Author Loren E. Brereton

Loren E. Brereton sat down to discuss her children’s book, “Other Famous African Americans,” on a drizzly, winter day. It was the kind of rainy day that Brereton, a retired elementary school teacher, would tell her students, “Okay, we’re going to forget about social studies today. Let’s just get on the floor and read this fabulous book I found for you.” 

Although she now lives in Brookhaven, Brereton’s New York accent is thick. She lists her favorite childhood books as “Aesop’s Fables” illustrated by Jerry Pinkney and “Dorrie the Witch” by Patricia Coombs. 

“I used to tell my students, ‘When you open a book, your mind just wanders.’ I get totally immersed in a book, and I would always try to get my children to do that,” Brereton said. 

Born in Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., Brereton was the only child of a nurse and a chauffeur. She grew up near E. 14th Street and Avenue X, surrounded by family and friends. Block parties and visiting with her cousins on the front porch were standard practice. 

Her best friend, Lorraine, was Italian. They’d trek to the neighborhood library after school and read books in the backyard. The girls were around nine years old when they were allowed to walk down E. 14th Street to the Sheepshead branch. The children’s floor was upstairs. 

“I loved the smell of those books. The clear covering on top? You know, the jacket protection on top, was just so beautiful,” Brereton recollected. 

Her Aunt Cynthia would take her to the library all the time, Brereton said, instilling a love of books. Once she started a lending library out of her home’s big bay window with a box of extra books. 

Brereton went on to graduate from New York Institute of Technology, pledge Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, marry her husband, Michael. They raised their two children on Long Island. She taught Kindergarten and first grade for 22 years before retiring and moving to metro Atlanta.  

Black History Month at Clara H. Carlson School in Elmont, N.Y. is a big deal. Students gather for an assembly to hear speeches and a reading of “The Drinking Gourd” by F.N. Monjo. They sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, a hymn about enslaved African Americans’ fight for freedom. 

In preparation for the 2008 annual presentation of Black History Month, Brereton came up with a song. She set it to the tune of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”  – an catchy tune her first graders could remember.

“We were doing a Black History Month presentation and just couldn’t figure out what we were going to do,” said Brereton. “I went home, and I was just sitting there. And it just came out of me. That’s it.” 

The song – now Brereton’s book – features people like Alfred Cralle, who invented the ice cream scoop in Pittsburgh, Penn., in 1897 and John Lee Love, the Massachusetts inventor of the hand-cranked pencil sharpener in 1894. 

“You know Martin and Harriet and Booker and Mary/ Georgette, Sojourner and Daniel and Harry/ but can you imagine/ other famous African Americans?” the song begins. 

The song became her book, “Other Famous African Americans,” which is being featured on The Drew Barrymore show on Feb. 20. It’s on sale at Tall Tales book shop and on Amazon.

Brereton has an Instagram account, @what_loren_shares. It’s named for a book, of course. 

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Logan C. RitchieStaff Writer

Logan C. Ritchie writes features and covers Brookhaven for Rough Draft Atlanta.