Miller tells it like it is while giving children of color permission to set boundaries when people reach out to touch their curly, kinky, or nappy hair.
Aria, a brown-skinned protagonist, opens this picture book by introducing herself with a double-page, gutter-spanning image of her smiling face and her full head of hair that takes up three-quarters of the spread: “I’m Aria, and this is my hair.” Aria loves her hair, but others do too—so much so that they want to touch it even without permission. Aria decidedly does not like this. To demonstrate how she avoids touching hands, she appears eight times on one page—in full aerial split, karate-style airborne kick, curled into a fetal position, tentative headstand, and more—hemmed in almost all the way around by groping, outstretched hands. Even when she attempts to escape underwater, an octopus and a mermaid chase her, tentacles and arms extended. Wherever she travels, she can’t get away from this threat…until she learns a strategy that works. Miller’s variegated watercolor, pencil, and ink illustrations effectively portray Aria’s verve as well as her frustrations. The cover image and several others depict disembodied hands and arms in many skin tones reaching for Aria’s hair, suggesting that this intrusive behavior can come from anyone.
Miller’s lighthearted touch effectively delivers a serious, necessary message about respecting boundaries. (Picture book. 3-8)