Don Tate uses oil and acrylic to create paintings with a uniquely bold and dynamic style. A self-taught painter and digital illustrator, he is not shy about applying his skills to an extraordinary range of media. Each book that he creates has a life and style of its own.
Don has been passionate about art since childhood. At that age he was inspired by his aunt Eleanora, who writes novels for young adults. Later, when the publishing company he worked for asked her to write a book of African myths, she did so on the condition that Don do the illustration. This was the first step into his succesful career in the world of children’s illustration.
Much like his style of illustration, Don’s school visits bring a wide variety of engaging activities to students of diverse ages.
Ron’s Big Mission
Rose Blue and Corrine J. Naden; illustrated by Don Tate
I was at the library so often as a child that my mother sometimes joked I lived there. In truth, my visits were brief. I would run in, snatch the books I wanted from the shelf, cram them into an overflowing book bag, and head for home (often with a book open in-hand as I walked). There I would find a quiet place to enjoy my selections at my own pace. As authors Blue and Naden recount, Ron McNair had no such freedom. As a black child growing up during the 1950s in a small town in South Carolina, Ron was allowed to read a book at the library but not to take it home. At the age of nine, he decided to take a stand against this injustice–literally. As the authors tell it, Ron approaches the check-out desk with his books and makes his wishes known. When the desk clerk fails to respond, Ron respectfully but deliberately steps onto the counter. The library staff, the police, and his mother ask Ron to step down, but the boy stands firm. Ultimately, the boy is triumphant. Turning to page one of a beloved airplane book while stretched out on his bedroom floor is a sweet victory indeed. Don Tate’s illustrations are richly colored and vividly expressive. The town’s wide-eyed citizens are foolish but well-intentioned; Tate conveys their lack of aggression through the use of sloped, curved lines and quizzical expressions. Blue and Naden point out in the author’s note that their work is a fictionalized account of a real event and include a biographical note about Ron McNair’s success as an astronaut before he lost his life in the Challenger explosion. 2009, Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin, $16.99. Ages 4 to 10. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green (Children’s Literature).
Summer Sun Risin’
W. Nikola-Lisa ; illustrated by Don Tate.
A delightful story of a young African-American boy and his family’s typical day on their farm. From sun up to sun down, they sing rhythms, bounce, and dance their way through the day’s activities. Each page brings us further along as the day passes with the sun across the sky. Nikola-Lisa’s simple verses of southern voices takes us into this rural Texas farm and lets us walk alongside the characters. The cheerfulness and happy bounce to the line just begs to be read aloud. Tate’s colorful artwork in oil and acrylic paint help bring the book to life. As the verse moves the sun along the sky, we see it progress across each page rising and falling around the farm that is lovingly arching through the book. From waking in the morning to a picnic at noon, from fishing in the evening to “summer sun’s a-sleeping, only stars overhead.” The book ends as it began, with a sweet image of a sleeping child and the sun peeking over the horizon to start another fun day. 2002, Lee & Low Books Inc, $16.95. Ages 3 to 8. Reviewer: Christina Burbage (Children’s Literature).
Sure as Sunrise: Stories of Bruh Rabbit and His Walkin’ Talkin’ Friends
Alice McGill; illustrated by Don Tate.
This book is compiled of stories from “long-ago”. The same stories the author was told when she was a child. Here, Bruh Rabbit and his acquaintances take the reader on adventures through the country side. The author captures the essence of characters by not disturbing their dialect and provides enlightening reflections before and after each tale. I would recommend this book for kindergarten through third grade students. It is delightful. The bright illustrations are full of color and unique style. The illustrator used clay figures for characters then, captured them with oil paints. The stories reveal a piece of American heritage. I would use this book for Black History Month. Category: Folklore, Children’s Literature. 2004, Houghton Mifflin Company, $17.00. Ages 6 to 9. Reviewer: Kate Coleman (The Kutztown University Book Review, Spring 2005).
Don’s presentations tend to last from 35 to 60 minutes, with shorter presentations being particularly good for younger children. He will usually begin a presentation by discussing the many ways stories can be told, and how he enjoys telling stories with painted pictures.
Depending on the age and size of the group, Don’s presentations involve a variety of activities:
- Telling stories while sharing original artwork from his books
- Reading humorous poems for which Don has done the illustrations
- Showing slides of his artwork, and detailing his process of learning the art from childhood on
- Having a question and answer session
- Promoting discussion and engaging the kids in general, so that they talk about their own interests, and see how an interest can become a fulfilling life and career
Above all, Don likes to make the experience memorable and dynamic for the children. His prices are very flexible, and he is willing to negotiate with schools that cannot afford his offered rate. For out-of-state visits he charges $1300 per day, plus expenses. He will make up to three presentations per school.
To learn more about Don, his publications and school visits, please visit www.dontate.com.