You might recognize Furqan from our Multicultural Children’s Book Day poster! Robert Liu-Trujillo created the artwork for our event. When Rob gave us sketches for the poster, we didn’t know the boy in the flat top was a character in his book; he just appealed to us and we picked him right away!
I’m thrilled to be introducing Rob’s book, Furqan’s First Flat Top, today and we are giving away an inscribed copy too (see below)!
Valarie and I are passionate about the need for more multicultural, diverse, and inclusive books for kids. Today, I wanted to examine this from the perspective of When Whiteness is The Standard of Beauty. Lisa Wade, professor at Occidental College, notes:
One manifestation of white supremacy is the use of whiteness as the standard of beauty. When whiteness is considered superior, white people are considered more attractive by definition and, insofar as the appearance of people of other races deviates from that standard, they are considered ugly.
Non-white people are still allowed to be considered beautiful, of course, as long as they look like white people.
This is a no-win standard for women of color, but then think about how this affects girls of color and their self esteem?
Here’s another point of view from Beauty Redefined: At Beauty Redefined, we talk a lot about harmful media beauty ideals that become unquestioned norms in our minds. Things like extreme thinness, appearance-focused “fitness,” sex appeal, and photoshopping phoniness are rampant in media and normalized as our cultural ideals. But one of the most oppressive ideals excludes anyone who isn’t … white. We call it the whitewashing of beauty. And it happens more often than you can imagine.
And so, teaching children that they are beautiful just the way they are is more important than ever. The politics of beauty can be seen particularly in hair, which can be manipulated more easily than other features that define beauty. Today, let’s teach kids of all colors that African American hair in its natural state is a beautiful thing. Because it is! I’m adding a few more books to this list as well!
Picture Books Celebrating Natural African American Hair
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
Crown is a celebration of barbers and hardworking black men from all walks of life that serve as role models to the next generation. A great haircut also has the power to transform you into your best self — whether that is acing an English test or catching the eye of a pretty girl. This is an important and empowering picture book for black boys, and the artwork is magnificent. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
My Hair Is A Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera
I had the pleasure of hearing Cozbi speak at The Color of Children’s Literature Conference by Kweli and I’ve been meaning to add her book to this list since then. Her book speaks to the care of Black hair and even includes recipes for natural hair products. What is particularly relevant in this book’s endnotes is that protective styling helps maintain natural Black hair and those styles include braids, twists, and cornrows … hairstyles are have made the news for being forbidden in certain schools. The war on Black hair is a battleground that masks a history of racism against African Americans.
In this picture book, MacKenzie is teased for her hair and Miss Tillie is there to help teach her the proper care of her beautiful, natural hair. Caring for her hair is similar to tending a garden, requiring patience and love. This book is less a message about being bullied for natural hair as the care it requires. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Happy to be Nappy by Bell Hooks, illustrated by Chris Raschka
Princess Hair by Sharee Miller
Black hair with its many shapes and textures is celebrated with shout-outs to dreadlocks, blowouts, braids, puffs, twist outs, kinks, frohawks, and more. I love that the message to girls to feel good about themselves and their heritage. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Cornrows by Camille Yarborough, illustrated by Carole Byard
The history of cornrowed hair, a hairstyle called suku (basket in Yoruba), is explained by Great-Grammaw. It’s a story of love and African American pride told in song and story. [advanced picture book, ages 5 and up]
Happy Hair by Mechal Renee Roe
All the different hairstyles of natural hair are celebrated in this exuberant book about loving being yourself. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Nappy Hair by Carolivia Herron
Amazon describes Nappy Hair as “a lively, empowering story about Brenda’s knotted-up, twisted, nappy hair and how it got to be that way! Told in the African-American “call and response” tradition, this story leaps off the page, along with vibrant illustrations by Joe Cepeda.” [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Kids’ Books That Celebrate African American Natural Hair
Furqan’s First Flat Top by Robert Liu-Trujillo
Celebrate the love between and father and son, reassurance, imagination, and of course a “flat top” with this bilingual children’s book that gives kids a sense of cultural pride. Furqan Moreno wakes up and decides he’s ready for his first haircut; a flat top! But as the time grows closer to his actual haircut, he has misgivings. His dad reassures him all through the process and Furqan ends up with a really cool haircut that he loves. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
I Love My Hair by
*E. B. Lewis has been accused of sexual misconduct.
I don’t think there is a child out there that likes her hair combed out. It hurts!
For Keyana, the pain from the comb is offset by this bonding time with her mother, who celebrates her beautiful hair telling her that it can be styled any way she chooses. A puffy bun. Rows of braids. An Afro.
When kids at school teased her for her Afro, her teacher made her feel better by telling her that an Afro is a way to let the world know that you are proud of who you are and where you come from. The politics of hair starts early, and this is just the picture book to show that connection. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Bippity Bop Barbershop by
*E. B. Lewis has been accused of sexual misconduct.
Just as I Love My Hair celebrates the connection between mothers and daughters during the ritual of combing out snarls, this companion picture book is a loving tribute of fathers and sons and their sanctuary in their local barbershop. Miles is getting his first haircut and he goes with his father downtown for this memorable experience. The barbershop experience is a male bonding time, and all the more special between fathers and sons. The reader can see the closeness of his community, as each person they see along the way encourages Miles to be brave for this big milestone. Pair this with Fuqan’s First Flat Top to celebrate his first haircut with dad! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Miles and Mia A to Z by Michaela Alexander, illustrated by Sarah Croker
Starting off with the letter “A”, Michaela Alexander sends a strong positive message:
Afro is hair that’s natural
and fluffy. Mia loves to wear
hers big and puffy.
That Miles and Mia are of color is not central to the story; their adventures portray their aspirations (model, pilot, scientist, or athlete) and their willingness to try new things like sushi, guava, and carrot cake. I love how this picture book subtly says shows children of color that they can do anything and be anything they choose. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
The Magic Poof by Stephen Hodges
The Magic Poof series — an ebook app and a book — is created by Stephen Hodges and inspired by his wife’s very own puffy hair. It inspires kids to embrace their own individuality. Ange-Marie has a playful, magical ball of curly hair on her head that has a mind of its own. It’s its own person, in fact. Together, they get into mischief and adventures. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Big Hair, Don’t Care by
An empowering message for kids around the world whose hair is just a bit “different.”
I’ve got big hair and I don’t care
And even though the kids may stare
I life my hands up in the air
Then smile and say …
I love my hair!
Celebrating hair that big, soft and fluffy as a cloud, and versatile! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Dalia’s Wondrous Hair by Laura Lacamara
Like Furqan’s First Flat Top, this is also a bilingual Spanish picture book celebrating a unique hairstyle. In the case of Dalia, her hair is an amazing magical realism tower of hair that stretches as high as a Cuban royal palm tree. Dalia adds to her column of hair — mud, flowers, and other creatures — until it becomes a unique ecosystem capable of producing a wondrous surprise. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Crown: An Ode to a Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
It would be easy to say that this picture book appeals to African American boys or, to expand it, African American families. But I think this book is important to white America as well because it’s an ode not just to a fresh cut and barbershop culture but also to strong black men.
“Deep down inside, they wish that everyone could see what they see: a real-life, breathing, compassionate, thoughtful, brilliant, limitless soul that matters — that desperately matters. We’ve always mattered.”
The illustrations remind me of portraits by Kehinde Wiley that bring dignity to African American men. This book matters, as do all lives. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Uncle Jed’s Barber Shop by Margaree King Mitchell, illustrated by James Ransome
I have to digress here to talk about Books with Barbers. It’s a nonprofit organization geared at helping close the gap of young African American males in the area of literacy by getting kids to read (and giving them books) while in the barber chair. The goal of the organization is to fully equip local barbershops with libraries that fully attract the interest of school-aged boys. If you want to donate, please go here. I met them through Instagram.
Sarah Jean’s Uncle Jed is the only black barber in his area of the segregated South and his dream was to own his own barbershop one day. He traveled all over the country to cut his customer’s hair and while he was a good saver, things got in the way of his dream. The Great Depression wiped out his savings when his bank failed. His niece’s operation took a chunk. But the day came when he finally opened his own shop, and on opening day, everyone came! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
I am quite sure that Sarah Jean’s Uncle Jed would have been part of the Books with Barbers charity. Not only did he make his own dream come true, but he taught others to dream too.
Ife’s First Haircut by Ifeoma Onyefulu
In Nigeria, a baby’s first haircut is a milestone celebrated with a party and new clothes. Chinaza’s little brother Ife is ready for his first haircut. The family prepares rice with tomato sauce and beef. Ife’s uncle will do the honors with a comb and a pair of scissors. The photograph illustrations show that life in a loving family in East Nigeria is not so very different from anywhere else. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Greña: Crazy Hair by Kianny N. Angtigua, illustrated by Vanessa Balleza
Review from Latino Book Review:
“An endearing story about a young girl and her curly hair. Greña / Crazy Hair is a short yet empowering, bilingual, children’s book that addresses multiple themes of self-esteem and family love for parents and children to enjoy.”
The energetic, curly-haired girl, Kiara, teaches us how beautiful, strong, enigmatic, and free her hair is, as she demonstrates its beauty and uniqueness through various positive activities. In this story, we witness a girl who embraces her appearance, giving a valuable example for the children of today. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Rock What Ya Got by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Kerascoet
An artist draws on a piece of paper and the girl that appears gives the artist a message of self-acceptance about her natural hair, body, and everything else. It’s a reminder to the artist of the little girl she once was, and a renewed promise to “rock what ya got.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Furqan’s First Flat Top GIVEAWAY!
Win a signed and personally inscribed copy of Furqan’s First Flat Top by filling out the Rafflecopter below.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.