Award Winning Kid Lit Author/Illustrator
Picture Books for Children
Travels from: New York, NY

“Write what is closest to your heart. What do you care about? What excites you? What makes you feel sad?” – Selina Alko

It is no wonder that award-winning writer-illustrator Selina Alko now spends her days melding words and mixed-media art to convey stories of hope and inspiration—as well as an alternative viewpoint. Growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia with a Turkish Jewish father who spoke seven languages and taught painting, and a Jewish mother who worked in the family’s century-old metal recycling business, she was surrounded by the melody of words and stories from different places and varied visual possibilities.

When Selina was in elementary school her entire family would attend her father’s painting class where they learned about 19th Century Impressionists and German Expressionists and were asked to chose paintings and copy them using acrylics. Not only was this a fascinating art history lesson, but it also taught her about the emotional use of color and instilled in her a deep appreciation for painting.

Aside from art, Selina’s childhood was also filled with books; Richard Scarry, Curious George, and anything by Judy Blume were a few of her favorites, and summers were spent at a Jewish sleep-away camp where her social activist spirit was ignited—as well as a love of folk music.

The skills her parents imparted to her as a child, the creative environment that supported them, and the diverse worldview she was privy to, have inspired and fueled her ever since and are evident in her many children’s books. Some of her award-winning books include: The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, B is for Brooklyn, Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama, I is for Immigrants, and Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell.

“Write what is closest to your heart. What do you care about? What excites you? What makes you feel sad?” said Selina when asked what advice she would give to an aspiring writer. Now as the mother of two children, Selina looks to carry on some of the traditions that encouraged her talents and worldview by holding “family art nights.” Her son loves to create detailed, realistic drawings of rap and hip-hop artists; her daughter is more free form and uses bold colors and broad brush strokes to create her works. It fills Selina with pride and wonderment as her kids learn to express themselves and cultivate a love of art.

Selina continues to find inspiration in the world around her, whether it’s the streets of Brooklyn, where she has lived for more than 20 years, her native Canada, or the small but universal experiences of a child as she watches her kids grow up. When she’s not working on a new project, Selina enjoys reading, traveling, hiking, collaging in her sketchbook, and dance-walking in Prospect Park.

Selina's Featured Titles

I is for Immigrants

Henry Holt and Co. |
Picture Book

This alphabet picture book companion to the popular B Is for Brooklyn weaves together a multitude of immigrant experiences in a concise, joyful package. For readers of Dreamers by Yuyi Morales.

What do African dance, samosas, and Japanese gardens have in common? They are all gifts the United States received from immigrants: the vibrant, multifaceted people who share their heritage and traditions to enrich the fabric of our daily lives. From Jewish delis to bagpipes, bodegas and Zen Buddhism, this joyful ABC journey is a celebration of immigrants: our neighbors, our friends.

Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell

Harper Collins |
Picture Book

“Colors burst across each page, with layers of collage-work emphasizing the richness of Mitchell’s influences and imagination. Will speak to readers just starting their own exploration of artistic expression.” Booklist (starred review)

Celebrate the captivating life of Joni Mitchell, the world-famous songbird who used her music to ignite and inspire an entire generation, in this stunning picture book biography from award-winning author and illustrator Selina Alko. This nonfiction picture book is an excellent choice to share during homeschooling, in particular for children ages 4 to 6. It’s a fun way to learn to read and as a supplement for activity books for children.

Joni Mitchell painted with words.

Sitting at her piano or strumming the guitar, she turned the words into songs.

The songs were like brushstrokes on a canvas, saying things that were not only happy or sad but true.

But before composing more than two hundred songs, Joni was a young girl from a town on the Canadian prairie, where she learned to love dancing, painting, birdsong, and piano. As she grew up into an artist, Joni took her strong feelings—feelings of love and frustration, and the turbulence that came with being a young woman—and wrote them into vivid songs.

Brought to life by Selina Alko’s rainbow collages and lyrical language, this heartfelt portrait of a feminist and folk icon is perfect for parents, children, and music lovers everywhere.

Back matter includes a letter from the author and Joni’s full discography.

Why Am I Me?

Scholastic Press |
Picture Book

This loving ode to our shared humanity is the perfect introduction to conversations about identity and Anti-Racism.* “Will invite the book’s audience to grapple with themes of individuality, diversity, universality, and what it means to be human.” — The Horn Book, starred review”Loved it.” — Jacqueline Woodson, former Ambassador of Young People’s Literature

Presented as a thoughtful, poetic exchange between two characters — who don’t realize they are thinking and asking the very same questions — this beautiful celebration of our humanity and diversity invites readers of all ages to imagine a world where there is no you or me, only we.If the first step toward healing the world is to build bridges of empathy and celebrate rather than discriminate, Why Am I Me? helps foster a much-needed sense of connection, compassion, and love.

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage

Arthur A. Levine Books |
Picture Book

I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about. — Mildred Loving, June 12, 2007

For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state’s laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents’ love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court – and won!

Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama

Knopf Books for Young Readers |
Picture Book

A perfect gift for the holiday season, no matter what you celebrate!

I am a mix of two traditions.
From Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama.
How lucky am I?

Holiday time at Sadie’s house means golden gelt sparkling under the Christmas tree, candy canes hanging on eight menorah branches, voices uniting to sing carols about Macabees and the manger, and latkes on the mantel awaiting Santa’s arrival.

Selina Alko’s joyous celebration of blended families will make the perfect holiday gift for the many Americans who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

B is for Brooklyn

Henry Holt and Co. |
Picture Book

What do Prospect Park, Coney Island, and Atlantic Avenue have in common? They are all located in Brooklyn, New York, a magical place where you can listen to jazz music, eat bagels and lox, and sit on the stoop of a brownstone and daydream. Children will recognize aspects of their own neighborhoods in this celebration of urban culture and community.


I Is For Immigrants

In this multimedia presentation of her journey to becoming a children’s author/illustrator, Selina Alko will include her immigration story from Canada to the United States as well as her parent’s migrations from Istanbul and Eastern Europe. Selina will do an overview of her many diverse picture books and will specifically focus on I is for Immigrants showing sketches and dissecting the book-making process. The presentation will be in Keynote and can be tailored to all ages.


The Case For Loving

Selina Alko will do a visual presentation of her journey to becoming a children’s author/illustrator, including collaborations with her children’s father, illustrator Sean Qualls. She will do an overview of her many diverse picture books and will specifically focus on The Case For Loving, which explores the legalization of interracial marriage through the Loving Vs Virginia Supreme Court Case. This is an excellent presentation to foster discussions about human rights and empathy. Kids really relate to the unfairness of the racist laws that forbade people from marrying outside of their race. They find it hard to believe that the laws only changed 50 years ago. Selina’s presentation will be in Keynote and works best with grades 5 and older.


Identity Dolls

Selina Alko will begin with a visual presentation of her journey to becoming a children’s author/illustrator, including her immigration story from Canada to the United States as well as her parent’s migrations from Istanbul and Eastern Europe. Afterward, focussing on her book I is for Immigrants, Selina will guide children in making heritage paper dolls. A doll template and collage materials will be provided. Selina will ask the students to explore aspects of their ancestry while decorating their own paper dolls. The presentation will be in Keynote.


Why Am I Me? Identity Art

Using her picture book, Why Am I Me? Selina Alko will explore issues of identity with younger children (pre-K through third grade). Kids respond well to the simplicity of the text as they ponder their own place in the world looking at the dreamy, diverse illustrations. After reading the book, and engaging in questions and answers, Selina will lead an activity to create Venn Diagram portraits of the student’s loved ones using collage and mixed media. Supplies provided.


Can I Touch Your Hair? Identity Art

Using her book, Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes & Friendship, Selina Alko will explore issues of race relations and identity with kids 10-14 years old, by reading the poems in the book and then leading a classroom discussion. This will be a conversation-style free-flowing discussion meant to foster empathy and understanding. Then, she will lead an art activity making collage portraits using string for hair. Materials provided.

Selina Alko’s Blog

Honors, Awards & Recognition

American Illustration 41 Annual, two pieces
2022 Best Children’s Book of the Year, Bank Street Books
2022 Capitol Choices Outstanding Titles List
2022 Notable Social Studies Trade Books List
Original Art Show, 2021
The BRAW amazing Bookshelf: 1/100 Publishing Gems at Bologna Children’s Book Fair
Fall 2020 Best Books for Kids & Teens, The Canadian Children’s Book Center
A 2020 Mighty Girl’s Best Book of the Year
America Illustration 2021, Selected for Website
Best of 2020, Metropolitan & 24A Magazines
Sybil Award finalist, 2019
Charlotte Huck Honor, 2019
ALA Notable 2019
Picture The Dream. The Carle Museum, Amherst, Ma, 2021
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, 2020
Original Art Show, 2017
Picture The Dream. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, 2020 & The Carle, 2021
Children’s Book Council’s 2016 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
NAIBA Carla Cohen Free Speech Award 2015
NAPPA 2015 Award
Junior Library Guild Selection
Communication Arts 2015 Award of Excellence
Original Art Show 2015
2016 Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year
2016 ILA-CBC Children’s Choice List
2016 Amelia Bloomer List
Amelia Bloomer list 2017
Original Art Show 2016

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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