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Chicago Public Library

Queen of Kindergarten

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Artist Name

The Chicago Public Library Best Books of the Year list : Picture Books: Queen of Kindergarten (Nancy Paulsen Books) by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.

Vanessa Brantley-Newton 2022

Vanessa Brantley Newton

Represented by

Painted Words, Inc
Suite 24
NEW YORK, NY 10025
United States

illustration of Black girl with beaded braids and white glasses.
illustration of Colorful painting of figures dancing in their own worlds.
illustration of Faces of men, woman and children in all different colors
illustration of Collage of black boy with eyes closed and colorful images around his head.
illustration of Black woman with tall brimmed hat.
illustration of Black woman wearing patterned top with food mart shopping bag being handed a fish


Vanessa Brantley Newton attended both SVA and FIT of New York, where she studied fashion and children’s illustration. An artist swathed in retro chic, she loves all things vintage – especially books and clothes from the 40s through the 60’s – and it shines through in her designs, which run the gamut of fun and whimsical to stylish and sophisticated. She loves to add unique touches to her work, including mixed media accents, collage, and hand lettering. Vanessa was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. Being part of a diverse, tight-knit community during such turbulent times, Vanessa learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment in shaping a young person’s life. When she read Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, it was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, she includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants all children to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader. Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art. The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody. Clients include: Chronicle, Hallmark, Random House, New York Times Awards include: Society of Illustrators, NAACP Image Award


Acrylic, Calligraphy, Collage, Colored Pencil, Cut Paper, Digital, Figurative, Graphic, Lettering, Mixed Media, Stylized, Watercolor, Pattern, Whimsical


Children, Children's Books, Editorial, Fashion/Cosmetics, Food, Music, People, Feminine, Ethnic