#BlackIsBeautiful: Black Hair is Beautiful

Cornrows

Written by Camille Yarbrough

Illustrated by Carole Byard

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

  • ISBN-10 : 0698114361
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0698114364

In this heartwarming picture book, a hairstyling session prompts a discussion between a young girl and her great-grandmother about the history of cornrows.  The elder tells her entranced great-granddaughter about the endurance of the hairstyle from its origins in Africa to the present day, and how it has served as a symbol of Black creativity and resistance.  Byard’s charcoal drawings show the intricacy of the hairstyles, no two of which are alike.  The text discusses the artistic as well as practical purposes of cornrowing, including the meaning of different patterns and styles. The theme of intergenerational connection resonates.

Happy Hair 

Written and illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe 

Published by Doubleday Books For Young Readers

  • ISBN-10 : 0991621115
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0991621118

With simple, exciting text and bright illustrations, this book shows the versatility of Black hair for little girls.  Each page shows a beaming girl sporting a different hairstyle with corresponding texture, along with a description of the styles themselves.  Corresponding pages feature easy-to-remember affirmations that reinforce girls’ self-esteem.  Details such as hair accessories and the variety of girls’ features help make the book an enjoyable read.

Cool Cuts

Written and illustrated by Mechal Renee Roe

Published by Doubleday Books For Young Readers

  • ISBN-10 : 1984895575
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1984895578

The companion to Happy Hair, this book focuses on young Black boys in a celebration of Black hairstyles.  Following the same template of colorful illustrations with beaming faces and strong, encouraging affirmations, the book encourages Black boys to take pride in the adaptability of their hair texture, and subsequently, themselves.  Added details such as hair tools and an inscription page at the front help add to the book’s appeal. 

Crown: An Ode To The Fresh Cut

Written by Derrick Barnes

Illustrated by Gordon C. James

Published by Agate Bolden

Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers
A Newbery Honor Book
A Caldecott Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
An Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award Book
An Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor Book
A Society of Illustrators Gold Medal Book

Named one of the best books of 2017 by NPR, the Huffington PostPublishers WeeklyKirkus Reviews, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Horn Book Magazine, the News & ObserverBookPage, Chicago Public Library, and more

  • ISBN-10 : 1572842245
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1572842243

A trip to the barbershop is the subject of this picture book, which pays homage to an important tradition and right of passage in the Black community.  A young Black boy recounts his experience going into the shop and having his hair cut and shaped just right, detailing the process from beginning to end and describing the other people whom he meets there.  The text shows the barber’s skill and precision in working with Black hair, working to make his young patron’s experience extra special.  Additionally, it highlights the narrator’s growing feelings of confidence and achievement  as he feels empowered by his new style.

Boonoonoonous Hair

Written by Olive Senior

Illustrated by Laura James

Published by Tradewind Books

  • ISBN-10 : 1926890078
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1926890074

The voluminous, adaptable and beautifully boonoonoonous (a Jamaican adjective for “wonderful”) nature of Black hair takes center stage in this colorful picture book.  A little girl named Jamila starts to resent her hair, which she views as less beautiful compared to her classmates, until her mother shows her the exceptional things that her hair can do.  Using the once-dreaded comb and ingenuity, Jamila’s mother switches up the style from day to day, going from Afros to cornrows to twists and puffs.  Jamila’s growing admiration and eventual love for her hair develop slowly and fulfillingly throughout the book, as the illustrations outline the time taken to create such hairstyles.

Bedtime Bonnet

Written by Nancy Redd

Illustrated by Nneka Myers

Published by Random House Books For Young Readers

  • ISBN-10 : 1984895249
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1984895240

An intergenerational story of Black bedtime hair rituals is the focus of this book.  A young girl asks her family for help as she looks throughout the house for the special bonnet that she needs to cover her hair before going to sleep.  The book shows the family members in detail, each of whom has a different hairstyle and thus a different method of preparing themselves for sleep.  The happiness and unity that the family feel as they get ready together, as well as their understanding of each other’s methods, add warmth to the story.  The details in the illustrations show the variety in textures of the hairstyles, as well as the products used to maintain them. 

Annelisa J. Purdie is a senior children’s librarian with the New York Public Library.  She graduated with her MLIS degree from St. John’s University, and works in Harlem.  Her work includes an emphasis on history, STEM and the arts as a means of sparking innovation and establishing a sense of pride among members of the community.  Annelisa coordinates interactive children’s programs and literacy initiatives, and works with educators and various other community partners in servicing the children of New York City.  

Shauntee Burns-Simpson

The February 2021 GLLI theme, #BlackIsBeautiful, is curated by guest editor, Shauntee Burns-Simpson.

Shauntee Burns-Simpson (MLIS) currently serves as the 2020-2022 President of BCALA. She is the Associate Director of School Outreach for The New York Public Library. An ambassador for libraries and Youth Librarian, President Burns-Simpson enjoys connecting people to the public library and its resources. She works closely with at-risk teens and fosters a love of reading & learning with her innovative programs. In addition to leading BCALA, she chairs the American Library Association Office of Diversity, Literacy, & Outreach Services (ODLOS) Committee on Diversity.

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