“Many hours were spent with characters in books traveling the world, solving mysteries, or living in a different time in history,” says photographer and children’s book author Charles R. Smith Jr. of his California childhood. “Reading books filled with stories and poems inspired me to write my own. The more I read, the more I wrote. And if I wasn’t reading a book, I was playing a sport: I played everything, particularly basketball, and spent many afternoons on the court, perfecting my jump shot.”
In high school, Charles R. Smith Jr. found a new love: photography. “Right up until that point I wanted to be an astronaut and walk on the moon, but after taking yearbook pictures nonstop for a year, I knew I wanted to learn how to be a professional photographer.” However, even after graduating from photography school and moving to New York to pursue his dream, Charles R. Smith Jr. did not forget about his childhood pastimes. “I continued with my writing, and, with a heavy influence of rap music, began writing more poetry instead of stories.”
Today, Charles R. Smith Jr. combines his experiences in these three areas—writing, photography, and sports —in his work with children’s books. This fusion is evident in his first book with Candlewick Press, Hoop Queens, a collection of dynamic poems and photographs celebrating twelve female pro-basketball players. Charles R. Smith Jr.’s companion book, Hoop Kings, cheers male professional basketball stars. He is also the author-photographer of Rimshots: Basketball Pix, Rolls, and Rhythms, which was selected as an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book.
And for those interested in biography, Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali, illustrated by Bryan Collier and named a Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor Book, follows the three-time heavyweight champ. Of the distinctive niche Charles R. Smith Jr. fills with his books, he notes, “I have combined my photographic skills with my love of reading, writing, and sports to create an exciting career for myself!” For which fans of poetry, photography, and sports are grateful!
Charles R. Smith Jr. lives in New York with his wife and two children.