By Elizabeth Wroten
On 23, Aug 2019 | In Uncategorized | By Elizabeth Wroten
Hair With Flair written by Audrey O. Hinds, illustrated by Hatice Bayramgolu
From GoodReads: Samantha’s big day had finally arrived. It was time to wow her audience with the best art they had ever seen. It was an exciting time for her to show all the people she loved how hard she had been working to impress them with the gift of her art. She had thought of everything right down to her nail polish, but in all the chaos leading up to her big show she forgot one very important detail – her hair.
As her art show begins, Samantha realizes her hair is completely untamable, but the show must go on, right? As the story goes on, Samantha finally embraces what the rest of the world had already seen, her most magnificent artwork of all – her hair with flair!
So I’m going to preface this with, I read Hair With Flair to my almost eight year old and she really enjoyed it. As a kid whose hair looks like a rat might be living in it and for better or worse as she becomes more aware of her appearance, she can relate to having hair that can suddenly feel less than perfect.
Hair With Flair is a really cute story about Samantha who has organized an art show for her friends. She has set up her room with her drawings and paintings, set a time, sent invites, and is now waiting for everyone to show up. Except something in the back of her mind is keeps telling her she’s forgotten something. As her guests start trickling in she realizes she has forgotten to style her hair. Uncomfortable at first, Samantha realizes her hair is beautiful exactly as it comes out of her head and that it is an artistic expression of who she is. We loved that Samantha took great pride in both her art and herself and that her friends celebrated who she was and her artistic accomplishments. It’s an all around lovely story of pride in yourself and your work celebrated by your friends.
Something about the illustrations, maybe the colors or the setting, reminds me of the Lego Friends sets. One of those characters is an artist and creator. If you have kids in your class or library or home that love Lego Friends, give this book a try. The bright colors and fun story would make this a good title to read aloud at storytime.
Going back to what I prefaced this review with, as a white parent reading this book I felt a little odd about the focus on appearance over the content of the art show. But I recognize that this is my daughter’s privilege to be able to go out in public and be a mess and no one looks askance at her. She’s just a hippie child, nothing more. I know that hair is a huge deal for black folks (kids and adults alike). I mean, for Pete’s sake, we just had a law passed in 2019 that “allows” Black folks hair to grow out of their heads as it does naturally. So the fact that Samantha is worried about her hair and then comes to embrace it is HUGE. It also means that while the book can be enjoyed by white kids and families, it’s not necessarily meant for us.
Pair this with Melanin Origins phenomenal Barber Chop and their biography Louisiana Belle: A Snippet in the Life of Madam CJ Walker. As far as stocking this on your shelves, in libraries and classrooms and homes, hair and hair care is frequently a big deal with kids of all kinds and Hair With Flair should absolutely be added to collections that have books on grooming (fiction and nonfiction). If you have fashionistas in your audience, you should also make sure you purchase this title. And if you have any kids of color that need their hair and their appearance validated, absolutely be sure to include this book on your shelves. Until we don’t have to pass absurd laws about Black folks hair, we need all the books about celebrating and embracing Black kids hair that we can get.
Disclosure: I was sent a review copy by the publisher, Melanin Origins, in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase the book here (not affiliate links):
Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 08, Sep 2017 | In Uncategorized | By Elizabeth Wroten
Just a quick post to say I dropped the ball this summer with my Hundred Days project. I found out in July I am pregnant with our second kid and spent the next two months meekly lying on the sofa trying not to barf. I’m in the second trimester now and starting to feel much better, so I’m just going to pick up where I left off. I started homeschooling my daughter and I’m taking a class at the local community college, so I have a few other commitments that might make blogging everyday difficult, but I will be trying to get posts up with some regularity.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 19, Oct 2015 | In Uncategorized | By Elizabeth Wroten
Sorry for the language, but I’m about to rant. Recently a few colleagues have come to me wanting me to limit types of books kids can check out (in particular I Spy, Where’s Waldo and Elephant and Piggie books). In lieu of these I’m supposed to push them into chapter books. And while I was gracious and conciliatory I didn’t give them a definite “yes, I will do that”. Because I’m not the fucking book police.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about helping kids find all kinds of books they like. From chapter books to picture books, from non fiction to fiction, from classics to new releases. The way I see it our kids come to library NOT to learn how to read, but to learn to want to read. One factor in this is that the other librarian is, by training and practice, a reading specialist. She has no other library experience and has in no way been immersed in library culture. That’s not a bad thing. Quite the contrary, she’s an incredible teacher and she knows her stuff. Plus she doesn’t get mired down in some of the library crap there is. The kids like her and she gets books in their hands. But it does mean she sees the library as the place to teach reading, not literacy. She has the same end goal as I do, life-long readers, but our approaches are vastly different.
Here’s why I refuse to become the book police:
Making reading a chore, something where you are told to choose something else or handed a book by the teacher with little to no input from you, does not make life-long readers. It makes kids who don’t want to read. It makes reading feel like something they have to do. Or worse yet, something they need to pretend to do to get the grade, make the teacher happy, or get by. I don’t want to teach kids to dissemble. I want them to love to read.
Moreover, limiting and saying no to their choices invalidates those kids. They like those books. That’s why, of their own volition, that have sought them out on the shelf and brought them to me (or the self-checkout station) to check out. They have sat down with them and started reading them. WITH ABSOLUTELY NO INTERVENTION OR ENTICEMENT on my part. None. Far be it from me to tell them they shouldn’t like that. Or that their choices suck. They probably think that about the books I choose to read. Every book its reader, right?
Also, what if a student is choosing a particular book because they see them self in it? When we tell them it’s not good enough, we invalidate that child. And let’s face it, the large majority of books that are deemed “good” and “worthwhile” are white, middle to upper class, heteronormative, with a traditional family structure. Even in my very wealthy private school these books reflect a small part of our population.
Policing kids reading also underestimates motivation. My colleagues don’t just want me telling kids they can’t read books that are “too easy”. I’m also supposed to stop kids from reading books that are “too hard”. Kids are really good at self censoring, both when it comes to content and when it comes to difficulty. I don’t want to tell the kid who loves mythology he shouldn’t be reading Percy Jackson if it’s a stretch. Especially if he really wants to. That desire is going to do a lot more for advancing his ability to read and his success than me giving him a book he’s not interested in. One thing I do, do when kids bring books that are really hard is tell them it’s okay to put it down and come back to it or ask a parent to help them read it.
I have been that reluctant, struggling reader. That was me. And guess what I learned to pretend to read the book that was handed to me by my parents and my teachers. There was stuff I wanted to read (god awful crap, looking back as an adult), but I was told it wasn’t good enough and that it I shouldn’t want to read it. The result? I read a total of 5 books for pleasure between high school and the start of graduate school. Five books in in ten years. Five books. Ten years. That’s not what we want for our students, is it? And let’s face it, the kids I’m supposed to get all book nazi on are the reluctant readers. The weak readers. Forcing them into books they haven’t chosen will do exactly this. Actually I probably read so many books in those ten years because my parents were readers and it was part of the family culture.
What happened in graduate school, you ask, that made me start reading again? Oh, just that it was library school and I was suddenly given permission to read all the YA, MG, and Kidlit I wanted. And no one batted an eye. It was “for work” and “for school”. Except I love that stuff. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT! I wish I could just read all day. Sometimes I do. Oops. I found myself as a reader. I found what I love (most things, especially if they are for younger audiences) and what I don’t like (adult fiction about sad women in bad marriages, tedious and dry nonfiction). And that’s (one of) my goals in the library- to help kids find themselves as readers. I can’t do that if I’m the one selecting their books for them. That’s them learning they don’t know themselves and I do. Which is completely false.
Sure, I’m happy to do reader’s advisory with them. I will make all kinds of suggestions and ask them questions. I may even put a book in their hand and say “try it”. But when I do that I tell them my feelings won’t be hurt if they try it and hate it or even if they don’t want to try it. My ego isn’t on the line. I know they like what they like and I like what I like. It’s not up to me to make that call for them and when they make it, it’s not a rejection of me. Just the book they didn’t like.
It’s not like these kids don’t get other practice or support reading. They’re in library for an hour a week. They are in their classrooms five days a week for 6 hours. In those classrooms the teachers are reading aloud to them and having them read aloud. Choosing books that will both challenge and help them. They have books that are precisely where their reading level is. They read these several times a week. They practice reading directions, math boxes, words on the board, spelling books, and worksheets (ugh). The classroom is where reading instruction takes place. Where they look at phonics and mechanics. That’s why librarians don’t take classes on the mechanics of reading. It’s not usually part of their curriculum. It certainly isn’t in our school, nor does it need to be.
So, to the kids in third grade who want to check out a Where’s Waldo and Elephant and Piggie, to the kids in second who want to check out three Elephant and Piggie, to the kids who want all picture books, to the kid reading graphic novels and comics, to the kids who want the thickest book in the library, to the kid who reads ten books a day: do it! You go! I love those books too. I’ve read them. I haven’t read them. I hate them. What I think doesn’t matter. What you think is the only thing that matters. You are reading. Good for you! Keep going!
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 13, Oct 2015 | In Uncategorized | By Elizabeth Wroten
I had really intended to post a chapter book review each day in October. But as you can see that hasn’t happened. I’m “taking the rest of the week off” from blogging because life has gotten a little crazy around here. I’m trying desperately to balance everything that needs to be done at home, spending quality time with my daughter, and doing a good job at work. Add to this the fact that we’re buying our neighbor’s house which involves that purchase and a refinance and a to do list a mile long to get it ready to rent and a huge house fire at the house behind ours that scared the crap out of us.
I know things are okay, but I feel like I’m failing miserably and need a week to regroup. I haven’t had enough time to really read and I was surprised to find how much that bothered me and realize how much quality taking the time to read lends to my life (even if I DNF the books!). So I will be back next week with more reviews.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 02, Jun 2015 | In Uncategorized | By Elizabeth Wroten
Just a quick post to note that I may not be as regular posting this summer (mostly July and August). I’m hoping to get some reading done, but may or may not have time to write about it.
I’m pretty excited to be teaching a week long Makerspace summer camp in July followed the next week by a sewing class. I am also going to be at ALA annual at the end of June which I’m looking forward to.
Hope everyone has a happy and safe summer.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 30, Dec 2014 | In Uncategorized | By Elizabeth Wroten
This is the post where I make my blog resolutions for next year. Feel free to skip it, I’m mostly doing it for my own accountability.
Each month I am going to review at least one:
- picture book
- chapter book
- middle grade
- and nonfiction
There will probably be more, but that’s my goal.
I will also read and review a single author in the last week of the month. Next month I’m starting with Joseph Bruchac because he is coming to Sacramento to speak!! He’ll be here early in February so I wanted to have read through a number of his books before I see him. After Joseph Bruchac I believe I will read through Jewell Parker Rhodes YA books since I read the ARC of her latest novel and loved it.
I am making a concerted effort to pick books to read next year that either feature diversity or are written by a diverse author. There are a couple books that I want to read that don’t fit the criteria (there’s a sequel to The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate coming out!!!!) but I want to be part of encouraging publishers to publish diverse titles and authors. I don’t feel like there is much I can do to help this cause yet, but I can read and review diverse literature.
I will continue to share what is going on in the Makerspace I’m running and, of course, I’ll share my thoughts on various library topics as they come up.
I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday season and 2015.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 01, Dec 2014 | In Uncategorized | By Elizabeth Wroten
I’m going to be mostly taking December off from blogging. As it is for everyone, it’s a busy time of year. I hand make almost all of my daughter’s Christmas presents and gifts for the family too. I am also madly reading through a bunch of books and need some extra time. I will be posting once a week, but I won’t be doing any book reviews. I’ll be back in January with those. Subscribe to the blog either by feed reader or using the email sign-up to the right! That way you don’t have to remember to check back and you’ll automatically see new posts when they come up.
Next year I want to limit myself to divlit and a few other projects so I’m clearing off my TBR list of books that I really want to read, but don’t fit that category. I’m sure I’ll read a few books that don’t have diversity in them, but they will be books that I really, really want to read for the sake of reading them instead of out of a sense of duty.
Happy Holidays, everyone, no matter what you celebrate this time of year.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 02, Oct 2014 | In Uncategorized | By Elizabeth Wroten
This is just a quick note about what I’ll be reviewing in October. I am going to keep plugging through primarily middle grade and kidlit books and reviewing them. I’m shifting a little younger for awhile for a couple reasons. First that TBR pile got big. Really, really big. And it needs to be pared down a bit. Also, I’m working with those ages of kids right now and I am woefully ignorant when it comes to the space between picture books and upper middle school. It’s such a shame when you have to read tons of good books for work. 😉
I also have a few ghost story anthologies that have been sitting on my bookshelf for…ahem…several years. I thought this would be the appropriate month to read and review them. They are technically adult books, but I think there is appeal across age groups. I’m going to do a whole post about gothic ghost story anthologies and favorite authors too, since I have read a lot of them.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 30, Jul 2014 | In Uncategorized | By Elizabeth Wroten
I ended up taking a little summer break from blogging. Every time I sat down to write I just didn’t have it in me, so instead of writing a bunch of half-hearted posts I took a break. I’m ready to come back though. I’ve been reading a lot over the summer and plan on continuing to read through my poor TBR pile that just keeps growing. I am also working on reading a lot more kidlit, books for the younger crowd, since I am volunteering in an elementary school library. Because of this I plan on sharing a lot more reviews.
I use this blog to help me remember what I’ve read and what those books were about as much as a place to discuss library things. I know I write short book reviews, but I write the kind of reviews I want to read about books. The majority of the time I’ll read a review to get a sense of what a book is about so I can decide whether I want to read it or not. I don’t need deep discussion about them to make that choice, although I will occasionally seek out longer reviews with spoilers when I decide not to read a book or have a strong reaction to one while reading. I have also read reviews to get a sense of whether a book is right for the library collection. I think shorter reviews that point out writing, themes, plot, and characterization are more conducive to this and so I try to touch on those things in my reviews too.
Long story short, I’ll be back in full force in a week or so with more reviews.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 16, Apr 2014 | In Uncategorized | By Elizabeth Wroten
I usually like to post one thing a week, but it just isn’t going to happen this week. My daughter caught some nasty cold and has now managed to pass it to me, my husband, my mom, my mother in law, our neighbor and her baby. There could be other victims that have yet to show symptoms. Ugh. I’ll have content next week, though.