RI Center for the Book

RI Great Reads

Congratulations to Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie! Layla’s Happiness is the 2021 Rhode Island Great Reads book and our submission for the National Book Festival in Washington, DC on September 17-26, 2021. 

Watch this video of Senator Reed reading Layla’s Happiness, as part of the Library of Congress Read Around the States initiative, featuring videos with members of Congress who have chosen a special book for young people that is connected to their states – either through the book’s setting or author, or perhaps simply because it is a favorite of the members of Congress

Watch this Virtual Author Talk with Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and Providence Community Library Director Cheryl Space talking about Layla’s Happiness here:


Seven-year-old Layla loves life! So she keeps a happiness book. What is happiness for her? For you? Spirited and observant, Layla’s a child who’s been given room to grow, making happiness both thoughtful and intimate. It’s her dad talking about growing-up in South Carolina; her mom reading poetry; her best friend Juan, the community garden, and so much more. Written by poet Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin, this is a story of flourishing within family and community.

2020 Ezra Jack Keats Award, for Illustration

2020 Ezra Jack Keats Honor, for Writing

A Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of 2020

★ “Well-illustrated poetry of the best kind that will leave sunshine in its wake.” — STARRED REVIEW, Kirkus

★ “Tallie honors the many ways children define happiness…A handsome and helpful primer on self-reflection and a mirror to urban black and brown children, this joyous title could be well paired with Samantha Berger’s What If.” — STARRED REVIEW, School Library Journal

“With Corrin’s layered, whimsical illustrations, each page is a snapshot of a simple moment that adds up to an abundant life, urban yet very much in tune with nature. The effect is both laid back and meaningful — an invitation to answer for yourself.” —The New York Times

Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is the author of the award winning children’s book Layla’s Happiness


Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is the author of the award winning children’s book Layla’s Happiness (Enchanted Lion Books), the poetry collections Strut (Agape Editions) and Karma’s Footsteps (Flipped Eye), and Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation (Grand Concourse Press). She is a native of Queens, New York living in the lovely state of Rhode Island where she is currently a Ph.D. student in the Theatre Arts and Performance Studies program at Brown University. Mariahadessa is the mother of three galaxies who look like daughters. www.ekeretallie.com


 The Library of Congress National Book Festival is an annual literary event that brings together best-selling authors and thousands of book fans for author talks, panel discussions, book signings and other activities. The 21st Library of Congress National Book Festival will celebrate “Open a Book, Open the World” in 2021, featuring the creativity and inspiration of some of the nation’s most gifted authors in a reimagined virtual festival the weekend of Sept. 17-26.

The event showcases the importance of books and reading. Every year, the Library of Congress asks each state Center for the Book to select a title that represents the state’s literary landscape to highlight at the National Book Festival, these titles are part of the Great Reads From Great Places Initiative. The Rhode Island Center for the Book has chosen Layla’s Happiness by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, as the Rhode Island Great Read for 2021.

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