CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? by Irene Latham
Kirkus Star

CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?

Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship
Age Range: 8 - 12
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A fresh approach to exploring interracial communication.

In an unusual, long-distance collaboration, poets Latham and Waters have crafted a collection of poems that explore the intersection between race and childhood friendships. Each poet reveals his or her individual perspective on shared experiences by imagining their childhood selves existing in the current day of complex racial realities. Their interactions, expressed through poetic verse, navigate the ambiguous and often challenging feelings that children encounter as they grapple with identity and race—a process forced on them when they are paired for a classroom poetry project. The story takes readers through school days, interludes with concerned parents, and polarizing peer interactions. In one scene, young Irene, who is white, feels ostracized when she isn’t invited to play freeze dance with the black girls on the playground. At the beach, young Charles, who is black, is teased by white kids who wear dreadlocks and cornrows, appropriating the culture of black people, while bullying and spewing hate toward Charles. In between the uncomfortable moments are lighter, universal childhood scenarios, as when Charles asserts his choice to be vegan at a traditional soul-food dinner or when Irene describes the solace she finds in her love of horses. Interracial couple Qualls and Alko contribute graceful illustrations that give the feelings expressed visual form.

A brave and touching portrayal worthy of sharing in classrooms across America. (Picture book/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5124-0442-5
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: Carolrhoda
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2017




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