About Us

Wordsmith Jr and Akira’s Book Club were created to provide a vehicle to work closely with children around literacy. The first series of books published, The Akira Series, focuses on helping children learn the alphabet and grammatical terms. Our second series includes five books on the parts of speech – Nouns, Verbs, Pronouns, Adjectives, and Adverbs. Our final three books are our Heidi Watercolor Series and includes a book to help children learn about Haiku poems, self love and the importance of eating vegetables.

Our team (below) is comprised of family and friends who not only love Akira, but also love to read and want to share this gift.  

We partner with Kingmakers of Oakland who shares our commitment to empowering Black youth and families.

Kingmakers of Oakland fundamentally believes that all Black boys are brilliant, beautiful and possess innate greatness. They cultivate the culture, conditions and capacities of educators to improve the academic and life outcomes for Black boys.


Grace Carroll, The Creator of Akira's Book 

Dr. Grace Carroll has always been passionate about helping our children reach their maximum potential. She has over five decades experience in teaching, research, assessment, training and program development with an emphasis on the sociology of education, family, evaluation and diversity.  She received her Bachelors of Arts in Sociology from Stanford University where she also received two Masters of Arts degrees, and her Ph.D. in Sociology of Education in 1975. Dr. Carroll holds a California teachers credential and has taught students from pre-K through college levels. She served ten years as the Director for African American Student Development at the University of California, Berkeley, and three years as the Associate Director of the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk (CRESPAR) at Howard University. She is currently the CEO of Wordsmith Jr, LLC, focused on facilitating literacy among young children, particularly African American.Blub


Julana Massey, Author

Julana is a mother of eight children and has been married to her best friend for 18 years. She graduated from phi beta kappa in psychology from howard university in Washington dc. She is currently a student of life and all of its wonders and lives on a small city farm in Baltimore, MD where she homeschools her children. In her spare time she dreams about having more spare time. But when she does have it, she spreads love as far and wide as she possibly can.

Tajai Massey, Author

Tajai Massey is a world-famous musician, architectural designer and youth mentor. He is Grace’s son and Akira’s father. He is also a lover of learning. He received his BA in Anthropology from Stanford University and Master’s in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. Tajai is extremely creative and plans on digitizing Wordsmith Jr’s content for interactive enrichment applications and games.

Deanna Jimenez, Author

Deanna received her Masters from John F. Kennedy University in Holistic Counseling Psychology with a transpersonal specialization. She currently practices psychotherapy in Oakland, CA. In addition to a private practice- where she works with a diverse range of individuals, couples and groups; Deanna works with children teaching mindfulness and supporting the integration of Social/Emotional Learning within the education paradigm. She is committed to supporting children in knowing their inner compass which will guide them towards living a fulfilling life. To learn more about Deanna and the projects she is passionate about, visit:

Steven Anderson, Illustrator

Steven Anderson is an artist living and working out of Oakland, CA. He attended the San Francisco Academy of Art for a short stint, and has had a passion for drawing since childhood.  He has a large interest in portrait painting, charcoal portraits, abstract art, and recently, digital arts. Steven draws inspiration from the process itself; whether it be putting color on the canvas and letting the piece take its own direction, or working from a static image and developing the detail to bring it to life. Steven is a student of the craft and enjoys studying the works of emerging artists and how they are experimenting with imagination and technique.  You can see more of Steven’s work at www.stevenandersonart.com.

Heidi Wycoff, Illustrator

Our dear friend Heidi Wyckoff transitioned shortly after she completed the final book of our watercolor series.  We have renamed this series the Heidi Watercolor Series in her memory. She was a wonderful artist and spirit. We will miss her. She was the 2015 winner of the Golden Gear Award for best visual artist in the East Bay.  She began her watercolor career by painting the colorful produce Civic Center where flowers and shops surrounded her as she sold her work at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market in San Francisco.  When the Oakland Artisans Market was thriving, she sold her artwork at Jack London Square where she met Annalee Allen, coordinator of the Oakland walking tours program. Allen asked her to illustrate a book to celebrate Oakland’s 160th birthday, Oakland Landmarks: An Artistic Portrayal of History.  For that book she painted 34 of Oakland’s historical landmarks.  Wyckoff was also the author of Don’t be Afraid of Watercolor: It’s Only Paper, It’s Only Water and If You Can’t Paint it Good, Paint it BIG, if You Can’t Paint it Big, Paint it RED.

Candace Driver, Illustrator

Candace is a graduate of Holy Names High school in Oakland, CA and CSU Northridge. She likes pizza, shoes, and home improvement shows. She also sells handmade earrings and handbags through her Etsy shop Duderelax. She lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Clayton and her two daughters. You can see more art and family updates on her website www.duderelax.com.

Al Chandler, Publisher; CEO, Chandler/White, Inc.

Alton Chandler, a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and who studied art at the Philadelphia School of Art, is currently the owner of Chandler/White, Incorporated. This is a minority-certified publishing company serving both private and government printing, design and publishing needs since 1983. Customers are served with quality and dedication in the creation and production of all products including:

  • Multi-Ethnic Educational and General Books
  • Consumer and Business Catalogs
  • Magazines
  • Direct Marketing Materials
  • Games, and
  • Posters

Additionally, Chandler/White, Inc. created and published the seven-book Salute to Black Inventors series. For further information go to www.chandlerwhitepub.com

Akira, The inspiration and contributor to Akira's Book Club

Our Board of Directors
Our nine-member Board of Directors is composed of parents, educators and advocates for children. Each member has been involved with and/or created programs to enhance the personal development of children of color. Their commitment to supporting literacy and the advancement of our children is tightly interwoven in both their personal and profession lives.