Review: Can I Touch Your Hair? Uses Poetry To Discuss Race, Address Differences

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My brother wanted to cut off all his curls because people at school kept touching his hair. That happens to me sometimes. If I put my hair in a ponytail or in a bun, my friends touch it. If I wear my hair in braids, they play with the beads. And when I wear it down, they pat it and comment on how “poofy” it is.

My Mom says they are fascinated by my hair texture, but that I should decide if it is OK if  people to touch it.

A boy in the book Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship has a similar problem. People ask him if they can touch his hair, but then they touch it before he can respond. I thought the whole book was going to be about hair. But there is just one poem that talks about that.

The book, by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, is about two kids, a white girl named Irene and a black boy named Charles, who are in 5th grade like me. Through poetry, they write about the same topics, church, school, shoes and hair — but from different perspectives. I noticed most of the poems have the words black and white in it.

At the start of the book, Charles and Irene were unhappy that they were paired together for the poetry project.  But they bond more and more, and soon they learn just because they are different, doesn’t mean they can’t be friends.

Some of the poems were difficult to understand, like the one about why Irene’s aunt didn’t go downtown after dark. So, if you are reading this book, you might need an adult to help explain some stuff.

I really liked the illustrations in this book! The book caught my attention because of the title and because of the illustrators, Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, who also did the pictures for The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, that I reviewed. (Check the blog Wednesday for for an interview with Selina Alko, who also was the author of that book.)

I liked Can I Touch Your Hair? because it showed that people have different experiences, depending on their families and where they grow up and that you can be friends with people, no matter their race. And that there’s no such thing as “acting like a white boy” or “acting like a black girl.”

I recommend this book to middle-grade readers who want to read how kids like them feel about certain topics.  Also, to anyone who loves poetry, you will probably really like this book.

I give it 3 out of 4 roses.


One comment

  1. Elena, it sounds like this book covered several tough topics. Poetry might be a good means to tackle it all. Since you have friends of all races, did you think this book accurately portrayed some of the issues that occur with having a diverse group of friends?


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