The National Black Book Festival has awarded LaTonya Jackson the 2023 Black Authors Matter Children’s Book Award for Best Illustrator for her work on the IVP Kids title Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit. 

The Black Authors Matter Children’s Book Awards (formerly Jerry Pinkney Children’s Book Awards) were established to honor excellence in African American literature. The 2023 award winners were announced during the annual National Black Book Festival, which was held October 26 through 28 in Houston, Texas.

Written by Esau McCaulley Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit was also a 2022 finalist in the religion category of the Jerry Pinkney Awards. McCaulley said, “I am so proud of LaTonya. When I saw the artwork, I immediately fell in love with it. I am glad that others recognize her talents as well!”

Jackson is an artist and illustrator living in Shreveport, Louisiana, where she teaches art to elementary and middle school students. A classically trained artist, LaTonya transitioned to children’s illustrations after becoming a mom and experiencing the joy of seeing things through her son’s eyes.

“It was so much fun to have LaTonya bring this story to life!” said IVP Kids editor Elissa Schauer. “Each page of Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit is not only evidence of LaTonya’s artistic talent, but it puts on full display her exceptional creativity. We are grateful for her fantastic contribution to this book, and so excited that she is receiving this well-deserved honor.”

Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit tells the story of Josey, who is spending the day with her dad, getting her hair braided at Monique’s Beauty Shop, and picking out a new red dress for Pentecost Sunday. In the process, she learns to celebrate the differences she sees all around her as part of God’s plan for his creation.

Schauer said, “We talk a lot about the valuable messages in our books, but we probably don’t say enough about how significant the illustrations are in helping convey those messages. The illustrations matter! LaTonya’s illustrations in this book are spot on, because they capture the emotions, the joy, and the wonder of Esau’s message so well. It was an ideal match!”

IVP Kids is an imprint that presents themes such as justice, spiritual formation, and discipleship, that have always been cornerstones of IVP throughout its seventy-five years. These topics are now being offered in a kid-friendly way. Schauer said, “IVP inhabits a unique space in the world of publishing, and we hope that IVP Kids is able to do so as well. Our deep desire is that children and families would enjoy reading together, and that the content of these books would spark meaningful conversations for years to come.”

IVP Kids launched its first book, Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, in October 2021 and has continued to release four to six new children’s books each year on topics ranging from anxiety and grief to disability and diversity.

For a complete list of children’s titles from IVP, visit