Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

Written by: Derrick Barnes

Illustrated by: Gordon C. James

For Ages: 3-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Self-Esteem, Community, POC-Centric Narratives.

Summary:  This lyrical book’s narrator is a young boy at the barber shop, describing the experience.  He LOVES the way a new haircut makes him feel, confident and refers to himself as Dark Caesar.  The narrator says that a “fresh cut does something to your brain, right? It hooks up your intellectual”.  Girls will think he’s cute, and there will be “more waves…than the Atlantic Ocean”.  The narrator goes on to describe the other patrons of the shop, and daydreams about what their jobs might be with their important-looking haircuts.  With this new haircut, the narrator feels important and like he can take on the world, describing the look in people’s eyes when they see him.  One of the most beautiful lines in this book reads: It’s how your mother looks at you before she calls you beautiful…being viewed in your mother’s eyes as someone that matters-now that’s beautiful.  This book celebrates the community that is a barber shop for POC, and rejoices in the confidence these often marginalized individuals gain from the experience.    This book portrays self-esteem and acceptance in a young boy that may not always feel that way, but should.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you feel after a new haircut?
  • Have you ever been to a barber shop?
  • Why do you think the narrator thinks the other men in the shop “look important’?
  • When do you feel good about yourself?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Think about a place where you feel comfortable and accepted.  What makes you feel that way?  How can you make others feel accepted and loved when they are around you?
  • Draw your fantasy haircut!  Start with a paper with a blank body, and draw in the haircut you want one day.  You could even design the wackiest hair you could think of, but don’t necessarily want on your head!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

cropped-img_8599Derrick D. Barnes is from Kansas City, MO. He is a graduate of Jackson State University with a BA degree in Marketing. He is the author of the critically acclaimed picture book CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut (Denene Millner Books/Agate Bolden) which recently won the 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Award. It was also a HUGE winner at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards, taking home FOUR Honor awards: the Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, Newberry Honor, and the Caldecott Honor. His first two books were published by Scholastic; Stop Drop and Chill, and The Low Down Bad Day Blues.  His first YA novel, The Making of Dr. Truelove was published by Simon Pulse which was recognized by the American Library Association as a Quick Pick For Reluctant Readers. He is also the author of the best selling chapter book series entitled Ruby and the Booker Boys (Scholastic). His 2011 middle grade hardcover classic We Could Be Brothers was rereleased in paperback in 2017 by Just Us Books. Prior to becoming a published author, Derrick wrote best-selling copy for various Hallmark Card lines and was the first African American male staff writer for the company. He is the owner of a creative copy writing company, Say Word Creative Communications.  He is also the creator of the popular blog Raising The Mighty, where he ‘chronicles the experience of bringing up four beautiful Black boys in America’. His next book, entitled The King of Kindergarten, will be published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. Derrick resides in Charlotte, NC with his enchanting wife, Dr. Tinka Barnes and their four sons, Ezra, Solomon, Silas, and Nnamdi (Nom-dee).

gordon c jamesGordon C. James’ chosen artistic genre has its roots in Impressionism.  The art of John Singer Sargent, Nicholai Fechin, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and many others inspired James to pursue a style that is both academic and expressive.  As a result his work contains a lyricism not often found in contemporary art.  Be it through the sensitivity found in his romantic pieces, or commitment to excellence in his commercial work, James always connects with his viewer.  He says of his work, “When people see my art I want them to say, I know that person, I know that feeling.” James currently resides in Charlotte, NC with his wife Ingrid, their children Astrid and Gabriel, and their dog Rascal.

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