Mary-Joan Gerson has written five books for children. Her children's writing career began in Nigeria when she and her husband served with the Peace Corps. She travels widely to explore new cultures and tries to capture different ways of seeing the world for children and young adults.


Republished: Fiesta Femenina: Celebrating Women of Mexican Folklore has been republished in September, 2018 with a revised introduction.

Why the Sky is Far AwayWhy the Sky is Far Away became a musical! The Lucy Moses School's Summer Musical Theater Workshop adapted and performed it at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City on August 2 and 3, 2011. The inspiration for all of the adapted books was a listing in First Book, a not-for-profit organization of the same name. First Book provides free and low cost new books for disadvantaged children and the social service organizations (day care centers, Head Start centers and more) that service them. Why the Sky is Far Away came to life and the spirit of the Bini people filled the theater. The costumes were marvelous, the dancing and drumming authentic, the singing and acting were exuberant.

Mary-Joan Gerson was interviewed about her book Fiesta Femenina on Spanish Playground, a major Spanish-language children's literature site. You can read the complete interview here.


Festa Femenina

Festa Femenina

Celebrating Women in Mexican Folktale

Retold by Mary-Joan Gerson; Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
Barefoot Books, 2001

Fiesta Femenina portrays the courage and resilience of the feminine spirit through the stories of eight extraordinary Mexican women. From a goddess whose very being is the earth we walk on in "The Hungry Goddess," to a clever female personification of the moon in "Why the Moon is Free," these stories show how the feminine spirit touches many parts of Mexican culture, from the soil to the stars.


  • "2002 Amelia Bloomer Project List": The Feminist Task Force and the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association cited Fiesta Femenina as an excellent feminist book for children and teens
  • NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People (2002)
  • Winner, The Aesop Prize for 2001, given by the American Folklore Society for the most outstanding book incorporating folklore published in English for children and young adults, both fiction and non-fiction
  • Recommended Book Winner, Parents' Choice (2001)
  • "Top Ten Children's Books on Women's History," Booklist (2001)
  • Kansas State Reading Circle Selection (2001-2002)
  • "Voices from Around the World," Chicago Public Library (2001)


  • Booklist: "Lushly illustrated with robust and colorful paintings by Maya Christina Gonzalez.... this collection will be a sparkling treasure in any folktale collection. Generous source notes, a pronunciation guide for Mexican cities and names, and a glossary for Spanish words and phrases add to the usefulness." (September 15, 2001)
  • Kirkus Reviews: "A celebration not only of the strength and complexity of Mexican women, but of the richness, vibrancy, and miraculous qualities of Mexican culture." (August 15, 2001)

Available in English ( or Spanish ( or Barefoot Books).


Why the Sky is Far Away

Why the Sky is Far Away

A Nigerian Folktale

By Mary-Joan Gerson; Illustrated by Carla Golembe
Little Brown & Co., 1992; plus paper edition

  • Booklist: "...With its playfulness and drama, this is a fine book for story hour, especially in an ecology program." (August 1992)
  • The Horn Bee: "... A splendid contribution to the already existing body of African folk tales and a timely reminder to those who would squander the earth's riches."
  • New York Times: One of the ten best-illustrated books (1992)
  • Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books: Blue Ribbon Book (1993)
  • Young Hoosier Picturebook Award Reading List (1994-95)
  • Recorded on A Planet with One Mind by Mike Pinder and Folktales for the 21st Century by LuAnn Adams
  • Translated into three South African dialects
  • Adapted and performed as a musical by the Lucy Moses School's Summer Musical Theater Workshop at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City on August 2 and 3, 2011

Available at


People of Corn

People of Corn

A Mayan Story

By Mary-Joan Gerson; Illustrated by Carla Golembe
Little Brown & Co., 1995

  • Booklist: "...Altogether, this Mayan myth is a multicultural treasure and another splendid contribution to folktale collections from the team that created Why the Sky is Far Away and How Night Came from the Sea." (January 1, 1996)
  • Parents' Choice: Winner of the Silver Honor Award (1995)

Available at


How Night Came from the Sea

How Night Came from the Sea

A Story From Brazil

By Mary-Joan Gerson; Illustrated by Carla Golembe
Little Brown & Co., 1994

  • Family Life: "For children who fear the darkness, here is a beautifully illustrated and evocative Brazilian story that not only explains — at least in folktale terms — why we have both day and night in our world, but offers night as a cooling, soothing, comforting time, 'like the quiet after crying or the end of the storm.'" (December 1994/January 1995)
  • Commended title for the 1994 Americas Children's and Young Adult Literature Award by Latin American Studies Programs

Available at


Omoteji's Baby Brother

An original story

By Mary-Joan Gerson; Illustrated by Elzia Moon
Random House/Henry Z. Walck, 1974

Gerson's first book, Omoteji's Baby Brother was a personal creation tale — the story of young Yoruba boy who deals with the birth of another child in his family by creating his own special ritual of celebration. Although it is currently out of print, copies are usually available at