Nappy Hair

Nappy Hair

4.0 6
by Carolivia Herron, Joe Cepeda

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Now in Dragonfly: a lively, empowering story about Brenda's knotted-up, twisted, nappy hair and how it got to be that way! Told in the African-American "call and response" tradition, this story leaps off the page, along with vibrant illustrations by Joe Cepeda.

Winner of a Parenting Reading Magic Award  See more details below


Now in Dragonfly: a lively, empowering story about Brenda's knotted-up, twisted, nappy hair and how it got to be that way! Told in the African-American "call and response" tradition, this story leaps off the page, along with vibrant illustrations by Joe Cepeda.

Winner of a Parenting Reading Magic Award

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The family's cross talk takes on the high-voltage spark and crackle of a gospel revival. The accompanying illustrations are deliriously silly and sly." —Parenting magazine

"Herron captures the free-for-all atmosphere of a Sunday get-together and the spontaneous, true-to-life quality of her writing will resonate with children and families who share Brenda's experiences."—Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Based on a tape recorded at a family gathering attended by the author, this zesty book also draws inspiration from the African American tradition of call and response. At a family picnic, Uncle Mordecai serves up jibe after jibe about young Brenda's locks-"the kinkiest, the nappiest, the fuzziest, the most screwed up, squeezed up... hair you've ever seen in your life." Each sally elicits responses from the relatives, who chime in with "Don't cha know"; "That's the way"; and so forth. As Uncle Mordecai continues, he describes a delegation of angels trying to talk God out of giving Brenda her wild hair; he flashes abruptly back to Africa, where Brenda is "getting ready to come to America with them slaves." Herron, a first-time author, captures the free-for-all atmosphere of a Sunday get-together, and the spontaneous, true-to-life quality of her writing will resonate with children and families who share Brenda's experiences. Other readers, however, could easily be left at sea, confused by the erratic progression of the narrative. To some extent, both the book design and Cepeda's (The Old Man and the Door) vibrant paintings help pull together the text's disparate strands. Skillfully varied typefaces set off the responses of different speakers and thereby convey the impression of hearing from many voices. Cepeda's stylized art picks up on the energy and exuberance of the crowd; his work also focuses on Brenda (who otherwise is not heard from), defining her character to be as strong-willed and lively as her famous hair. All ages. (Jan.)
Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
For a hilarious take on self-esteem, turn to Carolivia Herron's Nappy Hair. Participants at a backyard picnic comment on a young girl's curly-curly hair. The call-and-response pattern of the dialogue captures the voices of the various family members as well as the rhythms of African American speech. Based on fond recollections of the author's own childhood experience with "nappy hair," the story is enriched with Joe Cepeda's vibrant illustrations of an expressive family.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3The title leaves no doubt about the focus of this picture book. At a family picnic, everyone pokes fun at the youngest girl's nappy hair. Devised as a call-and-response dialogue, the interchanges offer explanations and comments on why Brenda's hair is the nappiest, the curliest, the twistiest hair in the family. The answers involve African origins, God's intent, and pride in one's self; e.g., the Lord "looked down on this cute little brown baby girl" and said, "One nap of her hair is the only perfect circle in nature." The slightly exaggerated, colorful illustrations depict hair as wild and woolly as Don King's, and they comically embellish the message. The device of the multi-voiced dialogue, characterized in different type styles and sizes, rhythmically carries an ethnic flavor, but what's missing here is story. It's nice to see such familial unity but there's no strong narrative to reinforce that theme. Because the message is the entire point, the effect is akin to a one-joke book.Julie Cummins, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Uncle Mordecai calls out the story of Brenda's hair—the nappiest hair in the world—at the family picnic, while everyone else chimes in with affirmations: "Yep," "You said it," and "Ain't it the truth." At first they think Mordecai is making fun of Brenda's hair; when he says that combing it out sounds like crunching through deep snow with two inches of crust on top, somebody says, "Brother, you ought to be ashamed." But soon it's clear that his only purpose is celebration: "One nap of her hair is the only perfect circle in nature," hair that is ordained by God Himself. The text, illustrations, and overall design of the book work exceptionally well together. Uncle Mordecai's narration is set in a serif typeface, with the interjected responses set in a variety of serif and sans-serif typefaces for emphasis. The exuberant gospel rhythm of the text is matched by Cepeda's bold, color-saturated paintings, particularly his renderings of little Brenda. She's clearly a child who stomps through life with a lot of spunk and energy.

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Dragonfly Books Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.13(d)
AD200L (what's this?)
Age Range:
3 - 7 Years

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Nappy Hair 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
bibliophilist More than 1 year ago
While I found the concept of this story very innovative by using the call and response that is so popular, I found the delivery left much to be explained. In theory, the nappy haired girl in the book is being celebrated at the family reunion, but what happens is that uncle whoever essentially goes dirty dozen on the girl while the family listens and agrees for three quarters of the book. Finally in the last quarter the child is not complimented by her family, but rather told that god made her that way because he wanted himself a pretty brown baby girl with nappy hair. Many kids will misunderstand the comments in this book as insults with out proper guidance. And because the format mimics the game play of dirty dozens ("yo mama so fat... you so stupid... you so black...etc) it has great potential to do more harm than good without someone there to ensure that readers come away with the intended message not just the snazzy "yo hair so nappy" parts. After reading this book through one time I gave it away. When it comes to children's picture books I much prefer books that are written with their mental capacity in mind. The book "I love my Hair" by Natasha A. Tarpley is a much more positive and nurturing book. It does not need to be interpreted for the reader. There are only positive images put forth and therefore only positive images to take away from it. Nappy Hair is an great book in the tradition of call and response of black culture, but it leaves a lot to be desired in the positive example department. The mixed message sent is one that works the same as the proverbial double edged sword. Careful with this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm 21 years old, but occasionally I find myself in the juvenile literature sections of book stores. There are so many stories that came after my childhood days that I feel would be a travesty to not allow my self the honor of reading them. Especially the works that are geared toward African-American children. I have often had the displeasure of reading Caucasion misrepresentations of African-American life, so I specifically target the works of writers who are of African descent. I currently work in an elementary school classroom, and I look forward to bringing Nappy Hair to share with my students. This is a story that is personal, energetic, truthful, and informative and should be a catalyst for changes in our perceptions of beauty and African identity. There is one problem, however, with the Dragonfly Books paperback edition. On the inside cover, it recommends lessons to suppliment the reading. One of these lessons is the writing descriptive sentences about one's physical features. The lesson asks the child 'What is your hair like? What are your eyes like?' And goes on to give examples like 'Sarah's hair is soft as silk' 'John's nose is small as a button' 'Nancy's eyes are as blue as the ocean' and 'Dave's cheeks are as red as rubies'. These are all caucasion features and have absolutely no place in a book that is intended to be a celebration of African identity, especially without a single African feature even mentioned. Not only is that a disservice to Ms. Herron's great book and her noble intention, it's disrespectful and I will not use that activity in my lessons related to this wonderful work of art and literature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrible! I would never read this book to children! It is a self-hate and demeaning book that would kill the self-esteem of African children that this book is targeted for.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have never read the book, but I plan to buy it. I saw Nappy Hair done for a competitive skit competion. The actress who did it was an African American highschooler who chose it because of her own nappy hair. SHe was hilarious in doing all the voices and persuaded me to check out the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I think this is a great self- esteem book to read to little girls with hair just like that. It shows how unique and special they are and that they should not feel bad about the type of hair they have.