A Newbery Honor Book
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Named one of the best books of 2017 by NPR, the Huffington Post , Publishers Weekly , Kirkus Reviews , the Los Angeles Times , the Boston Globe , the Horn Book Magazine , the News & Observer , BookPage , Chicago Public Library, and more
The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.
A fresh cut makes boys fly.
This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.
Derrick Barnes, a graduate of Jackson State University, is the author of eight books, including the popular series Ruby and the Booker Boys. He also wrote best-selling copy for Hallmark as the first African American male staff writer for the company. Barnes resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his wife and four sons.
Gordon C. James, a graduate of the School of Visual Arts, is a nationally recognized, award-winning fine artist specializing in figurative drawing. He is the illustrator of the Scraps of Time children’s book series. He has worked for Hallmark as an illustrator and artist and has taught at the University of North Carolina. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
★ 08/28/2017Publishers Weekly
How good can a haircut make a person feel? “Magnificent. Flawless. Like royalty.” In a powerfully moving tribute to barbershop culture, Barnes (We Could Be Brothers) addresses readers directly—and it’s safe to say his audience is primarily boys of color—using hyperbole to boost their confidence and help them recognize their own value. “You came in as a lump of clay,” he writes, “a blank canvas, a slab of marble./ But when my man is done with you,/ they’ll want to post you up in a museum.” Created with thick, forceful daubs of paint, James’s luminous portraits reinforce the idea that, when a person looks this good, not even the sky is the limit. Of a man admiring the curving designs newly shaved into his head, the narrator remarks, “Maybe there’s a river named after him on Mars. He looks that important.” Pride, confidence, and joy radiate from the pages, both in the black and brown faces of men, women, boys, and girls featured in James’s majestic paintings, and in writing that celebrates human worth with every syllable. Barbers included: “Tip that man! Tip that man!” Ages 3–8. (Oct.)Correction: An earlier version of this review attributed the paintings in the book to the book's author.
Praise for Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut:
“The swagger is on a million. The sauce is drippin’. . . . This book oozes with black cool and timely, much-needed black joy, using the unique and expansive experience of the barbershop to remind young boys that their inner lives have always mattered there. One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“With language so hot you expect the words to ignite the page, Derrick Barnes endows the boy at this book’s center with flash, strut, pizzazz and the pure unregulated pride of knowing you look like a million bucks. Accompanied by layered paintings that bounce back the beat of the words like the sweetest of jazz riffs, here’s an ode to looking good and feeling great.” —Betsy Bird, NPR Book Concierge: Best Books of 2017
“ Crown captures that extra bounce in your step as confidence crackles from the top of your freshly-shorn head down through your feet. With a flawless delivery, Barnes and James’ book is a celebration of self-esteem and a thoughtful nod to the importance of stepping into the world with a touch of swagger.” —The Huffington Post: Best Picture Books of 2017
“It’s not just a pleasure to read, it also does something important, and that is to show up and show out for black kids, black culture and black language. It’s about that time honored tradition for black folks of sitting in the chair at the barbershop, and the power of being seen as a black boy beyond stereotype out here in America. . . . Hook yourself up with this sweet and mighty book, both for you and your kids.” —Rebecca Carroll, Los Angeles Times Top Books of 2017
“Barnes’ language affirms the sacredness of the fresh-cut experience, which allows young black men to feel like kings.” — The Root
“A powerfully moving tribute to barbershop culture . . . . Pride, confidence, and joy radiate from the pages, both in the black and brown faces of men, women, boys, and girls featured in Barnes’s majestic paintings, and in writing that celebrates human worth with every syllable.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Themes of confidence-building, self-esteem, and joy of young black boys are the important takeaways, and the illustrations jump off the page and invite readers to share in the experience. A super fun read-aloud, this title is a recommended purchase for all picture book collections.” — School Library Journal, starred review
“Alternately precise, metaphorical, and culturally specific, Barnes’s descriptions make each page a serendipity. . . . A not-to-be-missed portrayal of the beauty of black boyhood.” — Horn Book Magazine, starred review
“ The interchange between the art and the words lights the very pages on fire. . . A long overdue title we couldn't have waited another minute for.” — School Library Journal's A Fuse #8 Production Blog
“Barnes mixes fresh and sharp lines with an integral part of the African American experience: maintaining one’s hair. Illustrator James deftly uses bright colors . . . and a colorful galaxy complements Barnes’ words well. The strong voice will resonate with readers, soothe any young child scared of their first cut, and give a boost of confidence to the seasoned pros.” — Booklist
“ In this homage to Black barbershops, the author perfectly captures the meaning of this rite of passage for Black boys. And breathtaking visuals by the infinitely creative Gordon C. James match the energetic text. If the first three tomes are any indication, Denene Millner Books will continue to highlight the best talent and reads for an audience who truly deserves both.” — Essence
“ Magnificent. . . . Let this young man’s strut, pizzazz, and pride show you what happens when you get a truly great haircut.” —Evanston Public Library
“A top-notch paean to pride, community, and joy.” —Denver Public Library Best & Brightest Books of 2017
“I read this book three times, in quick succession, just so I could appreciate its pictures again and again.” — Houston Style Magazine
“ Crown is a book you should be looking for.” — The Washington Informer
“To say that Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James knocked their first picture book out of the ballpark would be an understatement about a book with very little that is understated about it.” —KirkusReviews.com
“Rhythmic, vibrant words plus bold, oil painting illustrations give this barbershop experience a swagger of its own.” — Imagination Soup
“The perfect gift for all the fly young black boys in your life.” —Blavity.com
“A burst of energy that makes you so happy it exists.” — Mr. Brian’s Picture Book Picks
“A brilliant blend of text and illustration.” — Unpacking Picture Book Power
“A beautifully written and illustrated tribute to little black and brown boys.” — Growing Book by Book
“A book that begs to be read aloud. It begs to be shared and shared and shared.” — Abby the LibrarianFrom the Publisher
★ 09/01/2017School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Rhythmic text describes the feeling of a young African American boy as he gets a "fresh cut" and how a trip to the barbershop changes the way he feels about the world and in turn how the world perceives him. He might just "smash that geography exam" or "rearrange the principal's honor roll" and, of course, the cute girl in class won't be able to keep her eyes off of him. The protagonist spends time looking at black men in chairs next to him and creating vivid stories about their lives: "the dude to the left of you with a faux-hawk…looks presidential…maybe he's the CEO of a tech company." Oil paintings illustrate the intricacies of the haircuts, details in the characters' faces, along with the sense of well-being that is conveyed along the way. While a trip the barbershop is the main story line, the themes of confidence-building, self-esteem, and joy of young black boys are the important takeaways, and the illustrations jump off the page and invite readers to share in the experience. VERDICT A super fun read-aloud, this title is a recommended purchase for all picture book collections.—Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library, NY
★ 2017-08-07Kirkus Reviews
Safe to say, there's nothing like the feeling of the fresh cut. You feel so extra visible with a fresh new cut, and this book built from that experience translates it in a way never before brought to the children's bookshelf. Basquiat-inspired king insignias and a bit of Kehinde Wiley flair shape portraits of all the various ways men (and women too!) come into the black barbershop to restore their cool, leaving the chair with high self-esteem, self-pride, and confidence—if only for as long as their hairlines remain crisp. It's sacred. The all-important line and the diverse styles take center stage here. The Big Daddy Kane-homage flat-top. The part. The light shape-up surrounded by cornrows and locs. The taper. The classic wavy dark Caesar. Barnes' imaginative prose mirrors the hyperbole and swagger of the barbershop. No cut is just good. It will have you looking "presidential," "majestic." Like you own "a couple of acres of land on Saturn." The swagger is on a million. The sauce is drippin'. James' oil-based portraiture will send many readers reminiscing. This book oozes black cool and timely, much-needed black joy, using the unique and expansive experience of the barbershop to remind young boys that their inner lives have always mattered there. One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop. (Picture book. 5-12)