Walker signs Grammy nominee Rhiannon Giddens in four-book deal

Walker signs Grammy nominee Rhiannon Giddens in four-book deal

Walker is to publish two picture books by musician and five-time Grammy nominee Rhiannon Giddens, the first of four planned titles, illustrated by emerging artists Monica Mikai and Briana Mukodiri Uchendu.

World rights were acquired at auction by Walker m.d. and Candlewick Press president Karen Lotz from Laura Nolan at Aevitas Creative Management. 

Scheduled for global publication in the autumn of 2022, Build a House is based on the song of that title, which Giddens wrote in 2020 for the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of slaves. Giddens originally performed the song with Yo-Yo Ma and, amid the 2020 demonstrations for racial equity, it emerged as a protest anthem.

The picture book, to be illustrated by Mikai, illuminates for young readers the song’s message of Black courage and perseverance in the face of enslavement, violence and appropriation. Build a House will be supported by a co-ordinated international marketing campaign.

The second scheduled book, We Could Fly, is slated for publication in autumn 2023 and is based on Giddens’ song of the same name, written with Dirk Powell, a dialogue between mother and daughter drawing on African folklore and celebrating resilience and love. It will be illustrated by Uchendu. 

“As in her music, with these two first books Rhiannon gives voice to Black Americans against the landscape of history and with resonance for the present day, centering on girls and women whose stories were never publicly valued during their own time," Lotz said. "This history needs to be known, understood, learned from, and made sacred. But children, like adults, need beauty, too. In Rhiannon’s poetry, there is courage, hope, and joy, empowering readers to live their lives with pleasure and affirmation. We at Candlewick Press and Walker Books are honoured to be part of these books’ journey into the hands of young readers."

Giddens said: “I’m so excited to get to explore a different way to tell the stories I’ve been trying to highlight with my songs and my music. Candlewick has already shown that they are a perfect publishing partner, with a strong vision and incredible artistic support. I look forward to seeing our partnership develop and grow as they help me be the best children’s book author I can be!”