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
If you love kids books about kindness and you are working hard to teach your child about always using kind words and having a kind heart, then you’ve got to check out this amazing book, BE KIND!Read More
Thanks to Creepy Carrots, I will never look at carrots in the same way again. Seriously. Never ever again. If your little one is not afraid of some dark humor or the slightly "scary" story, you've got to check out this fabulously quirky book, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown.
In Creepy Carrots, Jasper Rabbit's greed becomes his undoing. Jasper loves carrots, especially the ones that grow in Crackenhopper field. Jasper grabs carrots from the field constantly and can never seem to get enough of them-- until the carrots start following him - or are they? Is Jasper's imagination playing tricks on him, or are the carrots truly creepy-- and out for revenge?
Creepy Carrots has got to be one of the most unique picture books in the world of children's literature. The color palette is dark and gloomy, perfectly setting the scene for a "scary" story. The gray and black scenes make the orange creepy carrots pop, and the illustrations provide a pretty terrific segue for discussing with little ones how art-- especially the selection and utilization of color -- can be used to evoke and convey different emotional experiences. I love how this story explores a child's well founded fears in such an original way. It gives the child's worries significant weight and attention, but then it puts such an unexpected twist on them that the reader is able to laugh about the story in the end, and, simultaneously, relive himself of some of his own anxiety. It helps kids look at situations from alternative perspectives, enabling them to understand that every so often, our fears may arise from some of our own behaviors- behaviors we may just have the power to change. Such a fun and unique read for your home collection! And for even more fun, make sure you get the sequel, Creepy Pair of Underwear. Mark my words — your kids will be obsessed!
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.
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 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.
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 American Dream. People come from all corners of the globe seeking it: freedom, opportunity, justice. Because this is America, right? America -- land of the free, home of the brave. But unfortunately, life in America doesn’t ensure a hardworking family will obtain the proverbial golden ticket. To the contrary, life as in immigrant here can be downright tough, leaving families on edge as they struggle to make money, live in safe homes, and put food on the table for their families. Enter Kelly Yang’s Front Desk, a gut wrenching yet achingly poignant story about a young girl who immigrates with her parents to America from China.
Front Desk is the story of Mia Tang who, together with her parents, arrives in America in search of the American Dream. But their hard work and determination doesn’t mean life will be easy, and when Mia’s family finds themselves operating a motel for a cruel and exploitative owner, life is anything but what they had imagined. Mia runs the front desk at the motel, and the tougher her days are, the more she longs for a better and easier life. With the help of a new friend, the motel’s “weeklies,” her devoted parents, and a lucky pencil, Mia may be able to find that she can achieve her own American dreams with a hefty amount of perseverance and a whole lot of heart.
Front Desk was absolutely fantastic! I read it while the boys were at a play date for several hours, and I COULD NOT put it down. Yang’s story, a window for some but a mirror for so many more, is a welcome addition to our tween shelves. The story interweaves some of Yang’s own childhood experiences, and it seamlessly tackles themes of bullying, poverty, assault and racism with compassion and authenticity, all the while being age appropriate for young readers. Front Desk beautifully conveys to readers the power of hope and steadfast determination, and it illuminates one child's struggle to live with grace and integrity in the harsh face of adversity. Front Desk is a thought provoking, beautifully written novel that I cannot wait to get into my students’ hands this Fall. Two trunks up!!
IF YOU LOVE NOVELS FOR TWEENS, YOU MUST CHECK OUT THESE POSTS TOO!
Want the book? Get it here! Front Desk, by Kelly Yang. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced copy of Front Desk, but all opinions contained herein are expressly our own.
Playing and watching sports has forever had a unique ability to bring people together in ways that so few other things can. Rooting for a common cause, just for fun, through sun and rain and everything in between, can transcend differences and create commonalities where some never saw them before. Perhaps this is why I so loved The Field, the beautiful debut picture book written by Baptiste Paul and stunningly illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara.
In The Field, a group of children assemble on a field and get ready for a game of soccer. They have their bol (ball), soulye (shoes) and goal (goal), and just like that, they are off! They kick the ball back and forth, passing and running and jumping until the skies burst open and the ground is deluged with rain. But do they stop? No! They just take their shoes off and keep on keeping on. It's only when their Mamas call for them that the game is paused, they quit for the night and go home to their beds where they dream about futbol, friends and the field.
Paul grew up in Saint Lucia, and I absolutely love the way he made his childhood come alive through The Field. He weaves Creole words into the narrative, bringing such a richness to the text. The story buzzes with energy, from the vibrant illustrations to the fast paced game, and it reminds us that we can weather all challenges, no matter how daunting or challenging they may seem. A beautiful debut -- and I cannot wait to see more from these two!
Want the book? Get it here! The Field, by Baptiste Paul, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced copy of The FIeld, but all opinions contained herein are expressly our own.
Jeffers does it again! I was so fortunate to receive a copy of his latest release, Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, a beautiful ode Jeffers penned for his child in which he tells his son all the important things he needs to know about the world around him. What a stunner this is. As much as the prose is simplistic perfection, Jeffers truly outdoes himself with his new book, in which his magical illustrations showcase his extraordinary talent, not just as a picture book illustrator, but as a fine artist.
In Here We Are, Jeffers seeks to answer all of those bewildering questions a new arrival to our planet may have- questions about space and sea, people and animals. From taking care of our bodies to taking care of each other, the book handles each of these concepts with such a light, delicate touch -- though with enough wit thrown in to keep it fresh and unique. Most importantly? The book sensitively illuminates that kindness makes the world go round, and it reminds us that on this great planet of ours, we are never truly alone.
This gorgeously illustrated story is a must for your collections, for it answers simple questions, not with formalistic responses, but with fun and age appropriate wisdom. This is such a treasure for your home and library collections, one you will return to again and again with your children. A tender, joyful and beautiful read -- one that gets two enthusiastic trunks up from our team.
Want the book? Get it here! Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, by Oliver Jeffers. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
My grandparents met when they were only kids, living in Chicago the 1930s. Gigi taught Poppy how to dance; they met at his first lesson, and the rest (as they say) is history. Shortly thereafter Poppy broke barriers when he went to college—he was the first Jewish boy to receive a basketball scholarship to DePaul University. Poppy was a brave, moral man who always stood up for the underdog and championed those values he held dear. When he went off to fight in WWII, he was put in charge of a camp for prisoners of war. What did he do? He fashioned a basketball court for the men at the camp so they could entertain themselves. Humanity, he said. Even when the world disagreed on the very fundamentals of our rights as human beings, he thought it critical to treat each other with kindness and respect.
I've always cherished this story about my grandfather -- and I've always loved the way oral storytelling can shape and mold our lives as we try to embody the most beloved virtues of our ancestors. Perhaps this is why I so connected to Islandborn, the exquisite new picture book by one of my favorite authors, Pulitzer Prize winning Junot Diaz, and exquisitely illustrated by Leo Espinoza. In Islandborn, Lola's teacher asks the students to draw a picture of the country from which they immigrated. But Lola, perplexed and upset, can't remember The Island where she was born; she left when she was just a baby. She thus begins speaking with relatives and friends to learn more about her homeland. And as she hears story after story of The Island, Lola quickly understands that "[j]ust because you don't remember a place doesn't mean it isn't in you."
Islandborn is positively incredible! I love how Lola feels increasingly connected to her island the more she learns from her loved ones. I love how she suddenly sees, hears and tastes her birthplace, this place that is the essence of her core. More importantly, I love the various ways you can use this text in your homes and classrooms to help your children connect with their pasts, because their family stories will undoubtedly mold their futures. You can so easily guide children to learn about their ancestors, cultures, countries, and even the history and politics that shaped their families' daily lives. Read Islandborn and then have your students explore! You can use simple prompts for younger kids ("interview a family member about an experience that shaped his/her childhood") or go deeper for older children ("how did the political climate of your grandparent's home country shape his/her upbringing?") The information they learn can be used to write narrative essays, illustrate a picture book like Lola, or even create video presentations using apps like 30hands. The possibilities are endless. This is what happens when a phenomenal book finds its way into your hands. You can't stop thinking about it, and you want to use it to enhance learning in every way possible. Thank you Junot Diaz for this treasure!
Want the book? Get it here! Islandborn, by Junot Diaz. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received a review copy from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own!
I've always particularly loved window books. There's just so much to be learned by reading about a person so different from you, or a time period so removed from the one in which you live. From challenges faced to experiences had, the world seems to open at your fingertips, giving you glimpses into lives so opposite from your own. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I loved Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling, a middle grade novel written about a girl with no arms.
Aven Green, the story's protagonist, is a spunky girl who loves to make up stories about how she lost her arms. But the truth is, she was simply born without them. And her adoptive parents wouldn't let her sit by and mourn a life of things she couldn't do. Instead, they made her work for everything she wanted -- she opens her own backpack and plays the guitar and eats her own food -- all with her feet. But life with no arms is not easy. Especially when you suddenly find yourself moving to a new state, starting a new school, and friendless. But when Aven meets Connor, a boy at her school struggling with Tourette's Syndrome, a new world opens up for both kids, and they not only learn how to help each other, but they learn a ton about themselves, too.
If your kids or students loved Wonder, this is a fabulous "read-a-like" that upper elementary children will devour. Equal parts humorous and emotional, with even some mystery thrown in for good measure, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus was a quick read that truly gave me much to ponder about my advantages as a fully able bodied woman. It is a book that will build bridges and empathy, taking the stigma away from "others" who may be different in certain respects, but who have the same yearnings for friendship and connection as everyone else. A beauty, and one I cannot wait to get into my students hands. Two trunks up!
Want the book? Get it here! Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling.
Here’s another one of our favorite books about strong girls for your kiddos. We adore this one about a very favorite author of ours here at Happily Ever Elephants!
Another one to add to our collection of books about strong girls! Picture book biographies are flooding our shelves these days, and each one seems to be better than the next. The women and men I have learned about from these books are both inspiring and courageous, and their legacies - their stories of hope and determination and perseverance -- are ones I love to share with my boys and students. But the one I've been most excited about recently is Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Erin McGuire. Because, of course, as cliche as it may sound, To Kill a Mockingbird is my all time favorite book (yes, I still have my original version from 9th grade). And this new biography hit a perfect note - here’s to amazing books about strong girls.
Alabama Spitfire tells the story of Harper Lee, born Nelle Harper Lee, on April 28, 1926 in segregated Monroeville, Alabama. An overall-wearing, tree-climbing tomboy, Nelle would spend afternoons at the courthouse watching her father, an attorney, fight for justice. From him, she learned to fight for what was fair and always took up for the underdog, including her good friend Truman Capote (yes, that Truman Capote!) Nelle and Tru both loved books, and with him, she began to embrace her love for words. What follows is Nelle's evolution from feisty child to famous writer: her move to New York City, her dream of becoming an author, and the events that inspired her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, one of the seminal books of the twentieth century.
Alabama Spitfire is such a phenomenal picture book to pair with any child holding To Kill a Mockingbird in their hands for the first time. It is also a wonderful story of being true to yourself and following your dreams. With famous quotes from To Kill A Mockingbird woven throughout the text, this gem of a book is a testament to the power of words and an ode to the writer whose story become a classic in American literature. Two trunks up!
Looking for more amazing books about strong girls? Check these out!
Want the link? Get it here! Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, by Bethany Hegedus. HEE received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. However, all opinions contained herein are entirely our own.
We are so excited for the second post in our new blog series here at Happily Ever Elephants - cover reveals! What is a cover reveal, you ask? Cover reveals happen several months before a new book hits the shelves, and they provide a wonderful avenue for authors and illustrators to share a sneak peak at their upcoming release(s) with their audience. The front cover of a book is, for all intents and purposes, the first page of the story. It communicates to the audience a bit about the pages inside, and it must be compelling enough to draw a reader's attention. From the cover alone, readers often get a sense of the story's genre, tone and writing style. A cover often makes a strong emotional appeal to the reader, thus getting the reader excited about the book pending release. Need I say more?
For our second cover reveal here at Happily Ever Elephants, we are absolutely thrilled to introduce you to Suzanne LaFleur. I fell in love with Suzanne's writing when I read Love, Aubrey while I was studying writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I even wrote a critical essay on that book at the time (it was that good!!). Last year, I devoured her novel Beautiful Blue World (see our review HERE), which has become one of my all time favorite middle grade reads. I adored the sequel, Threads of Blue, just as much. I loved it so much, in fact, that my fourth and fifth grade student book club at school has just begun reading this series. Thus, when Suzanne reached out to ask if I would like to do a cover reveal for her new middle grade book, I was elated. Here is the summary for her new book, Counting to Perfect.
Counting to Perfect, by Suzanne LaFleur
From the author of Eight Keys comes a loving story of sisters who are trying to find their way back to each other.
Julia used to be the perfect big sister: she played great games and took good care of Cassie. Now life at home revolves around Julia and her daughter, Addie. No one pays much attention to Cassie: not to her competitive swim meets, and not to what's gone wrong with her friends.
When Julia confides in Cassie that she'll be leaving with Addie--without telling their parents--Cassie jumps in the car, too. As the days of lumberjack breakfasts and hotel pools start to add up, Cassie has to wonder: Could the sister who seems to be the source of all her problems also be the friend she's missed the most?
Without further ado, here is Suzanne, in her own words, with a bit about Counting to Perfect:
IN HER OWN WORDS:
I think readers who enjoy the relationships in my books will feel right at home in Counting to Perfect. I've devoted more pages than ever before to the experience of being sisters. The scenes with both Cassie and her sister Julia were my favorites to write. I love how the girls love each other and can be laughing even when they are fighting. I love how they talk to each other, how they banter and argue. I love how they have to discover who they are, with and without reference to each other.
And now, Happily Ever Elephants is proud to present the cover for Counting to Perfect:
Isn't it beautiful? This cover is a story in and of itself, and I cannot wait to get my hands on this book!
Ready for some more fun with Suzanne? Check out our speed interview!
UNDER THE COVER: Speed Interview!
1. As a kid: books or basketball? Books!! I read for hours every day...I was also a swimmer, but there was always a book in my swim bag, to read on the ride, on deck, between heats...
2. In college: study or soiree? Study
3. To start your day: coffee or tea? Coffee--but make that an espresso--iced--with almond milk--and vanilla--and something sweet. I'll have another in the afternoon, thanks!
4. In your car: top 40 or podcast? I live in NYC and take the subway, which means I have hands and eyes free to read books. So on the go I'm reading or thinking about what I'm writing. At home I have an audio book on around the clock (except for when writing)--so when cooking, cleaning, coloring, playing video games, and even when I'm sleeping. In the morning I set it back to the last thing I remember.
5. Writing schedule: 9-5 or whenever it fits in? No schedule--but not because I'm trying to fit it in. Because every hour or two of writing takes at least eight hours of thinking. I never sit at a blank page or computer without already knowing what I'm going to write. I carry the scenes around, roll the words in my head until they settle. I listen to the narrator say the same thing over and over. When a scene seems ready, I'll sit to record it. I usually do this in the morning, at a coffee shop, though sometimes I work better in the afternoon, so it varies. I put in longer hours when revising under deadline.
6. What came first: character or setting? Always character. The character explains the setting to me as needed.
7. First draft: sloppy or sleek? A sloppy arrangement of sleek scenes.
8. Writing reward: vino or vanilla? A raspberry tart from Le Pain Quotidien. I love both raspberries and pastry cream so that dessert is heaven.
9. On your nightstand: Newbery or Pulitzer? Newbery. I read one book for adults to every dozen for children.
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.
Want me to be flat out honest with you? I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. I hated walking around school as a teenager, with lanky legs and frizzy hair and a mouth full of braces, while the so-called “pretty” girls were practically human flower shops, complete with pink and red heart balloons blowing in the air atop bouquets of roses and carnations. I’ve always hated that there’s a holiday forcing us to say I love you, when it really should be said to those we care about every day. But now, thanks to Carter Higgins and Lucy Ruth Cummins' new book, This is Not a Valentine, I kinda fell in love with it. Because this book... oh man. This book is everything.
This is Not a Valentine is such a tender story of a little boy navigating his first crush. It’s not about the trite things kids (or adults, for that matter!) think they should give someone to show their love- but instead those precious, unique things children do that, when viewed through a little one's eyes, become magical and meaningful. And, oh, the denial! That sweet, innocent denial, when kids try so hard to vocalize how they don't feel — but their actions tell the entire world a wholly different story!
This heartfelt book is so accessible to children, illustrating that love is composed of those tiny actions we take to show someone we care about how much they brighten our world. This is Not a Valentine is such a sweet exploration of the childlike ways kids may show their admiration for one another - and the thing that makes it extraordinarily special is the beautiful manner in which it coveys how meaningful it is to give others the little things we know will make them the happiest. This is Not a Valentine is picture book perfection, in every sense of the word. In short? It exudes love and tenderness, hands down. Two trunks up for this gem!
Want the book? Get it here! This is Not a Valentine, by Carter Higgins. HEE received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are our own.
I've always loved the newness that arrives on the first of January, the way the year opens up overflowing with wonder and promise, pure as a cloudless sky. It's a blank canvas, right? Maybe your surroundings look the same - you're waking up under the same comforter, brewing that first cup of coffee in your chipped but cherished mug, making your kids their favorite Mickey waffles - but the day ahead is filled with an almost tangible feeling of hope. And as each year slides -- whether whisper soft or with a deafening bang -- into the next, we are given a fresh start. A clean slate. A new chance.
Enter What Do You Do With a Chance?, by Kobi Yamada, featuring gorgeous illustrations by Mae Besom. Can this team do no wrong? Each book in this trilogy has moved me deeply, with words and illustrations that came into my life at exactly the perfect time. In Chance, a child gets just that - a chance - that appears out of nowhere. But the boy doesn't embrace it; he is uncertain, and thus pulls away. When the next chance comes around, he reaches for it and falls. He is overcome with fear, never wanting to feel so foolish again. The chances keep appearing, though, but because he keeps ignoring them, they eventually cease. Only then, of course, does the boy realize that as scared as he is, he does want to take a chance. Will he be brave enough to seize a new opportunity? You've got to read it to find out.
"If only I had a chance to [insert the myriad of things you or your kids or your students desire but never actually do HERE]." How many times have you heard this? How many times have you said it yourself? What Do You Do With A Chance? is the perfect book to challenge this way of thinking - to change our mindsets from "I wish I could" to "of course I can." We all have it in us to take chances, to embrace new opportunities. And we have to remember that though we may fall, or even fail, the beauty of seizing a chance lies in embracing the intertwined feelings of fear and excitement that come with trying again. Here's to this brilliant conversation starter, a stunning conclusion to a breathtaking and inspiring trilogy. And, of course, here's to seizing chances in 2018.
Want the book? Get it here! What Do You Do With a Chance?, by Kobi Yamada. *HEE received an advanced review copy of What Do You Do With A Chance, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own. Check out our review of What Do You Do With an Idea?, the first book in the trilogy, HERE!
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.