This book blew me away on the first read through, with its striking illustrations, its fabulous pacing, and its breathtakingly phenomenal voice. Wow. Crown, An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon James, was a window book like none other, a story about a young African-American boy who goes to the barbershop to get a haircut and walks out feeling like a million dollars. I remember being a young kid and sitting down in the hairstylist’s chair vividly, but my experiences were wholly different then the one described in this vibrant story. As a child, I cried every time I looked into the mirror at the end of my cut when I was struck with a horrible realization: my hair was not long, not blonde and certainly not straight like Rapunzel’s. Instead, it was mousy brown and more akin to Medusa than any Disney princess, with thin ringlets bouncing like a halo all around my little head. But this book, to think of how amazing this child felt every time he went to the barber – it was so poignant and immediately brought tears to my eyes.
In Crown, a boy walks into the barbershop. He saunters in “as a lump of clay, a blank canvas.” But when the man has finished the cut, the boy looks so fly, “they’ll want to post [him] up in a museum.” The story moves seamlessly through the child’s experience as the man drapes him like a king with a cape and then single handedly transforms him — and his confidence — with a new hairdo.
Crown is an absolute force. It firmly grounds the reader in the setting, right in the center of all that magic, where children become royalty alongside the other men visiting the shop that day. From the very first page, the very first sentence, Barnes transports the reader right into that barbershop culture through vivid details that come to life with brilliant authenticity. It is a celebration of self-confidence and self-worth, a beautiful window into a snippet of a boy’s day that transforms him and makes him feel recognized and powerful. The voice, the word choice, the rhythm – it’s all astonishingly perfect. Crown is a powerful read that should be in every classroom and every library around the country — and in your homes too. An eye opener, a winner, a joy. Two trunks up!
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Want a copy? Get it here: Crown, by Derrick Barnes. HEE received a review copy from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.