Interview: NBA Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on His First Book for KidsBy Debra Lau Whelan
January 12, 2012
SLJ talks to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about his first children's book, What Color is My World? (Candlewick, 2011), which profiles little-known African American inventors. The NBA legend also discusses his passion for history, why he feels an obligation to educate black children, and his desire to correct the "false information" being taught in today's schools.
You've written many books, but this is your first one geared towards kids. Why turn to a younger audience?
Children's books was something that I had never attempted, and I wanted to see if I could do an effective job at it. I also saw it as a duty because the history books that I had to use when I was in grade school didn't do a good job at all in relating the true facts of so many key events that are part of our nation's history. It truly disturbs me to see yet another generation of black children who are not being correctly educated about our country's history. Writing this book gives me an opportunity to reduce the amount of false information that affects the school kids in our communities. I found writing for kids very enjoyable, and it wasn't any more difficult than writing to an adult audience.
Was there anything that surprised you during your research?
I was surprised at the number of Blacks who were active inventors in the 1800s. But none of them were well-known.
You included predominantly male inventors. What were the criteria for choosing the ones who ended up in the book?
The criteria that I used were very simple. I felt that the inventions that they made were crucial to the lives of ordinary people. With regard to women inventors, if you look on page 13, you will see the section on Dr. Valerie Thomas who developed the "Illusion Transmitter" that's used in making three dimensional projections. The consensus is that this device will be the method used for 3D television and all other applications where 3D is considered crucial.
What Color is My World, which is geared toward kids who are eight to 12 years old, has an interesting format with flaps that reveal interesting facts. Tell us about the creative process behind it?
In putting my book together, I wanted to try to have an element of interaction with the kids by having the fold outs. I felt that the readers would be given a sense of sharing that wasn't possible if the book was just about turning pages.