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Book shout-out from 'Late Show' host surprises, thrills Education professor

When JaNay Brown-Wood, Sac State Education professor and children's author, and her husband saw a video of Stephen Colbert's respectful reference to Brown-Wood's book, "Imani's Moon," she said "our jaws just dropped." (Photo courtesy of JaNay Brown-Wood)


Comedian and television host Stephen Colbert plugged child and adolescent development Professor JaNay Brown-Wood’s children’s book this week to millions of viewers of The Late Show, much to the Sacramento State scholar’s shock and delight.

Colbert’s monologue on Tuesday night focused in part on the controversy surrounding the Dr. Seuss collection of books, some of which will be removed from the late author’s catalogue because of hurtful and insensitive portrayals of certain groups.

The books in question include If I Ran the Zoo and The Cat’s Quizzer.

"Imani's Moon" is just one of the books Professor JaNay Brown-Wood has written for children, who have made it popular reading. (Photo courtesy of JaNay Brown-Wood)

Colbert suggested during part of monologue – done in rhyme – that, in lieu of those titles, readers should “consider these books from people of color.”

Moments later, he displayed a copy of Brown-Wood’s Imani’s Moon, followed by several other children’s books by other authors.

Imani’s Moon flashes across the TV screen at about the 11th minute of the monologue, which can be viewed online.

Brown-Wood said she “had no idea” that Colbert would feature her work. She found out only after someone sent her a link to the show via Facebook.

“I watched it with my husband, and our jaws just dropped,” she said.

Imani’s Moon, Brown-Wood’s first book, is a folkloric tale with themes of perseverance and determination that has resonated with children around the country. The book received widespread accolades when it was published in 2014.

Brown-Wood has since authored Grandma’s Tiny House, which introduces young readers to numbers and includes messages about the importance of family. Several more books are forthcoming, including Shhh! The Baby’s Asleep, which is scheduled to be released later this year.

Brown-Wood said she is unsure whether the Colbert development will translate into a surge in sales for Imani’s Moon. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the book’s moment in the bright spotlight of late-night TV has captured widespread attention.

“From the moment it happened, I’ve been getting reactions,” she said. “I’ve lost track of the number of messages and retweets and Facebook posts from people who said they love the book or want to purchase the book. It’s exciting. I’m so blessed.”

Brown-Wood, whose academic focus is on early childhood education, said her work at Sac State allows her to study diversity in children’s books while providing opportunities to capture and create more authentic characters. One of her goals is to bring more ethnic diversity into books for young people.

“I call myself a children’s book author and an educator,” she said. “It’s a wonderful merging of my identities.”

More information about Brown-Wood and her books can be found on her website.

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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