Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Five Fab Picture Books Celebrating Hair

Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, author
E. B. Lewis, illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Every night before she goes to bed, Keyana sits down between her mother’s knees to have her hair combed. But no matter how gently Mama pulls, it sometimes still hurts!  Keyana doesn’t feel lucky to have such a head of hair, but Mama says she is because she can wear it any way she chooses…Soon Keyana, too, finds reasons to love her hair, and she wears it any way she chooses with pride.


Why It’s Fabulous:
Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of her hair (how difficult it can be to manage at times), the young protagonist finds freedom in the various ways she can style it.  Along the way, she discovers a renewed pride in her ethnic heritage.  The text includes many comparisons such as her braids to plants in a garden and her ponytails to a pair of wings, which adds to the creativity and beauty of this empowering story.


Sharee Miller, author and illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Princesses with curls wear pearls.
Princesses with head wraps take long naps
And princesses with teeny-weeny afros wear teeny-weeny bows.
Celebrate different hair shapes, textures, and styles in this self-affirming picture book!


Why It’s Fabulous:
No matter what style of hair a girl dons, she should feel confident in herself.  With its snappy text and animated illustrations, Princess Hair affirms that message.  The story also celebrates the various other ways young girls express themselves—singing, dancing, thinking, baking, playing, running, drawing, dressing up, and such.  This vibrant story celebrates all girls, with a special emphasis on the unique hairstyles of African-American girls. 


Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, author
E. B. Lewis, illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Early one Saturday morning, Miles and his father make a trip downtown for Miles first haircut at the barbershop.  As Miles nervously waits his turn, the other men in the shop encourage him to be brave.  But Miles isn’t sure how to be brave.  Will the clippers hurt? What if the barber cuts his ear?  Daddy comforts Miles and shares a little trick with him that helps to calm his fears.

Why It’s Fabulous:
The story works on multiple levels.  First, the narrative focuses on a boy’s rite of passage as he gets his first haircut at the barbershop.  The community of men is there to model and to encourage him in this meaningful early childhood event.  On another level, the story is one of a youngster feeling empowered to overcome his fear.  I love how his father is there to give him advice and to support him.  His father encourages him to imagine he is a giant or a superhero to help him feel brave.  The most memorable aspect of the book is the relationship between the father and son. To help him feel more confident, the young boy thinks about his father and his response to the situation. The boy is brave because he has seen his father be brave.   I love this story, which shows the immeasurable power and influence a father has on his children, especially his son. 


Carolivia Herron, author
Joe Cepeda, illustrator

Publisher Summary:
Everybody at the backyard picnic is talking about little Brenda’s hair—it’s the nappiest, the curliest, the twistiest hair in the whole family.

Brenda, you sure do got some nappy hair on your head, don’t you?
Well.
It’s your hair, Brenda, take the cake.
Yep.
And come back and get the plate.
Don’t cha know.

While it seems that the family is poking fun at Brenda’s hair, in fact, they’re admiring it by uncovering its meaning, its strength, it African-ness. 


Why It’s Fabulous:
Brenda is surrounded by extended family and friends that encourage her to have pride in her heritage.  Rather than feeling like she has to style her hair a particular way, she learns to appreciate it for what it is in its natural form.  The simple call and response text makes it ideal for listener participation. The rhythmic text draws readers in until the very last line.  This exuberant celebration of natural African-American hair encourages children to be true to themselves.


Derrick Barnes, author
Gordon C. James

Publisher Summary:
The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into A’s; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.

A fresh cut makes boys fly.


Why It’s Fabulous:
The barbershop is shown as place where young men “begin to care about how [they] present [themselves] to the world.”  The rich poetic language pulls you right in.  Metaphors like “lump of clay, a blank canvas, a slab or marble” add vividness and value to the experience. Being draped “like royalty” with a cape gives him the self-assurance of “Dark Caesar.”  His haircut, also, gives him confidence to do well in school—“to smash that geography exam” and “rearrange the entire principal’s honor roll.” Different haircuts, styles, and men are celebrated. As he sees others getting their hair cuts, he envisions one as a “CEO of a tech company” and another as if “he owns a few acres of land on Saturn.  Maybe there’s a river named after him on Mars.”  The narrator’s haircut makes him feel beautiful, like flowers and sunsets.  He compares his feeling to receiving “a bright red 97” on an English test. In the end as he tips the barber, he walks out he feels “Magnificent. Flawless. Like royalty.” The story ultimately illustrates “the beautiful, raw, smart, perceptive, assured humanity of black boys.”

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