By David Steinberg

Families will have two upcoming opportunities to hear Rio Rancho author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson read from her new picture books – “The Book Itch – Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore” and “Don’t Call Me Grandma.”

Nelson will be at the Barnes & Noble in Cottonwood Corners at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 9 and she will be at the Barnes & Noble in Coronado Shopping Center at about 1 p.m. Sunday, April 17.

“The Book Itch,” Nelson said, is presented from the viewpoint of Louis Michaux Jr.  “as a way to bring Louis senior’s (his father’s) story to a younger audience,” she said.

Louis Michaux Sr., the bookstore’s owner, was the subject of Nelson’s award-winning book “No Crystal Stair,” a nontraditional biography that the author described as “documentary fiction.”

“I wanted the focus of ‘The Book Itch’ to be the relationship between Louis junior and his father and the impact of the bookstore. Basically the power of words,” she said.

Nelson’s other recent book, “Don’t Call Me Grandma,” is based on the author’s paternal grandmother, Sinah. (Sinah was the sister-in-law of Louis Michaux Sr. – Nelson’s great uncle.)

“Sinah was not someone who was a warm person. I didn’t know her very well but I was drawn to her. There was something intriguing there. She was stern and prickly, but glamorous,” Nelson said.

Sinah is the basis for the fictional great-grandmother Nell in Nelson’s book.

Sinah, she said, had a great memory. So the family ran a tape recorder and asked her to recall her growing up.

“I wished I had known her sooner but I feel grateful that I had that time with her,” Nelson said. “After she passed away the story (about Nell) was simmering. I ultimately wanted to honor Sinah and to remind readers that we can find something to love if we look deep.”


Nelson’s April 9 reading/discussion is part of Educators Appreciation Week at the Cottonwood Corners bookstore. Other events for educators at the store are at 5 p.m. Friday, April 15 (Make and Create) and at 1 p.m. April 17 (Pete the Cat Workshop).


Nelson’s appearance at the B&N in Coronado is part of an April 15-17 book fair sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators of New Mexico.

Here is the list of the book fair events:

-5-7 p.m. Friday April 15 in the downstairs Teen Dept.. Lauren Bjorkman talks about “Writing Diverse Characters” and Lois Ruby discusses with educators “Using Historical Fiction Across the Curriculum”

-10-11 a.m. Saturday, April 16 in the Children’s Atrium, Page Grant reads “Kitten Caboodle” and Lois Bradley discusses “Blind Tom + Thumbnails, Dummies and Galleys: The Art of a Picture Book”

-1-4 p.m. Saturday. In the Teen Dept., Chris Eboch talks about “Historical Fiction Makes Learning Fun”; Talia Pura talks about “Using Creative Drama in the Classroom”; Catalina Claussen discusses “Strategies for Lesson Planning to meet Common Core State Standards” (the above three are for educators); and Alexandra Diaz reads chapters from two forthcoming novels.

-1-4 p.m. Saturday in the Children’s Atrium, Melinda Beavers reads from “Zoo’s Annual Piggyback Race” and “I Want to be a Lion”; Mary Nethery reads from “Follow Me”; and Neecy Twinem reads from “Where’s Boo? A ZombieZoo Story.”

-Noon-2 p.m. April 17. Chris Eboch talks about “Have You Ever Wanted to Write for Children?” Caroline Starr Rose will discuss her books “Over in the Wetlands” and “Blue Birds” and Vaunda Nelson will talk about and read from her two recent books. (They’ll be in the downstairs Teen Dept.)

-Noon-2 p.m. April 17. Tricia Tusa reads from “Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & A Miracle and Rosemary Zibart reads from “Forced Journey” and “True Brit.” (They’re in the upstairs Children’s Atrium)