Black (and Board Book) Joy

h1 May 27th, 2021 by jules

“thick curl sun crown”
(Click spread to enlarge)


Ruth Forman‘s Curls (Little Simon, 2020), illustrated by Geneva Bowers, was released at the tail end of last year. It is a poem of a board book, a tribute to Black girls and the pride they have in their hair — big hair, soft hair, curly hair, beaded and braided hair, and more. Publishing on its heels is Glow (Little Simon, May 2021), a tribute to Black boys (also a board book by the same duo).

Forman said in a statement at the release of Curls:

In 2014, I personally witnessed that despite being in the time that we are in, and all of the work that has been done, children of color at a very young age — even three to four — are still often viewing themselves and their hair and skin color as less than.

She goes on to say her own daughter came home from school one day, telling her that she wished she had straight hair. Forman “turned to literature to give our daughters something that reflected and celebrated their identity” — and, though she found some good books, she also “painfully witnessed the gaps in early literature.”

Enter Curls. In spare, lyrical prose, Curls celebrates young Black girls. And it is a tribute to not just their hair and its textures and styles, but also their very identity. Their smiles, their energy, their friendships — it’s all here in eleven spreads in a book made for small hands. Bowers’s soft illustrations nearly glow. They feature close-ups of four Black girls, who have immense pride in their hair.

Glow, on shelves this month, is about a Black boy heading home after a day of baseball with a friend: “gold gold sun down.” It’s not just the setting sun that glows, however; there are also fireflies on his way home and the “night stars” and full moon as he bathes by a window. “I shine night too,” we read, the boy depicted in profile in front of the luminscent moon: “smooth brown glow skin.” After his mother moisturizes him with cocoa butter, he ends the day in his soft bed, the moon still beaming on him. Bowers fills this one with deep shades of blues and purples, the glowing yellow moon shining from the darker spreads — and reflecting off the boy’s rich brown skin. It’s skin he celebrates. Parents Magazine calls it a “welcome addition to the toddler-lit shelf.”

Indeed. Both board books are.

Here are some spreads from Curls. …


“shine big hair love”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“smooth grease? yes please!”
(Click spread to enlarge)




CURLS. Text copyright © 2020 by Ruth Forman. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Geneva Bowers and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Little Simon, New York.

2 comments to “Black (and Board Book) Joy”

  1. NEVER was more excited than to find out that Geneva B. was illustrating my book. I LOVE, love, LOVE her work, and this is a beautiful addition!!!

  2. Yay, Tanita! What a good match.

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