These illustrated verses for all ages celebrate the hair of people with African heritage—its styles, its textures, its versatility, and its beauty.
Houston (When the Devil Is Beating His Wife, 2013) explains in her introduction that this book is aimed at children who’ve been teased about their hair and that it will also serve as a reminder to family members, friends, and mentors to teach self-love because everyone is “made in the image of God.” The five sections here—“Our Journey Begins,” “The Legacy They Left,” “Gift, Grace & Glory,” “The Men, the Women & the Balm,” and “A Journey of Triumph”—contain several verses of five to six lines each and conclude with a short phrase and the refrain “My Afrikah Hair.” The poems praise different aspects of this hair and/or the African-American experience, often linked to religious reflections. Roberts’ (Naturally You, 2015) mixed-media illustrations appear on facing pages, and they’re colorful and expressive. Pride in the variety of braids, head wraps, hair colors, and hair lengths is everywhere on display, as is family closeness. The second verse doesn’t directly mention hairstyles, for instance, but its image shows an African-American father with close-cropped hair reading a bedtime story to a young daughter with a puffy, gathered style: “He soothes me / with singing and prayer. / To sleep we will go / but one thing I know / Jesus Loves, My Afrikah Hair.” Boys also get verses of their own: “Call it nappy / but I got it from my pappy / a trademark of my race / It whispers to me.” In this case, the illustration depicts a playground slide and a father holding his son on his shoulders; the boy has medium-length curly hair, the father long braids, and both laugh in delight. Overall, the verse mostly scans well, and it’s well-suited for reading aloud. The book could have done better at modeling consent, however; one verse excuses a boy for pulling a girl’s hair for the ancient reason that he likes her—as if what she likes doesn’t matter. Also, the book’s overtly Christian emphasis may not suit all families.
A joyful and heartfelt book of poems.