Though children love to read stories about mischievous rabbits and stuffed bears on adventures they also like to see themselves reflected on their beloved books. But when Ylleya Fields went to find books to read to her 2-year-old daughter she was disappointed by the lack of African American characters featured in stories. She decided to take matters into her own hands and create a character for her daughter named Princess Cupcake Jones.
Working with illustrator Mike LaDuca the mother of six self-published her book about this high-spirited little princess and since then three more books have come out. In these stories Fields delivers a valuable message about facing fears that all children face like the first day of school or being in a dance recital. With the same gentle, rhyming cadence throughout all the books, as well as vibrant illustrations, the captivating stories help children and their parents learn about sharing feelings, taking risks, and being supportive for new adventures. This book series adds to a small list of books that black children are able to look at and identity with the characters. We were lucky enough to talk to Fields about her book series.
How did you come up with the idea for Cupcake Jones?
Princess Cupcake Jones was created due to what I saw was lack in picture books that featured a African American character. When my eldest daughter was two (she’s 13 now), we wanted to get her books with a character that she could directly relate to, (basically see herself in) and there were none. So I decided to write my own.
Why aren't there more characters that black children can identify with in books for children? How can we fix this problem?
Well there are certainly more books now than when my eldest daughter was little, so that lets you know that people are recognizing that this is a problem and doing their part to correct it. But it comes down to the belief by a lot of publishers, that characters like Princess Cupcake don’t sell books, or even worse that there isn’t a market for these books because consumers don’t want them. It’s not true and I literally prove this every time I sell a book or even do a interview.
What do you hope Princess Cupcake Jones does for African American children, especially girls?
What I know Princess Cupcake Jones does for African American children is that she reinforces that they are valued, that they can and are anything they want to be (even Princesses), and by doing this adds some more positivity to an identity that sometimes struggles in mainstream media. But, what Princess Cupcake Jones and books like her do on a larger level, is they promote acceptance, by diversifying a genre that is overdue in being diversified.
What has the reaction to Princess Cupcake Jones been from both parents and children?
The reaction to Princess Cupcake Jones is always so positive! I personally haven’t had anyone read the book and not fallen in love with her.
What is next for Princess Cupcake Jones?
We actually have a new book being released very soon, called “Princess Cupcake Jones Saddles Up”. It’s about realizing that no matter how big you are, it’s ok to ask for help. We also have a brand new clothing line, which I am so excited about. Make sure you guys check them both out!