Marvelous New Picture Book Monday: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

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This week I read Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes, Illustrated by Gordon C. James. Crown was one of the Caldecott honorable mentions for 2018 and after reading it I can see why. Not only is the writing brilliantly done with incredible detail surrounding the event of getting one’s hair cut, but the illustrations are unique and add a lot to the story.

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I really loved the illustrations and believe they matched the story well. It seems like the medium for the illustrations are heavier layered paints, and especially in the image below you can see where the illustrator Gordon C. James used a specific tool to manipulate and carve away the paint on the man’s hair to show his “fresh new cut”. You can see where each brush (or maybe even finger) strokes were done to give the illustrations a very authentic and personally made look.

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One of the lines I loved towards the beginning of the book was when the main character says, “You came in as a lump of clay, 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”. Not only are the words, the rhythm and sound of the text poetic, but the imagery of a “lump of clay” is carried out through the illustrations. The way the illustrations are done, it almost looks as if the people are clay figurines, manipulated and carved into wonderful pieces of art.

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Something else I love about this book it that it’s about a diverse character, a very relatable young black boy. In ENED 2200 we have talked a lot about the severe lack of diverse characters in picture books and the resulting inability of people of color to see themselves properly represented.

Although I am speaking from my own experiences as a white woman, I can see Crown as a step in the right direction with a main character a lot of young black boys could relate to and story they could imagine themselves in. In Crown there are a lot of specific haircutting terms such as do-rag, faux-hawk, deep part, skin fade, shape up, tapered sides, and crisp but subtle lines. I have personally never used these terms when getting my own haircut, but these could be terms some black boys interact with in their daily lives. To have this language represented in a picture book with incredible illustrations and beautiful writing, being able to read this book and see terms you use and interact with represented, is an incredible thing every child should be able to achieve.

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I really enjoyed this book and hope more like it are written and illustrated in the future.

-Katrin Fischer

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