Children’s Book Reviews

Over the Christmas holidays I had the pleasure of heading to our local Main library here in Ottawa and I was surprised to find children’s books celebrating Natural hair.

I was put off at first with the titles…which both included the word Nappy.

I am not offended by the word Nappy….its been used too many times to describe Afro-textured hair, so I’m used to it. I prefer not to use it since it can also stand for diapers.

Putting aside all my personal issues with the word Nappy, I thought that maybe this could be good for my daughter…..but of course I was going to read them first.

I hope you are able to pick them up and share with your little one(s) as well.

Nappy Hair by Carolivia Herron

Nappy Hair by Carolivia Herron

Illustrated by Joe Cepeda (http://www.carolivia.org/nappyhair/index.html)

When I first opened this story book my attention was immediately taken by the bold and richly coloured illustrations. Great art work!

The story is told in the perspective of a taped conversation done at a family gathering.

Old Uncle Mordecai is describing his niece, Brenda’s, Nappy hair, and in turn the family is responding. The book’s website describes the narrative as “the African-American call-and-response tradition”. At first, I was offended when he started describing little Brenda’s hair as Nappy. As the story continues I realize a word is just a word and the meaning YOU put into it holds the value.

You can tell from the writing that this voice is most likely a Southern United States accent.  (I’m thinking Alabama)

To give you an example of the description he’s giving “baby girls” hair…..

Uncle-“I mean combing your hair”

Family-“Yep”

Uncle-“Is like scrunching through the New Mexico desert in brogans in the heat of summer”

Family-“That’s the way”

Uncle-“Little girl confident. But she sure, Lord, got some nappy hair on her head”

There are great images of black hair. From ‘fro’s to curls to TWA’s (teeny weeny afros) and lovely, rich colours highlight their clothes, even African cloth is depicted.

There is a religious tone to the story as well and we see it towards the end. Uncle Mordecai describes what God said when he made our Nappy hair.

The voice of the story is also praising the fact that this is what the Lord wants, emphasizing that nothing can tame our hair. No matter what we put in, it still grows the way it was meant to grow/the way the Lord wanted our hair to grow.

In conclusion, this book emphasizes that our hair is something to be proud of, accept, talk about and REJOICE! I got over the word Nappy once I got to the end. It is what it is, but Nappy does not have to mean anything negative.  The narration is something to adjust to since the whole story is “call-and-response”, but once you get it- it’s a pretty fun read.

Another children’s story book that I found was…

Happy to Be Nappy by Bell Hooks

Happy To Be Nappy by Bell Hooks

Illustrated by Chris Raschka

<Happy to Be Nappy: NAACP Image Award nominee (2001)>

This story book is a great, simple story. Simple colours yet vibrant illustrations adorn the pages showing little girls with a variety of hair styles and skin tones.

A very positive message throughout the story from beginning to end.

For example,

“It is soft like cotton, flower petal billowy soft. Full of frizz and fuzz a halo, a crown.”

The story also rhymes making it pleasant and almost like a song. A great read for children.

On one page, that I can relate to, there is an illustration of 4 or 5 girls getting their hair done like our mothers would do-having us sit in front of them as they tamed our mane.

The illustration is almost real because you see some girls squinting, one girl has her eyes shut as though in pain, one girl is calm, another worried.

At the end of the book there is a page with about 18 different little girls each displaying different hair styles, some with ribbons, some with barrettes.

That page reads,

“Happy with hair all short and strong Happy with locks that twist and curl.”

This book depicts a variety of brown shades and hair lengths-staying true to how unique we all are. This is a great read for little girls. My 5-year-old daughter read it all by herself and understood the positive message behind it, that we should all be Happy to be Nappy!

I would recommend these books to those not offended by the word Nappy. I think this would be a great story to read to your little one(s.)

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