A Celebration of the Life and Talent of a True American Idol
"Isn't he lovely, this blind black boy, born to love everyone?"
Stevie Wonder, born Stevland Judkins Morris Hardaway, hit the big time when he signed a Motown recording contract at the tender age of eleven. As a thirteen year old, this child prodigy had millions of fans dancing to the number-one song in the nation. Four decades, nineteen Grammy Awards, and one Oscar later, Stevie Wonder's songs are everywhere: on the radio, on television, in movies, and in his influence on other musicians. In December 2004, Wonder was presented with the Billboard Century Award in recognition of his evolving career and body of work and his influence on generations of musicians. Wonder's first album in nearly a decade, A Time 2 Love, is due to hit stores in April 2005.
Little Stevie Wonder is the true story of a boy who lost his sight shortly after birth, grew up poor but loved in Detroit, Michigan, and became one of the twentieth century's most creative and influential musicians an instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, musical innovator, and cultural activist. It is the only picture-book biography of this living legend that is available for young readers.
Award-winning author Quincy Troupe's joyful poem, Lisa Cohen's vibrant and dynamic art, and a CD of two Stevie Wonder songs come together in an uplifting celebration of the life, peace, and music of a true American idol.
Quincy Troupe is the author of fourteen books, including seven volumes of poetry, the latest of which is Transcircularities: New and Selected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2002). Selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the ten best books of poetry published in 2002, Transcircularities also received the 2003 Milt Kessler Poetry Award and was a finalist for the 2003 Paterson Poetry Prize.
Troupe is professor emeritus of creative writing and American and Caribbean literature at the University of California, San Diego, founding editorial director for Code magazine, and former artistic director of "Artists on the Cutting Edge," a reading and performance series held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. In 2002, he was named the first official poet laureate of the state of California. Presently, Troupe is the editor of Black Renaissance Noire, an academic, cultural, political, and literary journal published by the Africana Studies Program and the Institute of African-American Affairs at New York University.
Troupe's poetry, articles, and essays have been published in more than two hundred publications worldwide, and his poetry and prose have been translated into many languages. He has read his work throughout the United States, as well as in Europe, Africa, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Brazil. He has taught at UCLA; Ohio University; College of Staten Island (CUNY); the University of Ghana; Lagos University, Lagos, Nigeria; California State University, Sacramento; and Columbia University graduate writing program.
Troupe has received two American Book Awards. The first was awarded in 1980 in the poetry category for his collection Snake-Back Solos (Reed and Cannon, 1980) and the second in 1989 in nonfiction for Miles: The Autobiography (Simon and Schuster, 1989). In 1991, Troupe received the prestigious Peabody Award for coproducing and writing the radio series The Miles Davis Radio Project. He has twice been named the Heavyweight Champion of Poetry (1994 and 1995), sponsored by the World Poetry Bout of Taos, New Mexico, and has been a featured poet on two PBS television series on poetry: The United States of Poetry (1996) and Bill Moyers's Power of the Word (1989), for which Troupe's segment, "The Living Language," received a 1990 Emmy Award for Television Excellence.
Troupe has recently finished writing a screenplay for Miles and Me: A Memoir of Miles Davis and is currently at work on a libretto for an opera about the late jazz musician Sun Ra. He is also the author of another book for children, Take It to the Hoop, Magic Johnson, based on his popular "Poem for Magic."
Troupe lives in New York City and Montebello, Guadeloupe, with his wife, Margaret.
Lisa Cohen is a self-taught artist who was born in Cape Town, South Africa. She moved to the United States in the early 1980s, eager to embrace freedom of expression. Cohen's passion for music, culture, and color emanates through her illustration in magazines, cards, and books.
Praised for her dynamic and vibrant art, Cohen lives and paints in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her family. Little Stevie Wonder is her fourth book for children.
An Interview with Quincy Troupe About Little Stevie Wonder
Q) What inspired you to write about Stevie Wonder?
A) My editor, Andrea Pinkney, suggested I write about Stevie Wonder, and I thought it was a fantastic idea because I have loved his music and what he stands for as human being for so many years. He is truly an inspiration for me and for millions of others throughout the world.
Q) Do you feel it's particularly important to expose young readers to poetry?
A) Young readers love rhyme, rhythm, language, and images, and good poetry is full of mystery, magic, and wonder. In reading poetry to young people and watching how they react, I have discovered that they really love it so long as it reaches and touches their hearts and their vivid imaginations.
Q) You often speak to groups of young people. How do they respond to your work?
A) Young people have always responded to my poetry in an overwhelmingly positive way, which has always moved me.
Q) Did you always like poetry? What drew you to it?
A) No, I didn't always love poetry, but my mother read it to me as a child and it kind of stayed with me just beneath my consciousness. When I read it again as an adult I was drawn to it by the beauty, power, wonder, mystery, language, music, images, and magic of great poetry. I still feel the same way today.
Q) Which poets did you read when you were a kid? Do you remember your first poem?
A) My mother read to me poems by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and Edgar Allen Poe. At the time I hated all of them! I don't remember the first poem she or my teachers read to me, but the first poet who made an impact on my life was the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who is the largest influence on my poetry to this very day.
Q) Do you plan to write more books for young readers?
A) Yes, I plan to write more books for young people because I enjoy communicating with them and writing for them. I have a few ideas for books in my head that I hope to see to fruition in the next few years.
Q) What are you working on now?
A) At the present I'm finishing an autobiography of a man named Chris Gardner for HarperCollins/Amistad. Mr. Gardner, a black man, rose from humble beginnings and homelessness to become a true force in the financial world. He has had a fantastic life.
I'm also halfway through what I call an "automemoir" on my own life, tentatively called The Accordion Years. I just finished a book of my nonfiction prose writing (as yet untitled), and I expect to be done with my next volume of poetry, The Architecture of Language in the summer of 2005. I'm also working on a novel titled The Legacy of Charlie Footman, which I hope to finish sometime in 2006.
An Interview with Lisa Cohen About Little Stevie Wonder
Q) What drew you to this project?
A) I grew up in South Africa and visited my father in California on school breaks. This turned out to be a great opportunity to get in touch with all the new music coming out of America. It took forever for American records to get to our stores, so it was my "responsibility" to bring home the latest releases. My friends and I would have regular jam sessions at my house, spinning records. One year I bought Stevie's Songs in the Key of Life album. My best friend, Sally, and I played it over and over and danced! I was so ecstatic when offered the chance to illustrate Little Stevie Wonder that I called my friend Sally in South Africa and we cried for joy, marveling at how it had all come full circle. Thus I've dedicated this book to her.
Q) You've illustrated a few books about musicians. Is there a reason for this?
A) Music sustains me, and I'm inspired by the movement and rhythm, which translates into my art.
Q) How long did it take you to do the art for Little Stevie Wonder?
A) Usually it takes six months or more, but with this project in particular I dug really deep. The challenge was not only illustrating the life of one of the most amazing human beings in this world, but also working back and forth between reality and imagination, as Stevie is blind and "sees" through his imagination. This project took a little longer, but I am happy with the outcome.
Q) Do you work in other media besides paint?
A) At the moment I am enjoying working with collage. It is such a broad medium. Eventually I'd like to learn more about various printing techniques.
Q) How do you find or discover the style of a project?
A) The subject of the project influences what style would be most effective. I bring lots of ideas to the drawing board, and then edit, edit, edit!
Q) When do you stop researching and begin painting?
A) I keep the researching process open throughout the project with lots of books at my fingertips for reference and inspiration.
Q) What are you working on now?
A) I am currently working on a story about a quilt maker during the time of the Underground Railroad. For this I will be using collage.