Friday, February 23, 2018


I'm not sure whether CROWN: AN ODE TO THE FRESH CUT, really counts as poetry, but it definitely falls into my category of poetic picture books, and it's a book I want lots of people to know about, so I'm sharing it for POETRY FRIDAY.

CROWN captures the experience of a young African American boy on his weekly trip to the barbershop. I read it, and am instantly drawn back to the days of taking my boys for their bi-weekly haircuts with Mr. Stan. How they would plan what cut they were going to get. The wisdom Stan would impart as they sat in the chair. How they'd pose in front of the mirror afterwards.

CROWN is definitely poetic. Listen to the first couple of pages:

When it's your turn in the chair,
you stand at attention and forget about
who you were when you
walked through that door.

You came in as a lump of clay,
a blank canvas, a slab of marble.
But when my man is done wiht you,
they'll want to post you up in a museum!
                            That's my word.

He'll drape you like royalty with that cape
to keep the fine hairs off of your neck
          and your princely robes.
It's amazing what a tight face, high/low/bald
does for your confidence:
                           Dark Caesar.

And the last couple of pages:

You'll put the money in his hand
without even expecting change back.
Tip that man! Tip that man! 
             It was worth it. It always is.

You know why?
Because you'll leave out of "the shop"
every single time, feeling the exact same way…

                           Like royalty.

Hello, world. 

The poetic text is accompanied by rich, detailed, colorful illustrations. Boys who look exactly like my boys. And the kids I've taught over the past thirty years.

If you are a person who cares about awards, it's important to know that this book has won a whole lot of awards in it's short life:
  • A Newbery Honor Book
  • A Caldecott Honor Book
  • A Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
  • A Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
  • An Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award Book
  • An Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor Book
  • A Society of Illustrators Gold Medal Book
In an author's note, Derrick Barnes says, "CROWN: AN ODE TO THE FRESH CUT focuses on the humanity, the beautiful, smart, raw, perceptive assured humanity of black boys/sons/brothers/ nephews/grandsons and how the see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror. Deep down inside, they wish everyone could see what they see: a real life, breathing, compassionate, thoughtful, brilliant, limitless soul that matters, that desperately matters. We've always mattered."

Liz Steinglass is hosting Poetry Friday today.

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