Inside: If I was the Sunshine, by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Loren Long, is a stunning new book that highlights the nature of connection and relationships in the most unique ways. We are in love. Come check it out!Read More
Do you love Philip Stead as much as we do? If you adore A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE, A HOME FOR BIRD, and SAMSON IN THE SNOW, you absolutely must check out MUSIC FOR MISTER MOON, his latest and greatest!Read More
If you have been following us for a while, you know there is nothing I love to read more than a book that celebrates books — and if it also happens to be an amazing book about strong girls, even better! Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre, is one of those books!Read More
Looking for an amazing children’s book about empathy, one that touches on compassion, kind words, giving and gratitude? We’ve got just the book for you — it is all those things rolled into one incredible story!!
One of the Most Perfect Children’s Books About Empathy
So totally in love with this one, you guys. What is Given From the Heart is simply PHENOMENAL. It is powerful and beautiful and the most tender and perfect ode to kindness - one of the best kids’ books I’ve read in a long time, especially if you are looking for fabulous children’s books about empathy. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I love to showcase what I call “books for better” (#booksforbetter) here on Happily Ever Elephants. Well, What is Given from the Heart, the fabulous new book by the late Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by April Harrison, is the epitome of this phrase. This is one of McKissack’s last books -- and it’s such a perfect one to highlight. It is an absolute must for everyone - I’d say kindergarten or first grade on up. It would make an incredible read aloud for upper elementary, middle school and high school aged children. Why? Check it out!
In What is Given from the Heart, James Otis and his Mama don’t have much. His father died, they lost their farm, and when Christmas rolls around, there isn’t much to open. It’s been a rough couple of months for sure, but they have their health and strength, so Mama says they are blessed. On the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, their reverend makes an announcement during services: the Temple family has lost everything in a fire, and everyone will make a Love Box containing whatever they think might be helpful to the family. James Otis wonders hard - what should he give that the family will like? What would a little girl named Sarah want from him, a boy who has so little? James Otis thinks and thinks, and he suddenly comes up with an idea. It certainly comes from the heart - but will it be enough?
Empathy? Check. Kindness? Check. Generosity? Check. Compassion? Check, check, check. My goodness. To say this book is extraordinary doesn’t even do it justice. In my eyes, it’s sheer perfection. It teaches every human being, no matter how old or how young, that even those who have so very little still have so much to offer to others. Sharing from the heart is inherently good, and McKissack’s narrative powerfully conveys how generosity and compassion can change lives. Though the narrative touches on challenging issues - from the death of a parent to poverty - the story never takes a downward spiral. Instead it is uplifting and poignant, celebrating life, ingenuity and the spirit of giving on each and every page. And those illustrations. Breathtaking! Harrison captured the essence of McKissack’s words perfectly with exquisite illustrations that elevate the text and so beautifully dignify the characters. I simply cannot rave about this one enough. It is pitch perfect and a must read for every child, even those of you with tweens and high schoolers. If you are looking for the perfect children’s book about empathy, this is the one for you!
Books like What is Given From the Heart are why I believe words can truly change worlds. Simply put: What is Given from the Heart is a masterpiece by a brilliant writer who will be so very missed. “What is given from the heart reaches the heart.” There are no truer words than those, and there is no more stunning story than this.
Did you like this post? We are so glad! Check out these fantastic lists - we think you will love them too!
And for the books we loved from last couple of years, check out Favorite Picture Books from 2018 and Favorite Picture Books from 2017!
Talking to children about matters of the heart can be complicated. If your kids are anything like mine, they get totally confused because the heart can do wayyyyy too many things. After all, it can fill with joy or break with sadness, swell with pride or even be given away. It can grow, it can melt, it can open and close. It can shatter, it can puddle, it races fast and then slows. No wonder they don’t understand! These metaphors are challenging to comprehend— and to a literal child, they can seem totally nonsensical. Leave it to Corinna Luyken, an author/illustrator whose work has blown me away over the last couple of years, to give us My Heart, the perfect picture book to gently address the heart’s complexity with kids.
In My Heart, each page is a metaphor for the heart’s various manifestations. As the diverse group of kids journey through the heart’s numerous emotions, they learn it can be a puddle or a slide or a window opened wide. The children are happy at times and scared at others, remorseful on some pages and joyful on others. When faced with a tough emotion, they find companionship in family and friends to help them through. And overall, they learn one very important notion: whether their hearts are open or closed, tiny or large, each and every child has the freedom to decide how he or she feels at a particular time. My Heart conveys a powerful message, one that helps children discover their strength and unlock their inner resilience.
My Heart is exquisite, though and through. Luyken’s illustrations are shadowy and vibrant at the same time. Shades of grey shot through with bright yellow perfectly represent the heart’s many phases, bringing hope to the wounded heart and light to the dark one. They set the tone so beautifully for a book that speaks to emotional awareness, and, when paired with the simple (but brilliant) prose, convey a message that we get to decide how our heart feels at any given moment. The book is contemplative yet dynamic, subtle yet empowering, ultimately conveying the most reassuring message: “tiny can grow and broken can mend / and a heart that is closed can still open again.” Sensitive, stunning and simply spectacular. Two trunks up for this beauty!
Did you like this post? Hooray! We think you will love these, too! First, our review of Corinna Luyken’s The Book of Mistakes (which was on our list of Favorite Picture Books of 2017). Second, our review of Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse, illustrated by Luyken, which was on our list of Picture Books to Help You Raise Kind Kids AND Favorite Picture Books of 2018!! ENJOY!
Want the book? Get it here! My Heart, by Corinna Luyken. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
What do you get when you combine an imaginative child with a mysterious night box? A book that will speak to any child who has created wondrous and imaginative scenarios in her head to explain some of our world’s most natural occurrences. Why does light turn to darkness? How does the sky change color? How does the sun know to come back out every morning? If you’ve been asked these questions, your kids are bound to fall in love with The Night Box, a fabulous, reassuring new story by Louise Greig and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay.
In The Night Box, the world gets ready for darkness. And as a young boy heads back to his home, he carries a single key in his hand. Whatever is it for? The boy heads to his room, readies himself for the evening, and sticks the key into the lock of a small box. When he opens it, Night pours out, the stars jump out and sparkle, and the world is blanketed in a sea of darkness, caring for all of its creatures until the morning. And when it’s time for sunrise? It’s time for Night to rest again.
We absolute adore this wonderful new book! From its lyrical prose to the beautiful illustrations to its gentle take on nightfall and daybreak, we fell in love with The Night Box from our very first read. If you have a child at home who gets nervous about the dark or worked up before bed, try this story. It is calming to read, adding a sense of tranquility and peace to a time that can be fraught with anxiety. Not only that- it will undoubtedly inspire wonder in your little ones, and they will be so curious about the Night Box (is it real? Can I get one? Can we buy it on Amazon?!?) that it may help distract them from them their own worries about bedtime and darkness. Two trunks up for this one- one of our new favorite bedtime books!!
Did you like this book? Let us know on our Facebook page, and make sure to like us there! if you liked this post, make sure to check out these, too. Why? Because we know you will love them! Favorite Bedtime Books, Favorite Books to Spark Your Child’s Imagination and Favorite Picture Books of 2018.
Want the book? Get it here! The Night Box, by Louise Greig and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received a review copy of this book, but all opinions are expressly our own.
Do you love funny children’s books that will make you laugh out loud?! So do we… and we have got the best picture book to start off your year! Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise may just be the best sequel ever. Check it out!Read More
Oh my gosh, do I have a new favorite bedtime book! So you know I like funny books as much as the next one, but my heart is always with beautifully illustrated picture books (especially when they showcase our diverse world!), lyrical writing and a plot that inspires wonder and imagination. And this is precisely why I fell madly in love with Time for Bed, Miyuki, by Roxanne Marie Galliez and illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh. The book tackles a universal problem (I mean, do any of you not struggle getting your kids down at bedtime?!) and is set against an exquisite backdrop adorned with images depicting Japanese culture on every page.
In Time for Bed, Miyuki, sweet Miyuki just doesn’t want to go to sleep, despite her grandfather’s pleas. Why? There are too many things to do, like water the vegetables, gather the snails and prepare for the arrival of the Dragonfly Queen. With gentleness and patience, her grandfather indulges Miyuki’s antics until finally, she is ready for bed and sleep overtakes her.
Time for Bed, Miyuki is utterly captivating, both visually and lyrically. Children and parents alike will be enchanted by the story within the story, by the magical, detailed illustrations, and by Miyuki’s sweet and oh-so-familiar stalling techniques that so many kids employ night after night. It doesn’t matter where you live, bedtime for children around the world is always met with resistance! The tenderness between Miyuki and her grandfather shines and is sure to inspire the sweetest of slumbers as you kiss your little ones on the forehead and tuck them in for the night. A fun, whimsical beauty — my very favorite kind of book. Two trunks up!
Want the book? Get it here! Time for Bed, Miyuki by Roxanne Marie Galliez. *This is an affiliate link.
I remember the first time I saw art. I was 10 years old, and my family and I had traveled to Paris. We were at the Musee d’Orsay, where I came face to face with Edgar Degas’ exquisite Dancers in Blue painting. Oh my gosh, did it blow me away. I’d seen art before, of course, but I’d never really SEEN it before, if that makes sense. I’d never had a visceral reaction to it, never realized the transcendent power of a painting to stir your soul and really make you feel. But that day, I experienced it. And I was taken right back to this memory of 29 years ago the second I picked up the stunning new picture book Imagine, by Raul Colon.
Imagine is a wordless wonder, a stunningly illustrated picture book showcasing the day one young boy discovers art. Though he has passed by museums in Manhattan many times prior, on this particular day he decides to walk in to the Museum of Modern Art. The boy studies painting after wondrous painting, until he stops at one. And as he ponders that one painting, and then another, the figures in these famous works come to life, jump off the canvases and into the real world, and join the boy on an adventure. The boy’s afternoon is thus filled with exploration and wonder as he and his new friends discover all of the excitement New York City has to offer. He is left transformed.
Oh, what a beauty Imagine is, and what a glorious tribute to the transcendent power of art. This exquisite book is a powerful way to introduce children to artistic expression and creativity as well as some of the world’s most prominent artists. The paintings celebrated within Imagine’s pages include Pablo Picasso’s Three Magicians, Henry Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy, and Henri Mattise’s Icarus. The book moves fluidly from page to page, leaving readers dazzled and delighted as the boy and his new friends experience New York’s many icons. Imagine is a true beauty and a powerful testament to the power of art to transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. Imagine gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from our team!
Want the book? Get it here! Imagine, by Raul Colon. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are our own.
There is nothing more exciting to a self-proclaimed book nerd than a “meta” picture book that plays with form and storytelling in a truly unique way. What is "meta" fiction, you ask? A book described as “meta” is one that bends the traditional rules of storytelling, thus presenting the reader with something unique, surprising and even challenging. And so it is with the latest story by the brilliant Jon Agee, The Wall in the Middle of the Book. Folks, Agee hits a total SLAM DUNK with this one. I’ve read it a good twenty times since I’ve gotten it, and each time I read it, I find myself writing down another terrific discussion point.
In The Wall in the Middle of The Book, there is literally just that- a wall running along the gutter of the book. On one side of the wall stands a knight who proudly proclaims he is safe. The dangers, after all, live on the other side of the wall. So what exactly is on that other side? Angry animals and evil ogres, of course. What the knight doesn’t realize, however, is the rising water and the crocodile looming on his side of the wall. When the knight finds himself in need of help, the one who comes to his rescue may be a whole lot different than the knight anticipated… and the other side of the wall may possess a lot more fun than fright.
There is a heck of a lot of power packed into these pages. The interplay between the text and the illustrations is something Agee handles masterfully (he employs this same technique brilliantly in Life on Mars, one of his previous books that is still a hit in our home - check out our review HERE!). There is so much discussion to be sparked from Agee’s genius story. Most importantly, though, is the simple, underlying message The Wall in the Middle of the Book coneys: there is tremendous danger in preconceived notions. Why? Because most of the time, they are not just wrong but extraordinarily harmful! Preconceived notions become dangerous both in our classrooms and in our society, and it becomes exceedingly difficult to scale the walls we build when we are simply too frightened to address the differences we see on the other side. Whether talking to young children about exactly what they see on these pages or older kids about the symbolic nature of this book as it pertains to xenophobia and so many other issues currently plaguing our country, The Wall in the Middle of the Book speaks volumes and can be utilized with readers young and old. This is a stand out work by Agee, and a definite favorite of 2018!
Want the book? Get it here! The Wall in the Middle of the Book, by Jon Agee. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
I was tremendously close with my grandparents, and so it is that I have a tremendously large soft spot for books depicting intergenerational relationships -- or the ways in which a grandparent's legacy may impact a child's life, adventures or imagination. Ocean Meets Sky, the newest book by the indomitable Fan Brothers, is the most stunning ode to the love one young boy holds for his grandfather and the manner in which the boy chooses to honor his grandfather's memory. Oh, my heart!
In Ocean Meets Sky, Finn decides to honor what would have been his beloved grandfather's 90th birthday by finding a faraway place he learned of from his grandfather's tales - the magical space where ocean meets sky. Finn builds a boat as he had planned to do with his grandfather, preparing to set off on his journey. Before he leaves though, he falls asleep in the boat. Finn awakens to find himself out at sea, and a massive golden fish discovers Finn and leads him to the precise destination described in his grandfather's tales. Finn is guided through one magical marvel after another, only to eventually be beckoned home by his mother's call. When he reaches the seashore Finn knows he's been transformed, and thanks to his grandfather, he experienced the most magical adventure.
Ocean Meets Sky is as stunning in word as it is in illustration. Sparse text allows the exquisitely detailed pictures to impart much of the magic of the story. Reading this feels akin to being in a lush dream, where library islands ignite imagination and boats can take off for the sky. I love the premise of this story- of Finn’s longing to find the magical place known only from his grandfather’s stories, and the Fan Brother’s stunning illustrations will leave children not just spellbound and curious, but totally and utterly captivated. Watch your children and students marvel over each illustration and share their own ideas of what they see on these pages. Ocean Meets Sky will invite them in and grip them with its magic.
Want the book? Get it here! Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced copy of this book, but all opinions contained herein are expressly our own.
The Day You Begin is a Remarkable First Week of School Book!
So many of us have stood in that uncomfortable spot, right there in the doorway about to enter a room where the blanket of faces staring back at you look wholly different from your own. It's one of those feelings that is bound to make your stomach hurt or your eyes sting - especially when you're only a child.
At that moment, all we see are the differences in those people: different skin colors and eye shapes, different clothing -- even different accents when they begin to speak. What we forget during these challenging situations, however, and what we need to remind our kids, is that underneath these different exteriors lie a multitude of similarities.
This is the beauty of Jacqueline Woodson's newest picture book, The Day You Begin, stunningly illustrated by Rafael Lopez (you may remember him from one of my favorite books, Maybe Something Beautiful). The Day You Begin tells the story of a young girl who walks into a new classroom and finds no one like her. But then she sits down, her classmates begin talking, and as their words fill the air, shared sentiments become bridges to building connection.
The Day You Begin reminds us to seek out similarities rather than focusing on our differences!
The Day You Begin reads like music, with rich melodies that rouse your senses and settle softly upon your heart. Woodson's words, as is typical for her, are a song to celebrate. She reassures us that, when we are brave enough, we can all find connections with one another.
When we muster up courage and extend our hands and voices, we will find possibility where it first seemed like none existed.
The Day You Begin conveys wisdom, hope and heart, on vibrant, collaged pages that are a perfect accompaniment to the exquisite text. This is a book to treasure, reminding both children and adults that there is so much beauty to be found when we embrace who we are and find the strength to view challenges as opportunities.
We give this one two trunks up, and we have no hesitation in calling The Day You Begin an absolute MUST for every home, classroom and library collection.
The Day You Begin: My Favorite Classroom Activity
Are you looking for a simple yet effective classroom activity for the first week of school? Try this!
First, group students in pairs of two - if possible, pair up kids who aren’t already good friends. Give the class two minutes, and have them silently write down five things they notice about their classmate that appear different from themselves — whatever comes to mind.
Next, read The Day You Begin aloud to the class. After you read, have the students pair back up again and this time, give them some time to talk about their summers - what they did, who they spent time with, anything they want to share.
After this chat session, give them a couple more minutes to write silently. This time, each student should write down five ways in which they are similar to their classmate.
Finally — discuss your findings as a group! How did the similarities make the differences seem unimportant? What kinds of connections were made? How did sharing with a classmate help bridge divides?
The Day You Begin is the perfect book to begin a new school year!
Use this beautiful story to showcase the beauty of looking beyond external differences, and watch as your students enter a new school with open eyes, compassionate hearts, and a willingness to challenge rash judgments they may make upon first meeting new people.
DID YOU LIKE THIS POST ABOUT THE DAY YOU BEGIN? WE THINK YOU WILL LOVE THESE, TOO!
Want the book? Get it here! The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
The imagination is a powerful tool. So powerful, in fact, that it can transport a child from tough circumstances to a world where he can settle amidst more comfortable or even luxurious surroundings. But what about those kids who recognize that another child may be imagining things that aren’t exactly real? What about those kids who want to shout from the rooftops that one of his peers is a dirty rotten liar? It’s a difficult situation, no doubt. We learn as children to be honest, but the truth is that the imagination can be a powerful and wonderful defense mechanism for some, so much so that their imaginary worlds provide them with significant comfort.
Enter Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse, written by Mary Campbell and exquisitely illustrated by Corinna Luyken. In this poignant story, Adrian Simcox tells his classmates that he has a horse- and not just any horse. Adrian’s horse is the best and most beautiful horse in all the world. But Chloe knows Adrian is lying. After all, Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house and has holes in his shoes, so there’s no way he has a horse in his backyard. And the more Adrian talks about this beautiful horse, the angrier Chloe gets... and the more she wants to prove him wrong. Will vindication give Chloe the satisfaction she so desires?
If you are looking to nurture empathy in your children or students, Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse is a touching new picture book for your collection-- a must have, in our opinion. Campbell’s light touch is evident throughout this book, especially through her subtle text and the way Chloe comes to realize why Adrian may be lost in his imagination. Should Adrian's circumstances matter if he isn’t being truthful, and how on earth do we explain perspective to children? I love the way this story so beautifully encourages kids to walk in other’s shoes, as well as the manner in which it helps children recognize that indulging a classmates' fanciful stories is sometimes ok - especially if it helps that child make his personal living conditions easier to bear. Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse is a classic in the making, and I absolutely cannot wait to read it to my students when school begins.
Want the book? Get it here! Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse, by Marcy Campbell. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
There's this funny thing about kids today that I don't really remember from when I was younger. Everyone seems to be overscheduled. Between sports practice and tutors and language lessons and music lessons and theater lessons and voice lessons, when do we expect our children to play? Play, after all, is what childhood is all about - that's where the magic happens, where kids come into their own and learn who they are and develop cognitively, emotionally, creatively, and even physically. Perhaps that's why I so loved Moon, the new book written and illustrated by Alison Oliver, illustrator of the prominent babylit board book series.
In Moon, Moon is a young girl who leads a busy, busy life between school, homework, music lessons and other afterschool activities. One night, though, she goes astray when she happens upon a wolf. The wolf takes her deep into the forest where Moon gets a little lesson in letting loose -- how to be wild, how to be free, and how to howl. And once she learns how good it feels to live a little, Moon doesn't want to let go.
Oh, what a joyous book Moon is! At a time when our children seem to carry the world on their shoulders, this is a glorious story reminding both kids and parents alike to take a step back, breathe, and play. Today's society seems to be putting way too much pressure on children to succeed at such tender young ages, and we are forgetting a very basic but extremely important notion: let them be little! Let kids be KIDS! With its simple text and stunning illustrations, Moon is a lovely celebration of play, nature, and the revitalizing affect that embracing our inner wild can have on our well-being.
Want the book? Get it here! MOON, by Alison Oliver. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
I always wanted a treehouse as a child -- a treehouse with a staircase to the sky, where I could watch the world like a robin, read my books, and write my stories. It never happened, though. The swaying palm trees in our backyard weren't the most conducive for such a hideaway, my parents told me, so I had to resort to reading about them instead. Oh, how I wish I had Everything You Need for a Treehouse back then! It would have been the perfect antidote for my treehouse-less backyard. Why? Because it is just as magical as I imagine the real thing to be. Magical and mysterious and, no ifs ands or buts about it, absolutely perfect.
In Everything You Need for a Treehouse, lyrically written by Carter Higgins and exquisitely illustrated by Emily Hughes, readers are given "instructions" on what they need to build a treehouse, beginning with time, a look up, and a hefty imagination. The book breathes life into each and every requirement for the house - from gnarled timber to making sure it's tall enough to see sun speckles up close, to a swing and rope and "twisted twine of spun sugar and sap." Together, the story and illustrations sing. Together, they spark magic, ignite imagination, and capture the enchantment and wonder a treehouse rouses in children and adults alike.
Everything You Need for a Treehouse is genius. It's cadence is impeccable, making it a read aloud gem for storytime. The language and vocabulary is challenging yet accessible, so it works just as well for older elementary children as it does for the younger set. The illustrations are unbelievably breathtaking, with details to pore over on every page. And the lyrical prose reads like a dream, one you want to immerse yourself in again and again. Simply put: I may not have had a treehouse as a child, but, my goodness, I certainly do now. Everything You Need for a Treehouse is pure picture book perfection. Without a doubt, this is my favorite release of 2018 to date. Don't walk, run to the bookstore to get this beauty today!
Want the book? Get it here! Everything You Need for a Treehouse, by Carter Higgins. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
Friendship is a journey, complete with laughter and tears and make believe and making up. We've all been there, and our children will experience this sometimes challenging but always rewarding journey too. Molly and Mae: A Friendship Journey, is a beautiful new book by Danny Parker with gorgeous illustrations by Freya Blackwood. The story is a lovely testament to friendship and all of its ups and downs, and it has quickly become a go-to read in our stack.
In Molly and Mae, two little girls meet on the platform of a train station. They connect instantly, playing hide and seek and other games as they await the train with their families. Upon boarding, however, their games turn into conflict, and the two girls turn away from each other. Will they be able to restart their relationship and enjoy the rest of the ride together?
I remember those trying days of childhood, when one minute a trusted companion had me squealing with glee and the next found me sobbing into my mother's lap because so-and-so said she would never be my friend again. I wish I had Molly & Mae then. I love the manner in which Parker and Blackwood use the train's journey as an extended metaphor of the ups and downs and starts and stops inherent in the journey of friendship. It was a perfect - if not masterful - comparison, and I love how the train signage truly grounds the reader into every scene of the story. Blackwood has fast become a favorite illustrator of mine, and her soft illustrations add tremendous significance to Parker’s spare text. Such a beauty!
Want the book? Get it here! Molly & Mae: A Friendship Journey, by Danny Parker. HEE received an advanced review copy of the book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
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!
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.