Charles R. Smith Jr.
Charles R. Smith Jr. is an award-winning children’s author, photographer and poet with over thirty books to his credit. His awards include a Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration (2010) for his photographs accompanying the Langston Hughes poem, My People and a Coretta Scott King Honor Author Award (2008) for his biography on Muhammad Ali, Twelve Rounds to Glory. Many of his books have also garnered reluctant reader awards, proving that kids that don’t like to read, do like to read his books.
Charles’s interest in writing came first, years ago, growing up in Compton, California when he began composing simple poems and stories inspired by the books he read. “Reading books filled with stories and poems inspired me to write my own. And if I wasn’t reading a book, I was playing a sport: I played everything, particularly basketball, and spent many afternoons on the court, perfecting my jump shot.”
In high school, Charles’s love of writing led to him join the high school yearbook staff as a writer where he was also required to take photographs. Through trial and error, Charles soon found a new love in photography. “Right up until that point I wanted to be an astronaut, but after taking yearbook pictures nonstop for a year, I knew I wanted to become a professional photographer.”
Today, Charles R. Smith Jr. combines his passions of writing and photography with a variety of subjects that spark his interest. Even though his early books such as Rimshots, Hoop Kings and Hoop Queens focus on basketball, Charles has shown the ability to apply his talents to a variety of subjects, including black history with 28 Days and Brick by Brick, diversity with I Am America and I Am the World, Greek mythology with The Mighty 12, and Negro League baseball with Stars in the Shadows to name a few. His poetry has also been used to paint unique biographical portraits of personal heroes such as the aforementioned Ali, boxer Jack Johnson and guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
Of the distinctive niche Charles fills with his books, he notes, “I want to show students, particularly boys, that there are many ways to pursue their interests, no matter what they may be.”
Charles R. Smith Jr. was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in Poughkeepsie, New York with his wife Gillian and their three kids, Sabine, Adrian and Sebastian.