"Like Vanessa" Middle Grade Novel

About the book...

In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin's real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with a mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa's view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn't need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty.


* Three starred reviews

* SCBWI Book Launch Award

* Indies Introduce Top 10 List

* Kids' Indie Next Top 10 List

* Project Lit Top 10 Middle Grade List

* We Need Diverse Books/ Goodreads "Must Read" of 2018 List

* Junior Library Guild, Spring 2018 Selection


"Charles evades the clichés and imbues Vanessa with an inner life that's so real and personal it's hard to deny the charm, heartbreak, and triumph of her story. . . . Superb."— Booklist STARRED REVIEW

"This debut is a treasure: a gift to every middle school girl who ever felt unpretty, unloved, and trapped by her circumstances."— Kirkus Reviews STARRED REVIEW

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"Definitely Daphne" Middle grade novel

About the book...

In front of her followers, Daphne is a hilarious, on-the-rise vlog star. But at school Daphne is the ever-skeptical Annabelle Louis, seventh-grade super geek and perennial new kid. To cope with her mom's upcoming military assignment in Afghanistan and her start at a brand new middle school, Annabelle's parents send her to a therapist. Dr. Varma insists Annabelle try stepping out of her comfort zone, hoping it will give her the confidence to make friends, which she'll definitely need once Mom is gone. Luckily there is one part of the assignment Annabelle DOES enjoy--her vlog, Daphne Doesn't, in which she appears undercover and gives hilarious takes on activities she thinks are a waste of time. She is great at entertaining her online fans, yet her classmates don't know she exists. Can Annabelle keep up the double life forever?


"It is refreshing to see diverse characters tackling the normal highs and lows of middle school life." Kirkus Reviews

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"fearless mary" picture book

About the book...

A little-known but fascinating and larger-than-life character, Mary Fields is one of the unsung, trailblazing African American women who helped settle the American West. A former slave, Fields became the first African American woman stagecoach driver in 1895, when, in her 60s, she beat out all the cowboys applying for the job by being the fastest to hitch a team of six horses. She won the dangerous and challenging job, and for many years traveled the badlands with her pet eagle, protecting the mail from outlaws and wild animals, never losing a single horse or package. Fields helped pave the way for other women and people of color to become stagecoach drivers and postal workers.


"From the moment Mary rides into town, readers will be hooked... A wild ride through an impressive bit of history." —Kirkus Reviews

"This picture-book biography reimagines Mary’s successful tryout against younger white cowboys to become the first African American female stagecoach driver in the country." —Booklist

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More Of My Work

Forthcoming books...

Middle Grade: GOAT, Serena Williams, Sterling, May, 2019

Picture Book: Freedom Soup, Candlewick, Fall, 2019

YA: Becoming Beatriz, Charlesbridge, Fall, 2019

Picture Book: Panye, Candlewick, 2020

Freelance Work

Clients include Lee & Low Publishing, Microsoft, Discover, Kaplan University, Pageant Planet, et al. Check out some samples below:

Writer's Digest blog post

"Shame the Stars: Review"

"The Power of Story"

"How to Break into Kidlit"

YA Novel Teacher's Guide

Tara Lazar's Blog 

Discover Blog (Weddings)

Discover Blog (Grad School)

Teaching Diverse Narratives

Curly Hair Blog Post

Pageant Blog Post

Pageant Blog Post #2

Interested in hiring me for a freelance project? Let's connect!