Kaija Langley writes books for young readers and lives in Cambridge, MA
Why I Write
I started writing poetry when I was seven years old. I discovered poetry submissions of other children in the back of a Highlights magazine in my dentist’s office and thought I’d give it a try too. Everything I wrote at that time was in rhyme. Thankfully, my teacher was very supportive of what I shared and when a classmate accused me of plagiarizing the poem from a book, I felt empowered to keep “playing” with words. And I have been ever since in some form or another.
As an only child and social introvert, I was raised on a healthy diet of library books, gravitating always to books of poetry and stacks of Judy Blume novels and Nancy Drew mysteries. Writing for young readers is a natural outgrowth of my own love for books as a child.
Sadly, it wasn’t until I was a pre-teen that a family friend gifted me my first YA novel written by a Black author, featuring a Black family: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. That was a turning point for me as a reader and writer, seeing young characters who looked like me, and had families who looked like mine, on the page.
Representation matters as much now as it did when I was child. It is such a thrill to walk into a bookstore and see my name on a book, or visit a classroom or book fair and learn that my stories resonate with readers of all ages. I take great pride in being able to carry the torch forward for young readers today and for the foreseeable future.
The Order of Things
Eleven-year-old April Jackson loves playing the drums, almost as much as she loves her best friend, Zee, a violin prodigy. They both dream of becoming professional musicians one day. When Zee starts attending a new school that will nurture his talent, April decides it’s time for her to pursue her dreams, too, and finally take drum lessons. When the unthinkable happens and Zee suddenly passes away, April is crushed by grief. And every time she tries to play the drums, all she can think about is Zee. As April tries to set what she can in her life to right, she begins to see a classmate in a new light. But with her heart broken over Zee, can she be open again to making music? Or to a new friend?
Cover design by Erin Robinson.
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers
Publication date: June 6, 2023
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When Langston Dances
Langston likes basketball okay, but what he loves is to dance—ever since he saw the Alvin Ailey Dance Company perform. He longs to twirl into a pirouette, whirl into a piqué. He wants to arabesque and attitude, grand battement and grand jeté. When he walks, the whole street is his stage. With his neighborhood cheering him on, will Langston achieve his dream?
Illustrated by Keith Mallet.
Published by Denene Millner Books/Simon and Schuster Young Readers
Publication date: September 7, 2021
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Kaija Langley was born in Northern NJ and raised on a healthy diet of library books, music and theater performances, and visits to the family farm in rural North Carolina. The author of the award-winning picture book, When Langton Dances, she loves long road trips, dancing wherever music moves her, and adventures near and far with her Beloved. Learn more about Kaija and her books at www.kaijalangley.com. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @mizzkalwrites71.
Kaija Langley was born and raised in Northern NJ and has been writing since she discovered the power of words at age seven. She’s a proud alumna of Morgan State University, a historically black college and university in Baltimore, Maryland, and received her MFA in fiction from St. Mary’s College of California.
Her debut picture book, When Langston Dances, received a Black Caucus ALA Youth Literary Award and was a finalist for the New England Book Award and NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Children.
Kaija has always been a voracious reader and champion for the arts – books, theater, music, visual art – but didn’t see herself or her family in a book until she was nearly a teenager. She believes diversity in art is critical for developing empathy in readers of all ages, but especially in young readers.
When she isn’t raising money and volunteering for non-profits with local and global impact, she reads and writes picture books and novels for young readers. Her debut middle grade novel, The Order of Things, is now available from Nancy Paulsen Books. This powerful story about chosen family, grief, and compassion is a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection and has received three starred reviews. Her second picture book, A Century for Caroline, with Denene Millner Books is scheduled for Fall 2024.
Kaija has called many places home over the years—New Jersey, Maryland, DC, California, Louisiana—and currently lives, writes, and plays in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her two bonsai and her Beloved. For the latest on book news and upcoming events, follow her on Instagram and Twitter @mizzkalwrites71.
How do you say Kaija’s first name? Ki-JAH
Kaija Langley Headshot (Hi-Res) – photo credit: Andre Bogard
Life happens fast and news even faster! Want to keep up with the latest news and events? Follow me Instagram and Twitter @mizzkalwrites71