Mentee Carries on Mentor’s Legacy: Floyd Cooper and Daria Peoples

May 9, 2024 | Black Voices, Community Good News, Scholarship Stories, The Highlights Foundation Experience

Floyd Cooper Day (May 10, 2024) has a special meaning for us this year.

Floyd was the award-winning illustrator and author/illustrator of nearly 100 books for children, and a long-time friend, faculty member and mentor here at the Highlights Foundation. In 2019, we established a scholarship to honor him; the scholarship provides tuition for an illustrator of color, or an Indigenous illustrator, to attend a Highlights Foundation course of their choice, either online or in-person.

After Floyd passed away in 2021, The Children’s Book Council’s Every Child a Reader initiative began sponsoring Floyd Cooper Day in May, during Children’s Book Week. On their website, they offer resources, including videos, author read-alouds of Floyd’s books, bibliographies and links to teachers’ guides. They also facilitated the creation of a new website for Floyd at

This year’s celebration is a special one as we celebrate the publication of Floyd’s final book, Tasha’s Voice, on April 9, 2024.

Tasha’s Voice takes place on the same class trip featured in Carmen Bogan’s and Floyd Cooper’s Where’s Rodney?, once more showing the power of nature to transform a child.

Floyd began the illustrations for this book; his mentee Daria Peoples finished them. In the back of the book, readers will learn how the book was completed following Cooper’s passing in 2021, and will find two of his original sketches.

Daria Peoples is also a close friend to the Highlights Foundation.  Their connection was forged here: she first met Floyd at our Diversity Fellowship, where she was one of Floyd’s mentees.

She posted a special note to Floyd on their book’s birthday, on Instagram:

Dear Floyd,
Today is our book’s birthday. Thank you for choosing me to finish it. I know you know I didn’t really want to do it at first. I was afraid everyone would expect you and not me. But every time I went on a walk, a yellow butterfly would follow me. When I saw the same yellow butterfly on the cover you finished, it made me think that maybe you really wanted me to do it. I hope I was right. You even sent a friend’s wise words to me to encourage me when I admitted the task seemed so much more than what I was capable of. Even from beyond, you sent me support.


I know I will have many more conversations in the months to come about our book, and the gift that Carmen Bogan gave both of us, but today, I celebrate you. I will always treasure the time I had to learn and grow with you as your mentee. I learned and continue to learn from your process. You were the hardest working man in our industry, a caring friend, and the most wonderful hype man I’ve ever known.


I love you, Floyd and sometimes it’s still really hard for me to believe you’re gone. But I remember sitting at your memorial, and the sense of joy that overtook my sorrow. The same thing happened for me today as I thought about the journey of this book. You made everyone laugh as you would today, so I am smiling, friend, because today is a special day of celebration, and I am forever grateful.

Daria shared how important Floyd’s mentorship was to her: “I had the wonderful opportunity through Highlights to be mentored by Floyd Cooper. The first thing that Floyd really did when I was working with him, was he helped me see myself as an artist. He held up a mirror for me. The other blessing of working with Floyd is that he didn’t try to change who I was, the “voice” of my art.”

Now that she is a faculty member, she says “As faculty, I try to re-gift the gift I received as a student…Floyd shared his wisdom from a place of equality. I think it’s important for me to extend that to the people that I mentor.”

In addition to being a Diversity Fellow and now faculty member, Daria was our 2021 Artist of the Year, and her book America, My Love, America, My Heart was featured on our Art Wall in the Barn.

To celebrate Daria and Carmen Bogan on Floyd Cooper Day, Every Child a Reader has produced posters of the two – you can find them here and see Daria’s below.

Book cover: Tasha's Voice

Mentor Floyd Cooper (center) with two Diversity Fellowship mentees: Jae Barnes (left) and Daria Peoples (right).

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