Keeping on: Toni Trent Parker's legacy is the vast array of books now available to black children and all children.

Author:Randle, Wilma Jean Emanuel

Toni Trent Parker, founder of Black Books Galore! and a beloved figure in the world of children's book publishing, died after a long illness on September 15, 2005, on what was her 32nd wedding anniversary. More than 300 people attended her funeral services in Stamford. Connecticut. Randle interviewed her in August 2005 and was preparing to write this article when wont came of Parker's prosing. Her book festivals are continuing.

PROUD AS ANY PARENT BRAGGING about an offspring, Toni Trent Parker eagerly talks about her latest book, Sienna's Scrapbook: Our African American Heritage Trip (Chronicle Books LLC, October 2005).

"I'm thrilled--absolutely," she says about the finished product. The book, which is written as part diary, part scrapbook and part travelogue, tells the story of a young African American girl named Sienna who feels her summer vacation is ruined because her parents have decided that en route to this year's family reunion they'll tour famous black history sites. In true storybook fashion, Sienna finds the traveling and learning fun (and so will readers).

Parker has been busy putting her personal affairs in order, donating books from her collection and most importantly, making sure that the company she helped found more than a decade ago, Black Books Galore!, continues. It was decided that her friend and business associate Sharon Jerry-Collins will take over as the new owner.

This is not what we've come to talk about on this particular day, a picture-perfect mid-August afternoon. Parker, 58, had agreed to an interview at her home in Stamford, Connecticut, to talk about a subject that she loves second only to her family: African American children's literature and publishing.

In 1992, Parker and Sheila Foster, a friend and member of the Stamford moms' playgroup her daughter belonged to in Stamford, cofounded Black Books Galore!, later to be joined by Donna Rand. The business grew out of a playgroup activity--organizing a book fair that featured children's books with positive black images and themes.

In 1998, Kids Cultural Books was launched as a nonprofit wing of the book company. Its goal was to organize book fairs around the country that give the public the chance to meet children's book authors, illustrators and publishers, while promoting literacy and encouraging reading.

Parker eventually took on sole ownership of the company. It grew and soon became known in the publishing industry for promoting African American children's...

To continue reading