monterey County Free Libraries will host author Javaka Steptoe on Saturday, Dec. 4, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. via Zoom, as part of the Monterey County Youth Arts Festival.

Steptoe will read his Caldecott Medal-winning book, “Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat,” followed by a collage workshop for attendees ages 4 and up. There will be a Zoom room for young children and families, and a separate room for teens.

“This event showcases the many ways in which libraries are community hubs and places where people come together to learn, be entertained, and inspired,” said Julia Foster, executive director for the Foundation for Monterey County Free Libraries. “What better way to find inspiration than to be making art with an award-winning illustrator and author.”

The event is free and open to the public. All participating families will receive a free copy of Steptoe’s book and free art supplies. Upon registration, Monterey County residents will be able to select the county library branch to which their supplies and book should be delivered.

Attendees may register online at

Steptoe is an artist and educator who has illustrated and/or written more than a dozen award-winning books for young readers. His debut picture book, “In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers,” earned him a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, in addition to a nomination for Outstanding Children’s Literature Work at the 1998 NAACP Image Awards.

Steptoe won the 2017 Caldecott Medal for his picture book biography “Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat,” more than 30 years after his father won two Caldecott Honors. The book won many other honors, too, including the 2017 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, and multiple starred reviews. 

“Radiant Child” describes the life of young Jean-Michel Basquiat, who would go on to become one of the most important painters in history, forever changing contemporary art. Through beautiful illustrations that echo Basquiat’s style as interpreted through Steptoe’s vibrant collages, the book addresses themes of hope, loss, creativity, mental health, grief and resiliency.

“The themes addressed so gently and beautifully in ‘Radiant Child’ will surely resonate with and inspire young people who have just endured the challenges of the pandemic,” said Enid Baxter Ryce, co-organizer and festival founder.

Monterey County Youth Arts Festival, originally founded in 2008 by Baxter Ryce and Chris Carpenter as the Monterey Bay Teen Film festival, has evolved through several partnerships over the years. Now, organizers have announced the festival’s new home at the Monterey County Free Libraries, where it will continue to focus on the arts and storytelling for youth.

This festival is sponsored by the Arts Council for Monterey County, the Foundation for Monterey County Free Libraries and the Friends of the Marina Library.

“We hope that this marks the beginning of an ongoing collaboration that can deliver free bilingual art programs for Monterey County families,” said Melissa Mejia, branch manager of the Marina Library. “Libraries understand the value that creative work and storytelling can have in building community, and we want to continue to hold space for that type of engagement in our libraries.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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