Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 21, 2020

Book Giveaway: BEAUTIFUL SHADES OF BROWN by Nancy Churnin

Author Nancy Churnin has a new picture book titled, BEAUTIFUL SHADES OF BROWN, illustrated by Felicia Marshall. Published by Creston Books. Nancy has agreed to share a book with one lucky winner in the U.S. mailing territory. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Nancy and Felicia.


Growing up in the late 19th century, Laura Wheeler Waring didn’t see any artists who looked like her. She didn’t see any paintings of people who looked like her, either. As a young woman studying art in Paris, she found inspiration in the works of Matisse and Gaugin to paint the people she knew best. Back in Philadelphia, the Harmon Foundation commissioned her to paint portraits of accomplished African-Americans. Her portraits still hang in Washington DC’s National Portrait Gallery, where children of all races can admire the beautiful shades of brown she captured.


My journey to writing Beautiful Shades of Brown was propelled by a passion to rectify injustice. Why, I wondered, do we see so few books about women artists? Yes, there are a few – Georgia O’Keeffe, Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo – and we see those stories told over and over again. Surely, there are more women artists whose stories have not been told. Surely there are more women artists of color and paintings of people of color that need their time in the spotlight.

And then, I found it. A portrait of the singer, Marian Anderson, that took my breath away. Remember how Emily Dickinson described poetry? “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” That’s how I felt when I first saw that painting of Marian Anderson, standing regally and soulfully, about to sing, in a long red gown.

The painting was by Laura Wheeler Waring. Who? I knew I had to find everything I possibly could about this artist and what had led her to create this exquisite painting.

It wasn’t as easy a question to answer as I thought it would be. I searched and I searched, but I couldn’t find any books about Laura Wheeler Waring. I found brief biographical descriptions online – enough to intrigue me further – suggestions that Laura, who had grown up in a segregated America had sought to integrate museum collections with portraits of great African Americans.

I began to get a sense of what her story was about. Laura’s parents had spoken up for integration and equal rights in the late 18th and early 19th century. Laura was a quiet person who spoke through her paintbrush.

Still, I needed to know more. Hmmm. Where was the painting? I saw that it was in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Maybe they could answer my questions.

I emailed. And waited. And emailed. And waited. I called. And waited. And called. And emailed. And finally, I got an email back. With a phone number! It took a while to connect, but soon emails and phone calls were going back and forth from North Texas to Washington D.C., with Erin Beasley, Digital Image Rights and Reproductions Specialist at the National Portrait Gallery and Dr. Tuliza Fleming, Curator of American Art at the National Museum of African American History of Culture.

Erin sent me a book about the museum’s Harmon Collection which had commissioned paintings of great Black Americans from Laura. And then she did something that truly made the magic happen. She got permission to give me the contact information for Laura’s great-niece and heir, Madeline Murphy Rabb. Ms. Rabb gave me permission to reproduce Laura’s actual paintings in the book, which was incredible by itself. But she also provided me with wonderful details, such as the fact that Laura would keep peppermints in her pockets to bribe her nieces and nephews to sit still while she did their portraits. And she affirmed what had emerged as my central theme – Laura’s attention to capturing each person’s unique shade of brown, finding the rainbow of colors that made up each hue, bringing home the reminder that we are all unique and beautiful in our own way.

Ms. Rabb’s encouragement and the support of Ms. Beasley, Dr. Fleming, and, later, Riche Sorensen, Rights & Reproductions Coordinator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, built my confidence that I was on the right track.

I had the shape of the story from the start. I knew I needed to begin with young Laura, trying to capture the colors and beauty of her family, with her mission growing, over time, to capture the colors and beauty of people in the Black community. And I knew that the journey would take us from Laura hanging portraits of her siblings on her bedroom walls, so they could see how beautiful they were, to painting Marian Anderson, and seeing that painting on a museum wall, where people everyone could see the beauty of Marian and others.

I was very fortunate to work with editor Marissa Moss, an artist herself, who believed in the book from the beginning, and incredible illustrator Felicia Marshall on this book.

Felicia took the story to a visual level that took my breath away, yet again, by showing Laura painting the actual paintings and doing it in backgrounds of rooms that also show the variations of the rainbow in the color brown. I hope the paintings reproduced in the back of the book will not only enhance the reputation of Laura Wheeler Waring, but get kids interested in the great people she painted: Marian Anderson, of course, but also Harry Burleigh; William Edward Burghardt “W.E.B.” DuBois; Jessie Fauset; James Weldon Johnson; and Alice Dunbar Nelson.

Then, too, in the spirit of Laura Wheeler Waring, I’ve created a project called Paint Your World, where kids are sharing art they create of their families and communities on a dedicated project page on my website. I am excited every time I see a new, unique and beautiful face in the spotlight. With each portrait, it feels as if a new journey is beginning.


Nancy is an author of seven books. She is a native New Yorker and a graduate of Harvard University, with a master’s from Columbia University. She loves hanging out with friends and fellow children’s book authors as a member of the Ink Think Tank, the Nonfiction Ninjas on, the Nonfiction Chicks organizing the annual and the Book Meshuggenahs, organizing annual Chai-ku and Be a Shamash contests.

Nancy is proud to be a Writing Barn instructor, a member of the Texas Library Association, 12X12 and Rate Your Story, and the PALS coordinator for the North Texas chapter of SCBWI. She enjoys virtual and in person Author Visits. Book her through Authors and More, or on her Contact Page.

She is represented by Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary

Photo by Kim Leeson

Nancy Churnin is the author of THE WILLIAM HOY STORY, HOW A DEAF BASEBALL PLAYER CHANGED THE GAME (Albert Whitman), on the 2016 New York Public Library Best Books for Kids and Bank Street College Best Children’s Books list, the 2017 Texas Library Association’s 2X2 and Topaz lists, 2017-2018 Kennebec Valley Book Award Books, the 2018 Illinois School Library Media Association’s Monarch Award Master List, Connecticut’s 2018 Charter Oak Children’s Book Awards list, the 2018-2019 Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice awards and the 2017-2018 Armadillo Readers’ Choice Awards list.

MANJHI MOVES A MOUNTAIN, on the 2021 Sakura Medal shortlist, 2020 Greenwich Reads Together Elementary School Selection, winner of the 2019 Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award and 2018 South Asia Book Award, a 2018 Children and Teen’s Choice Book Awards finalist, a 2017 Junior Library Guild selection, a Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2018, a Silver Eureka Award-winner, a Little Free Libraries/Children’s Book Council Pick for the Action Book Club and Ezra Jack Keats Award finalist and on the Wisconsin School Library Association’s Picture This list.

CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT: HOW CHARLIE SIFFORD BROKE THE COLOR BARRIER IN GOLF is a Silver Eureka Award-winner, on the Wisconsin School Library Association’s Picture This list and a Ruby Bridges Reading Festival selection at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, featured at International Literacy Association’s Children Literacy Day in Austin.

IRVING BERLIN, THE IMMIGRANT BOY WHO MADE AMERICA SING is a 2019 Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable Book and 2019 Social Studies Notable Trade Book for Children. It was featured in the 2018 GREAT BOOKS FOR KIDS by Elizabeth Bird and the Evanston Public Library, in the 31 DAYS, 31 LISTS: 2018 UNIQUE BIOGRAPHIES by Elizabeth Bird and School Library Journal, in the 31 DAYS, 31 LISTS: 2018 NONFICTION PICTURE BOOKS by Elizabeth Bird and School Library Journal; THE BEST JEWISH CHILDREN’S BOOKS OF 2018 by Marjorie Ingall and Tablet Magazine; the 7 BEST JEWISH BOOKS FOR KIDS by The Children’s Book Review and RONNIE’S AWESOME LIST OF BOOKS that teach about social justice and activism.


MARTIN & ANNE, THE KINDRED SPIRITS OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND ANNE FRANK, a 2020 Books for a Global Society Notable from the International Literacy Association; on the 2020 New York City Department of Education Civics for All list; a 2020 Wisconsin State Reading Association Picture This! pick; a 2020 Wassmuth Center for Human Rights pick; selected for the 2020 Social Justice and Children’s Literature list of The Pirate Tree, a collective of children’s and young adult writers interested in children’s literature and social justice issues; presented at the NYC School Librarians annual conference in NYC and the Museum of Tolerance in LA; on the 2020 PJ Library’s Jewish Books to Read in Honor of MLK Jr. Day; a 2019 March Book Buzz pick for the eMissourian, Children’s Book Council’s Hot Off the Press list and Ruby Bridges Reading Festival selection; 2019 featured book at Tulisoma South Dallas Book Fair at African American Museum in Fair Park, Dallas; a 2019 pick for the Brave Bookshelf, a list of books that build moral courage in children, by ParentMap; a Civil Rights and Race reading list selection by the Jewish Book Council.

BEAUTIFUL SHADES OF BROWN, THE ART OF LAURA WHEELER WARING, released Feb. 4, 2020, a Silver Eureka honoree from The California Reading Association, A Mighty Girl pick on the Mighty Girl 2020 Summer Reading List, a Civic Nebraska selection.

On April 1, 2020: FOR SPACIOUS SKIES, KATHERINE LEE BATES AND THE INSPIRATION FOR ‘AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL’ A Mighty Girl pick on the Mighty Girl 2020 Summer Reading List.

In Fall 2021: A QUEEN TO THE RESCUE, THE STORY OF HENRIETTA SZOLD, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg, published by Creston Books/Lerner Books

In Fall 2021: DEAR MR DICKENS, illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe, published by Albert Whitman

She lives in North Texas with her husband, a dog named Dog and two cantankerous cats.


Paint Your World:

Facebook: Nancy Churnin Children’s Books

Facebook: Nancy Churnin

On Twitter: @nchurnin

On Instagram: @nchurnin


Felicia Marshall is the illustrator of a number of books for children, including Sylvia & Miz Lula Maye, Down Home at Miss Dessa’s, and Keepers. She teaches art in Houston, Texas, where she lives with her husband and son.

Nancy, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. It sounds like you did a lot of research for this book and it really shows. So happy to to be introduced to this black artist and learn about her life and journey. Felicia did a beautiful job with the illustrations. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. This is a gorgeous, inspiring book and on a favorite topic — art! Thank you Nancy and Felicia for bringing this story to life.


  2. wonderful work!


  3. Looks like a wonderful book!


  4. What a gorgeous story with beautiful illustrations! What a wonderful life to share on the pages of a picture book. Great work!!


  5. I’m loving the sound of this book and the illustrations are works of art unto themselves. Thanks very much for the chance to win a copy.
    I’ve tweeted a link to this post:, and shared an image on Pinterest with a link as well:
    Thanks again, have a safe and happy holiday season everyone!


  6. This looks like a very inspirational book. The illustrations are gorgeous. Thanks for the post.


  7. I loved reading the steps in your research process, Nancy. I found it fascinating. Felicia’s illustrations are gorgeous! I’m spreading the word of your marvelous biography on Facebook. Congratulations, to both of you talented ladies!


  8. I loved learning about your process, Nancy! I retweeted about this blog post. 🙂


  9. I am a huge fan of Nancy’s work and was honored to share a virtual book launch with her back in April. She talked a bit about this book then! So excited for her!


  10. I tweeted about this post at 🙂


  11. Another great book!


  12. Nancy finds such interesting details and storylines about her PB biography subjects. I’m looking forward to reading about Laura Wheeler Waring. Felicia Marshall’s illustrations are gorgeous, too!

    Kathy, I shared on twitter and I get your daily blog.


  13. I would love to win this book. Shared on Pinterest, Twitter and FB. thanks.


  14. This is a lovely book. Thanks for the chance to win. I shared in FB, Twitter, & Pinterest.


  15. I love how the museum put you in touch with the relative! Wonderful story.


  16. This is such a beautiful book! I can’t wait to read it. Best wishes!

    I follow by email and I will tweet this post, Kathy. 🙂


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