black history, culture, disabilities, hispanic, illustration, social-emotional

Book List: Our Beautiful Hair

Happy to Be Nappy (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Written by bell hooks
Illustrated by Chris Raschka

For ages: 1-5
This board book is not your typical baby lit. Instead, it’s taken from the words of noted author bell hooks and celebrates the beauty of Black hair. Hooks provides beautifully descriptive language to talk about her hair, comparing it to the fluffiness of cotton, frizzy, fuzzy, and able to be styled in a seemingly endless number of ways. Hair is evoked as a method of bonding. Mothers & daughters spending time together. The illustrations by Chris Raschka evoke the crayon drawings of a young child for whom this book is intended, playful stick figures with colors going outside the lines. While appearing simple from the outside, Happy to Be Nappy is a beautiful celebration of Black hair and its many styles and presentations.

I Don’t Want Curly Hair (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
Written & Illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson

For ages: 1-5
The Curly Haired Girl is highly self-conscious about her loopy locks and wants nothing more than straight, easy-to-manage hair. Then she meets a girl with straight hair whose dream is to have spirally, squiggly hair. Each little girl is confused with the other’s desire, thinking the alternate hairstyle is the best. This is a straightforward but essential story of learning to love yourself. It addresses the common belief that the “grass is always greener on the other side” and shows that what you have is often the desire of other people—an excellent read for any child who feels that they aren’t as beautiful as they truly are.

Hair Love (Kokila)
Written by Matthew A. Cherry
Illustrated by Vashti Harrison

For ages: 4-8
It’s always essential for fathers to take part in their children’s morning preparations. Still, a daughter’s hair can be a daunting challenge. The last thing any good dad wants to do is mess up their child’s look for the day. Zuri is a Black girl who is proud of her hair but knows it can be challenging for her dad. She tries it on her own, but Dad insists on helping. It takes a few tries but eventually, he figures it out and makes his daughter proud. This is just one of those grand slam pieces of children’s lit that accomplishes everything it sets out to do. If you have one book on your shelf about the beauty of hair, this is the one.

Dalia’s Wondrous Hair (Pinata Books)
Written & Illustrated by Laura Lacamara

For ages: 4-8
One morning, Dalia wakes up in her homeland of Cuba to discover her hair is a towering display of beauty. As she goes about her day, the little girl adds pieces of nature to her hair, continually transforming it into an array of her and the island’s beauty. To accomplish this, writer-illustrator Laura Lacamara uses mixed media so that Dalia’s hair consistently exhibits unique and interesting textures. The pictures here are bold and striking, sure to draw in readers before they even engage with the words. The book is in English and Spanish, ensuring readers of all kinds are welcome. There are even author’s notes explaining the flora & fauna Dalia wears in more detail.

What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair? (Albert Whitman & Company)
Written by Norene Paulson
Illustrated by Camila Carrossine

For ages: 4-8
Special days at school are enjoyable, but not all of our friends feel that they are included. Bea lost all her hair at the age of four and feels self-conscious when hair becomes a topic of conversation. With School Spirit Week coming up, Bea knows Silly Hair Day is just around the corner. Some of her more empathetic friends want to help and try to devise ways to ensure Bea is included. The one sticking point I have with this book is how the adults stay on the margins. It seems the lesson is about allowing children to find solutions to problems. Still, I think it would have been nice to see direct adult support for Bea from one of the parents or teachers featured in the illustrations.

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair (Schwartz & Wade)
Written by Kate Bernheimer
Illustrated by Jake Parker

For ages: 4-8
I remember watching and hearing one of my sisters get their hair brushed after a bath and pulling through tangles always led to conflict. The little girl in this story prefers the tangly nest she’s created and wears it with confidence. Eventually, a family of mice comes to live in her hair, and they become her friends. The girl and her mice friends share meals, jokes, and fun times. Unlike some of our other selections on this list, this book is purely about silly, playful fun. As the story progresses, the protagonist keeps getting caught up in hilarious and ridiculous situations with her hair.

Stella’s Stellar Hair (Imprint)
Written & Illustrated by Yesenia Moises

For ages: 4-8
Stella is a little girl but so much more. She’s getting ready for the Big Star Little Gala, but her hair isn’t quite right. Thus begins Stella’s journey across the solar system to visit her aunts on each planet, who provide her with a new style of hair. This book’s illustrations are some of the best I’ve seen, with Stella’s gorgeous purple and pink hair dominating two-page spreads. Each aunt is lovingly written and drawn, with a personality that shines through both words and illustrations. Adding even more depth to an already great book is how each planet’s hairstyle is informed by gravity and other conditions on that celestial body. Very few books hit everything as well as this one, a loving celebration of Black hair plus a tour of the unique planets in our solar system.

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