"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 (Kirkus, Booklist, Foreword)

* 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

* Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Silver Award 2018

* 2020 Sequoyah Award Finalist


"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


"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


"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


"Becoming Beatriz" Young Adult Novel

About the book...

"Forgiveness is a gift." 

Readers of Tami Charles’s debut novel, Like Vanessa, will remember neighborhood bad girl, Beatriz Mendez. Beatriz bullied and betrayed Vanessa as they competed for Miss King Middle School, but is Beatriz really bad? Is she stuck in her gang life, or can she break away and pursue her dreams of fame? Every story is deeper than you think.

It’s Beatriz’s birthday—her quinceañara—and she is ready to be treated like royalty. But when her brother, the leader of the Diablos, is gunned down by a rival gang, Beatriz will never be the same again. Her dreams of dancing, her hopes for fame, and her love of music died with Junito.

But when handsome brainiac, Nasser, asks her to join a dance competition with him—one that could land them both a role on Beatriz’s favorite TV show, Fame—Beatriz starts to feel the music again. And Nasser makes her feel alive again. But with her Mami practically catatonic with grief, and her duties with Junito’s gang, Beatriz’s dreams are put on hold.

Set in 1984, the music, the dancing, and the rhythm of the life of a Puerto Rican teenager in Newark, New Jersey, reveal a story of hope and perseverance. By the time Beatriz turns sixteen, she has a much better idea about what her dreams are made of, what she’ll do to achieve them, and how to live the life she wants, rather than a life that someone else decided for her. 


Junior Library Guild Selection

Two starred reviews, Kirkus & Shelf Awareness

Endorsed by Debbie Allen, actress, director, choreographer, iconic star of FAME

#1 New Release in Teen/YA Dance Fiction, Amazon

Kirkus Best Books, 2019


". . .a necessary portrayal of a young Afro-Latina woman who makes her own path, one that isn’t straightforward, told in an extremely realistic voice." Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

"Tami Charles. . . creates a believable character in Beatriz, one with an intensity of spirit likely to draw in fans of Elizabeth Acevedo and Tiffany D. Jackson."

Shelf Awareness, STARRED REVIEW


"Freedom Soup" Picture book

About the book...

Join the celebration in the kitchen as a family makes their traditional New Year’s soup — and shares the story of how Haitian independence came to be.

The shake-shake of maracas vibrates down to my toes.
Ti Gran’s feet tap-tap to the rhythm.

Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup — Freedom Soup — just like she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle’s family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle’s family is from. In this celebration of cultural traditions passed from one generation to the next, Jacqueline Alcántara’s lush illustrations bring to life both Belle’s story and the story of the Haitian Revolution. Tami Charles’s lyrical text, as accessible as it is sensory, makes for a tale that readers will enjoy to the last drop.


Junior Library Guild Selection

Winter Kids Next List

Kirkus Best Books, 2019

#1 New Release, Amazon (3 categories)

Apple Books, December "Must Listen"

Four starred reviews, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness


"A stunning and necessary historical picture book." 

Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

". . .this book is a start-to-finish celebration of family, history, and culture."

School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW 

". . . this vibrant title is bound to teach, empower, and rumble the bellies of its readers."

Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW


"All Because You Matter" picture book

About the book...

Discover this poignant, timely, and emotionally stirring picture book, an ode to black and brown children everywhere that is full of hope, assurance, and love.

Tami Charles pens a poetic, lyrical text that is part love letter, part anthem, assuring readers that they always have, and always will, matter. This powerful, rhythmic lullaby reassures readers that their matter and their worth is never diminished, no matter the circumstance: through the joy and wonder of their first steps and first laughter, through the hardship of adolescent struggles and the pain and heartbreak of current events, they always have, and always will, matter. Accompanied by illustrations by renowned artist Bryan Collier, a four-time Caldecott Honor recipient and a nine-time Coretta Scott King Award winner or honoree, All Because You Matter empowers readers with pride, joy, and comfort, reminding them of their roots and strengthening them for the days to come.

Lyrical, personal, and full of love, All Because You Matter is for the picture book audience what The Hate U Give was for YA and Ghost Boys was for middle grade: a conversation starter, a community touchstone, and a deep affirmation of worth for the young readers who need it most.



More Of My Work

Forthcoming books...

Middle Grade: GOAT, Serena Williams, Sterling, May, 2020

Picture Book: A Day with the Panye, Candlewick, 2021

Picture Book: All Because You Matter, Scholastic, 2020

Picture Book: Aretha's Voice, Scholastic, 2021

Picture Book: Zuri Ray Tries Ballet, HarperCollins, 2021

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!