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Happy, Healthy, Me, and You with Divinity Roxx and NaShantá Fletcher

Divinity Roxx and NaShantá Fletcher share Me + You and Happy & Healthy, two stories celebrating diverse families and moving and grooving to your own beautiful beat.

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FULL TRANSCRIPT:


[1:54] Introduction


Matthew: Welcome to the Children’s Book Podcast. I’m Matthew.


I am a teacher, a librarian, and a fan of kids. And today we are talking about celebrating family and making healthy choices. And one way will do that is through music!


Before we get started, remember that you can shop for any of the books you hear on this podcast while at the same time supporting independent bookstores! Just head to matthewcwinner.com and click on “Bookshop”. You can also support the show and buy me a coffee. And, of course, we love seeing those 5-star reviews come in for the show, like this one “This podcast is so interesting and me and my little sisters love it.” Awww! You’re listening together! I love that!


Our guests today are Divinity Roxx and NaShantá Fletcher.


Divinity Roxx is a Grammy-nominated musician, recording artist, composer, and author, with four solo albums including Ready Set Go!, her first family music album. In addition to her own work, she is well known for touring and performing with Beyoncé Knowles as her bassist and Musical Director. She is currently performing around the world, teaching master classes and writing multiple projects including a new solo album, a one woman stage play, and a series of children’s books with accompanying music.


NaShantá Fletcher is a children's book illustrator and an award-winning graphic artist. She previously worked in broadcast television for 16 years, most notably as a Graphic Artist for 'Chicago's Very Own' WGN Morning News, and Graphic Design Manager for the national news network, NewsNation.



[3:38] Book Summary


Matthew: Me + You by Divinity Roxx; illustrated by NaShantá Fletcher



Diverse families and children celebrate one another in this catchy, hip-hop look at what family really means.


and..


Happy & Healthy by Divinity Roxx; illustrated by NaShantá Fletcher



Joyful children move and groove to their own beautiful beat in this vibrant hip-hop celebration of life and health. Every book purchase includes exclusive access to the catchy song...to sing along!



[4:10] Meet Our Guests: Divinity Roxx and NaShantá Fletcher


Divinity: Hey, my name is Divinity Roxx. I am a bass player and a songwriter. I'm an emcee, and I've toured with some of the biggest artists in the world. I am the author of two incredible books: Me + You and Happy & Healthy, illustrated by my friend, NaShantá Fletcher.


NaShantá: Hi, my name is NaShantá Fletcher. I'm a wife and a mother. And I spent most of my career working in broadcast television, but now I illustrate children's books. And I had the pleasure of illustrating Happy & Healthy and Me + You, written by Divinity Roxx.



[4:51] The Many, Many People We Call Family


Matthew: Listeners, I don’t know that you know this, but I love singing with my students during library classes. We sing “Willoughby Wallaby Woo” in the beginning of the year as I’m learning the names of my new Kinders. We sing “I Love My Red Shoes” as we read stories about Pete the Cat. We sing along with pop songs that we play during book selection. And, honestly, I am kind of constantly making up songs and singing directions day in and day out. It’s pretty silly.


Singing brings people together. And when my students and I share a song together, it makes us feel like family. At least, that’s what I’m feeling when we sing together.


Family is often made up of the people who live with you, but it doesn’t stop there, of course. Family includes relatives near and far, but it can also include friends and neighbors and members of your community with whom you share a special bond.


Jules, who is part of your family?


Julia: My dad. My mom. And my brother. And my dog, I think.


Matthew: Anybody else?


Julia: Um, I do have my grandad, my grandma, my uncle, my auntie. I have my cousins. And that’s all I can think of.


Matthew: Do you consider your friends a part of your family?


Julia: Um, I wouldn’t because they don’t really live with me.


Matthew: Oh, okay.


Julia: [laughs]


Matthew: Our families all look different and include different people. Let’s hear about Divinity’s family and NaShantá’s family.


Divinity: Oh, my family is huge. I have a huge family on both my mom and dad's side. I have first cousins and second cousins. And I knew both of my sets of my great grandparents. And I even knew a great, great grandparent.


Yeah, so I was, I was really, really lucky. And, and over the years, I have to say that my family has extended beyond the family I was born into.


And I have an incredible musical family, people I play music with people I went to school with. We just celebrated my birthday and they all came out to my big birthday party out in L.A.. So I just have an incredibly large family and I married into an even larger family because my wife has an incredibly extended family, too. So yeah, our family is all over.


NaShantá: I also have a pretty extended family. Like, my family reunions used to be like big events where we would… it would be like a convention. Really. We'd have matching t-shirts and it would be like a fashion show and a talent show, and then like dinner. So like, my family is pretty huge.


But like my close immediate family, I have my parents. I have one older brother. In my home, it's me and my husband and I have a son who's almost eight years old. And we have a cat who is 17 years old and she absolutely does not act her age because she's, like, a very energetic troublemaker, even though she's a senior cat.


So, um, yeah, that's my family.


Divinity: Ooh, I love it. I love that you included your pet I have a little chihuahua, too: Lala.


Matthew: You have a Chihuahua named Lala? That's adorable.

I was gonna say, I love, too, that you have a kid the age of your readers. That's a really fun age to have a kid that age.


NaShantá: It's so weird because yeah, he.


I think during the book making process, he didn't realize that I was working on a book until he saw, like I told him like, “Oh, I'm, I'm making a book”, because I worked in television. He just, I, I don't know how much he comprehends like, “Oh, mommy works at a TV station. Oh, mommy's working on a book.”


And then when we actually got the book and he saw my name and then he's, “You made this book?” You know? So it's interesting to see how he perceives it, because he's here, while I'm making it, he's seen the sketches and he saw the work in progress. And as a reader, it's very interesting too to see what he notices and what he picks up on because he is in that age group that these books are for.


[9:19] Healthy Body, Heart, and Mind


Matthew: In families, we take care of one another. We share memories. We do things together.


But you…. You are an important part of the family you are in and it’s important that you take care of yourself and your body’s needs as well.


Divinity: Oh, yes. I mean, growing up my mom made sure that we always had nutritious dinners and lunches, and so I am still very much… I still very much do that for myself.

One of the ways I stay happy and healthy is by making sure I eat healthy foods. I don't eat a lot of fast foods. And I know that's easy for parents to give kids fast foods because my parents did as well. But as an adult, I don't eat a lot of fast foods.


I love vegetables and fruits and, and one of the things I really love to do is I love hiking. I love exercising and working out moving body. I always did that. I played sports when I was a little girl, and so I still do a lot of that moving around. I love to dance. I think dancing is another form of exercise, but you're having fun doing it, right? So just moving my body.


And I also meditate. So I quiet my mind and close my eyes and kind of go within just to settle my heart and settle my mind sometimes when, um, when things outside get a little bit hectic for me.


NaShantá: I recently started (very recently started) working from home, and I didn't realize how much being at a workplace and being surrounded by people makes me happy until I started working by myself and in this home. So I don't really have to travel as much because my home and my workspace are in the same place.


And when I noticed that it was affecting my happiness and my health, I had to figure out ways to get out of the house more. So there are a lot of times where I'll take all my work and I go to the library and I work at my local library. And I bought a bike last summer and I hadn't ridden a bike in over 10 years. So I'm like, “This'll force me to go outside and exercise.” I don't like exercise, so I try to think of ways that I can be active that are fun for me.


Another thing that I really got back into is urban sketching, which is basically taking a sketchbook and art supplies. And going out somewhere, it could be indoors or outdoors, and you draw what you see, you're drawing from observation, and it could be at a coffee shop or at a park, and doing that forces me not only to just get out of the house, but also to walk around and to be moving.


So I've been trying to find ways that I could incorporate movement into my life in ways that I enjoy. So, like, art and biking and just going out to the library and stuff like that.


[12:17] Showing Care for Yourself and Others


Matthew: Taking time to care for ourselves is important. Noticing the people who care about you is also important. And I have no doubt that you, listeners, are already doing lots to care for yourself and others.


Am I right? Smile if you can think of one way you show care for yourself or others.


Now that is a lot of smiling faces!



[12;44] BREAK


[13:16] That Child Inside


Divinity: Generally when I think about writing for kids, I think about what I wanted to hear when I was a kid and what I may not have heard, what was missing.


Matthew: Musician and songwriter Divinity Roxx has been turning her focus to writing songs for kids. The music she writes is energetic and positive. The messages are affirming and empowering. And the process has brought Divinity back to her own childhood as well as all the kids that are in her life today.


Divinity: I remember as a kid, I listened to a lot of Disney records. I had this little Wonder Woman record player, and I used to play my own little Disney records on that record player. And my mom had a great record collection and I would take her Michael Jackson records and her early hip hop records and put them on.


So I think about like how those songs made me feel when I was a kid, how excited I was when I listened, what messages I was getting from them, what type of stories could I imagine based off of those lyrics that I was hearing.


I think part of the reason why I fell in love with rap music was because there was this single painted rhythm to words that generated these visuals in my mind, so I could see the stories these rappers were telling and I wanted to be able to do that. So I think when I'm writing for kids, it's kind of kind of what goes into it.


When it comes to subject matters, I think about the kids that are around me. I have 10 godchildren. And I have a host of nieces and nephews, and when we get together, we make up songs. I mean, we just make songs up based on what we are doing. We could be making pizza and tacos and we make up a pizza and taco song. “First you put the cheese and you…”. So that's kind of how I come up with song ideas based off of the children around me and my experience as a child. I still feel like that child inside of me. I really connect to her in so many ways. As a matter of fact, my sister said this to me the other day, uh, children generally think that I'm a kid when I come around. I even had my cousins, we would go to these huge family reunions, right?


And the kids are running around and you know, I would run around with them for a while and I had one of my little cousins come up to me and say, “Are you a kid?” And I was like, “No! I'm an adult!” But I still connect to that kid inside of me. So I think that's kind of where I get most of my songs. I have songs from.



[16:33] Feels Like an Authentic World


Matthew: NaShantá found a way to approach the art in Me + You and Healthy & Happy that feels both joyful and grounded in reality, like these characters stepped right out of your neighborhood and into these books.


Matthew: I'd love to hear how you approach the art in these books. And I'd love to hear… just all of it. I feel like the people in these books have to be people, you know, I'm sure I'm wrong, but it just feels like, “You know, some of these people don't you? You've drawn them with such love.


There's pages that I wanna step into cuz it feels like love. It feels to me like Fred Rogers, it feels to me like Sesame Street. It feels like those moments where I'm like, I know I'm watching you through the tv, but I could step into that space and it would be safe for me.


You've made art that feels that way. It's wonderful. I'd love to know about your process.


NaShantá: Oh my gosh.


Well, Matthew, first, I appreciate you noticing that cuz I personally counted characters in the first book. I didn't count, there were more characters. In the second book, there's 65 different characters in Happy & Healthy and I really was trying to create this like, authentic neighborhood.


Like I really love illustrating joy and putting playfulness and that positive energy into my art. And it helped having the music to listen to while I was working on the books because I got the songs before I started working on the project.


And this is a completely different style than I've ever worked in before. I never incorporated photographs into my illustrations and this idea came from Scholastic. They wanted to create something special with these books using photos and illustrations and words and music, and it's like this really unique mixed media experience. So I, in my mind, thought, “This is gonna be easy. I don't have to draw the backgrounds.”


But it's more challenging because you have to create it in a way. where the characters feel like they're in the space. So I did a lot reference photos of myself doing certain movements because you have to get the right angle to make it really look like these characters are stepping on a bus or that they're interacting with the water fountain. Like, there's so many different times where the characters are interacting with the environment, and that was a challenge for me to just kind of make it feel grounded in that space with the specific, like, designs of the characters.


I wanted to make it, like, this authentic world, like the world I see around me, cuz I grew up in urban neighborhoods. I'm from Chicago. I live just outside the city now, but I wanted to illustrate the people that I see every day, like the people I see at the grocery store, at the park, or at the laundromat, because there are so many different types of people around us. People with different abilities, different ethnicities.


Like, even within my own family, I'm a Black woman, my husband is white, our son is biracial, and I was really excited to get to normalize that sort of diversity in these books like families and communities don't just look one specific way. And I was so proud that I had the freedom and opportunity to showcase that with my art in these books.



[19:43] A Favorite Spread from Divinity


Matthew: Listeners, you probably know that I love when we get to share parts of the book with you. Favorite pages and favorite lines alway make me excited. Divinity and NaShantá make music videos for each of these books, incorporating the song and the book art. Each book contains a website link and password to access the videos.

I’ll include screenshots from the videos on my website to give you a sense of the awesome art and word pairings.


Divinity: One of my favorite passages, one of my favorite spreads, is in Me + You. You know, that that book is so personal to me because I was really talking about my family. The interactions, all those lyrics were really a reflection of my family and my relationship to each of the people that I talk about in those lyrics. And so when we talked about like what, what that looks like, 12 and 13 are, it's one of my favorite spreads because it is a representation of the family reunion.



My family gets together in South Carolina every year. We've been doing it for 40 years. and we go to my great-grandfather's land. He was a sharecropper and he has, he had a hundred acres of land and he was a f so he was a farmer, so he had cows and, and this huge tree represents this tree that, that was actually on the land.



And there's a pump on page 12. This pump was so special because there is an underground spring on my great-grandfather's land and one of my uncles built a pump so that we could pump water down near where we have the reunion. It was pretty far away from the house, and this pump was so central to the reunion, especially for the kids because while the grownups are doing their family meetings and all the boring stuff that they do, the kids run to the pump and it's always so hot outside and we grab cups of water and we fill 'em up and we start throwing water on each other to cool ourselves off.


So this, this is represented so perfectly in the book. You have the kids, they're, they have, they have little water guns and they're shooting each other with the water, and people are playing cards and we play three legged race and we have a sack race. And man, when I tell you, this just makes me so excited. It makes me so happy. It's definitely one of my favorite spreads.


Matthew: Would you mind reading the words that go along with that spread?


Divinity:It's all smiles and all laughs and all joy. No matter if you are a girl or a boy. Me plus you. You plus me. Yeah. We're a happy family.



[22:33] Illustrations Created Specifically for You


NaShantá: It was so amazing. I don't have a specific like page or spread that I wanna focus on, but what I do wanna tell the readers, if they get these books is like, because these are songs and there's no main characters in the songs, I had this really unique opportunity to create a story in the pictures.


So it it, you see it a lot in Happy & Healthy. If you pay attention to the characters in the background., there are recurring people in the neighborhood that show up throughout, so there'll be a character that's way in the background on one page, and then they're the main focus interacting with a different character that was introduced on another page. So you really get this vibe that all these people know each other and that they're in the same space and that they're in a community together.



And that was something that was really fun and challenging because, again, there was no main characters in either of these stories, so I got to really hide little Easter eggs in the backgrounds and a lot of these spreads. So I just… I encourage kids to really like, look at the backgrounds and see if they recognize characters from other pages, cuz it's, it's always fun to see like, “Oh, this person was at the bus stop and now they're over here and they’re with this person and they must be friends.”



So it's really cool to see kids like go back and notice things that they didn't notice the first time that they read through the books.


Matthew: I love going from that to, as a librarian, getting to tell kids. And that was put there intentionally for you.


Divinity: Mmm. Mmm. Speaking of that, can I just get…


One thing that was really intentional was that we had a representation of people who identify as having disabilities.


There's one, there's one character who has a hearing aid, and a friend of my wife's, uh, he wears a hearing aid and he and his daughter were reading the book and she noticed it. And she was like, “Look, Daddy? She has a hearing aid like you do!”

Oh man, we were so touched when he said… when he told us that story and how that never happens as he's reading books for his daughter. So that was, that was pretty powerful.


Matthew: That opportunity to see yourself. Right. That's a powerful, powerful thing.



[25:07] A Message from Divinity Roxx and NaShantá Fletcher


Matthew: Well, listeners, it bears repeating. I hope that you have opportunities (plural) to see yourself in books. I hope you get to experience characters that look like you, that celebrate like you, that have a family like yours, that live in a community like yours. And I hope when you do see yourself, that it’s a celebration of kids like you and all you mean to all of us.


As I prepare to head back to my library full of children, I hope that you will remember these special messages from Divinity Roxx and NaShantá Fletcher.


Divinity: The message that I'd like for you to bring to them is that whatever you can imagine for yourself in your life, you can make it happen. Your imagination is so powerful that something that exists in your mind only can be output into the world as a very real and tangible thing.

So go and dream big.


NaShantá: So I would like to tell the children, don't feel like you have to be like everyone else. It's okay to be different. And we have to be kind to each other and respect what makes us all unique.



[26:37] Closing


Matthew: The Children’s Book Podcast is written, edited, and produced by me, Matthew Winner.


Follow the show wherever podcasts are found, and leave us a rating or review when you do. That helps us out a whole lot because it helps the show get discovered by and recommended to new listeners.


Divinity? NaShantá? Where can listeners find you?


Divinity: You can find me at www.diviroxxkids.com, as well as divinityroxx.com and on all the socials at Divi Roxx or at DiviRoxxKids.


Matthew: We can also tell our smart speakers to play you, which is a very fun thing.


Divinity: All the platforms! Play. “Ready, Set, GO!”.


NaShantá: They can find me nashanta.com, which is N A S H A N T a.com. And on social media, I'm NashSketches on basically all of them: Instagram and Twitter and Facebook.


Matthew: Visit matthewcwinner.com for a full transcript of this episode plus some questions that you can use as you think about this episode.


You can also reach out and let me know how you show care for yourself or others.


Write to me or send me a message at matthewmakespods@gmail.com. That’s M-A-T-T-H-E-W M-A-K-E-S P-O-D-S at gmail dot com.


Want a copy of Me + You or Happy & Healthy? Jules, where should our listeners look?


Julia: Check your school or public library, your classroom, or, if you want to support independent bookstores, you can purchase a copy at Bookshop.org.


Matthew: I’ll have a link in the show notes.


Our podcast logo was created by Duke Stebbins (https://stebs.design/).


Our music is by Podington Bear.


Podcast hosting by Libsyn.


You can support the show and buy me a coffee at www.matthewcwinner.com.


We are a proud member of Kids Listen, the best place to discover the best in kids podcasts. Learn more at kidslisten.org.


Fellow teachers and librarians, want a way to explore building a stronger culture of reading in our communities? In The Reading Culture podcast, Beanstack co-founder Jordan Bookey hosts conversations that dive into beloved authors' personal journeys and insights into motivating young people to read. And I am a big fan! Their recent guests include: Erin Entrada Kelly, James Ponti, Ellen Oh, Grace Lin, Adam Gidwitz, and Kate DiCamillo! Check out the Reading Culture Podcast with Jordan Bookey, from Beanstack. Available wherever podcasts are found.


Anything else you want to share, Julia?


Julia: Um… Have a good day.


Matthew: Have a nice day!


Be well. And read on.




End Of Episode

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