Time for Black History Month Here and Now: Author Guest Post by Brian Pinkney

Brian Pinkney's newest picture book, Time for Kenny, is on sale now!

Time for Kenny is the story of a busy kid whose days are filled with things that bring him joy. He loves dressing in Granddaddy’s hat, learning to kick a soccer ball with his big sister, and playing with his toy bus all by himself, enjoying the solitude of what it means to be a kid with a toy you love more than anything.

Brian Pinkney as a child, playing with his favorite toy truck.

I wrote and illustrated Time for Kenny, because I wish I’d had this story and character when I was a little boy. I took great pride in being a child of color, but my daily little-kid adventures weren’t often reflected in the books available at that time. Thankfully, there was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, the classic story featuring a Black child named Peter who takes pleasure in the simple fun of a day in the snow. And, as I grew older, there were books such as I Want to Be by Thylias Moss and In for Winter, Out for Spring by Arnold Adoff, illustrated by my father, artist Jerry Pinkney. I was grateful for those stories that reflected my experiences of childlike wonder. Truth be told, I wanted more of them!

This was especially true when Black History Month rolled around, and my teachers and school librarian displayed books about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and other civil rights notables. I loved those books. Even as a child, I couldn’t help but wonder if Black history could be celebrated in the everyday experiences of just being a kid.

Later, when I grew up, I heard a quote that’s attributed to cartoonist Bill Keane: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

I find it intriguing that an artist expressed what I’ve always known – that the time we have right now is a gift bestowed by the hand of history. Bill Keane did this through visual expression. I do the same thing in the stories and characters reflected in the books I write and illustrate.

To me, this is the power of what’s at the heart of stories like Time for Kenny. The idea that Black history lives and thrives in the daily pleasures children experience, and that can be informed by the past. I believe the Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Kamala Harris’s of tomorrow are embracing their blackness today, simply by being kids enjoying their creativity, playtime, and self-expression through the everyday activities they embrace in each moment – in the present.

In Time for Kenny, these small moments are little gifts that help define what young Kenny will grow up to become that will make a big difference in this world. By trying on Granddaddy’s hat, Kenny is connecting with the history of his family’s haberdashery. The soccer ball he and his sister kick together is their way of leaping into the freedom of Martin Luther King’s dream of being kids who aren’t judged by the color of their skin.

As a nod to Black empowerment, the orange toy bus Kenny plays with in the story is a replica of the segregated bus Rosa Parks boarded in 1955, when she refused to give up her seat to a white man who insisted that she move to the back of the bus, where Black passengers were made to sit.

That small act made history. Though it happened in the past, Rosa’s bravery had a lasting impact that is still felt today, in the age of Black Lives Matter, where young Kenny is growing up. Rosa’s determination during what became the Civil Rights Movement has given kids like Kenny the agency to discover their strengths and inner-confidence in 2021. The gift for Kenny, too, is that he’s making his own history happen right now, by simply being himself. To me, that’s worth celebrating every day of the year.

About the Author

Brian Pinkney is the New York Times bestselling and two-time Caldecott Honor winning author of many books for children. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews hailed A Time for Kenny as a book that “paints an empathetic picture of one kid’s resistances, fears, and joys.” A Publishers Weekly starred review, says: “Kenny is cherished.” Brian lives in New York City with his wife and frequent collaborator, author Andrea Davis Pinkney. The Pinkneys’ book Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation, was an Oprah Radio featured selection.

About the Book

Time for Kenny to get up and enjoy the day with his family! In four deceptively simple stories, Brian Pinkney guides readers through a young child’s day. First, Kenny must get dressed. Maybe he can wear his mom’s shoes? And his grandpa’s hat seems to fit perfectly on his head. Luckily, with the help of his family, Kenny is finally set to go. Then he must overcome his fear of the monstrous vacuum cleaner, learn to play soccer with his big sister, and—after all that fun—get ready for bedtime.

Bright, colorful, and energetic illustrations create a bold, accessible book for families to treasure and share. Rhythm, repetition, and clear, short sentences make Time for Kenny an excellent choice for emerging readers.