7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #639: Featuring Nicole Tadgell

h1 May 26th, 2019 by jules

“With a sling, Dede shot supper until even the prairie dogs grew scarce.”
(Click to enlarge)


Illustrator Nicole Tadgell visits 7-Imp today to share some art and process images from A. LaFaye’s Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town (Albert Whitman, January 2019). It’s the story of a 19th-century African American family who saves money in order to leave the sharecropping life and secure land in Kansas. After they’re finally to able leave and stake a homestead claim in the town of Nicodemus, they create a home for themselves in the bank of the Solomon River; they survive a hard winter; they meet their Ni-u-kon-ska (Osage) neighbors, who bring them food; and young Dede, the narrator, gets a job shining shoes at the St. Francis Hotel. In the end, they have established a “home where they could tell stories, use the stars to guide them, and make plans for the things to come.”

Appended to the story is more context about the so-called Exodusters, the African Americans who joined the land rush to states like Oklahoma and Kansas in the 1870s, as well as a note about how members of the Osage Nation were forced to sell their lands and relocate. (The author notes that she bases the family’s neighbor on “one of the few members of the nation who were able to remain on the Osage Diminished Reservation.”) As the Kirkus review notes: “The closing note acknowledges the displacement of the Ni-u-kon-ska people — another opportunity for exploration. That the many all-black settlements on the prairie have been whitewashed out of U.S. history makes this book an important one.” The Booklist review notes something similar, describing it as an “appealing picture book exploring a part of pioneer history that deserves to be more widely known.”

Tadgell renders the illustrations on a soft, sunny, hopeful palette. Here are some early sketches and final pieces of art she sent along. I thank her for sharing. …


Early rough tablet sketches
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More rough sketches
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Completed drawings
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Painting in progress
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Cover sketch
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Cover tests
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Opening spread (sans text): “The whoo-eeeh-follow-me holler of the six o’clock train rumbled right into Dede’s dreams. She rode across a prairie so wide even the angels couldn’t see the end of it. Her family had a plan.
They would own a place in that open land.”

(Click to enlarge)


“In Kansas, they found a wheat-worthy prairie, and joining a group of fellow settlers, they took the final trek to Nicodemus together. Working day by day,
they dug themselves a home in the bank of the Solomon River.
Dede was the first to use the door she helped her papa hang.”

(Click to enlarge)


“… That’s how the Pattons met Shanka Sabe of the Children of the Middle Waters.
The white folks call them the Osage, but they say they’re the
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Here is a timelapse video of Nicole at work …



FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN. Text copyright © 2019 by A. LaFaye. Pictures copyright © 2019 by Nicole Tadgell. Published by Albert Whitman & Company, Chicago. All images here reproduced by permission of Nicole Tadgell.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

All my kicks, one to seven, this week are that my girls had their final day of school for the year, and their summer has begun. I look forward to seeing them more, as well as teaching my picture book grad course for the University of Tennessee, which kicks off this week.

What are YOUR kicks?

6 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #639: Featuring Nicole Tadgell”

  1. Whoo-eeh, I want to follow this illustrator. I love her process and the color palette. Beautiful. The story is intriguing.
    Jules, here’s to summer and time with girls and fun teaching.
    My kicks:
    1. Response from a teacher about the book New Kid which I gave to his class (a mixed grade, special ed made up of mostly boys). They LOVE the book and the two fifth graders can relate to the theme of the book.
    2. New birds at the feeder.
    3. Time with friends.
    4. Seeing the Free Little Library for my former school coming to fruition.
    5. Interview with Janet Wong.
    6. Successful poetry lessons.
    7. Playing.
    Have a great week.

  2. Howdy, Imps! Hello, Nicole! I love seeing the progress from sketches to painting! 🙂

    Jules: Happy end-of-the-school-year to your kids, and happy new-course-for-you! Go teacher Jules!!

    Jone: Yay for the response! Hello to the birds, and the Free Little Library.

    My kicks:
    1) Singing
    2) Sharing
    3) Connecting
    4) Time
    5) Energy
    6) Laughter
    7) Hope

  3. Jone, Janet is so talented. Also, tonight I saw a little free library that also had canned food in it for folks who might need it. Love that first kick. I enjoyed that book.

    Little Willow: Hope. Always hope.

    Have a good week, you two!

  4. These illustrations are so beautiful. Really love the soft, gentle feel of the colors and the wide open sky.

    Jules – yay for summer with your girls!

    Jone – love your first kick so much. New birds at the feeder is always a delight, as is time with friends.

    LW – Love all your kicks, but especially singing, connecting, sharing, laughter and hope.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Important legislation for youth in the criminal justice system passed the state House this week – totally nerded out watching online all the statements before the vote, then the vote – it was exciting & such a relief that it passed. Now it goes to the Governor for a signature.
    2) Seeing a momma deer and her very tiny fawn grazing while driving to a rural county for work.
    3) This inspiring and happy story about a 97 year old swimmer setting world records and living her best life: https://www.latimes.com/columnone/la-me-col1-senior-swimmer-athletics-20190523-htmlstory.html
    4) Got solar powered lights for the garden and wound them around my 2 apple trees – tonight will tell if it looks pretty or not. (They need 8 hours of sunlight to charge.)
    5) Finished the second book in the Mister Max series.
    6) Finally watched the first John Wick – love Keanu and was glad I was warned about the sad thing in the beginning of the movie, overall very fun action movie.
    7) Daisy trotting and wagging her tail when we got to water therapy yesterday – she knew where she was and was happy to be there and see her friends.
    7.5) Spring is slowly happening! Blooms are starting to show up everywhere and its so cheery and happy!

    Have a great week Imps!

  5. Rachel, GO, DAISY, GO. Love your first kick the most. How do those lights look?

  6. Jules – the lights look awesome! Might have to get some for the pear tree too. Super stoked for summer nights in the backyard. Now if only the weather would cooperate.

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