I have always loved long curly hair and as a teenager I used to draw girls with flowing tresses (we did not have he phrase “slayed tresses” in Ireland back then). My own hair is fine, uber-straight and incapable of holding any kind of curl or kink. So drawing curls was the closest I got. And photographing Barbies for BlackHair magazine.
But not everyone who is capable of curls wears their hair curly. There are plenty of reasons for that – which I won’t go into here – but part of it has to do with confidence.
If you think your child might be a naturalista who would like to wear their hair in a natural afro then a book featuring BIG HAIR might guide their journey. When kids are young it’s all about self-image and empowerment. And that’s where books come in. Some books are not specifically about hair but feature a character with a natural style. Most are in the 3 and upwards age-range.
So let’s go. Here is a list of the Top 15 best big hair books for children.
1.Big Hair Don’t Care by Crystal Swain-Bates
Most of my book choices feature a child of African descent living outside of Africa and therefore surrounded by European hair. In this book a chirpy little girl faces that situation head on with her poem.
“I’ve got big hair and I don’t care And even though the kids may stare I lift my hands up in the air And smile and say… I love my hair”
I’m mentioning Crystal Swain-Bates again because she has made natural hair something of a cause. Let Amazon guide you to books like Naturally Me, Black Fairy Tales, SuperMommy and many others where the covers depict fabulous fulsome black hair
This book has a Jamaican little girl with Afro puffs on the cover. On the back cover the same girl in her contemporary clothes is seen slapping away happily on African drums. As part of the Irish diaspora I appreciate books that make other people feel at home in all the countries they identify with.
The companion The Alphabet with Bella has artwork of her taking part in what I think is the Notting Hill Carnival waving her British and Jamaican flags and wearing a glorious feather crown. Art is by Katlego Kgabale(Illustrator)
Check out the gorgeous mother in this book with her skinny jeans and natural fro. There is a sweet picture off the little girl sleeping with her hair in a silk scarf as she dreams of an exiting future visiting the Paris, Cuba and Africa. Daveia Odoi is the illustrator.
The author made up this bedtime story to give her daughter, Paris, pride in her hair. the little girl had noticed her hair was different from her schoolmates so mom stepped in! Tyrus Goshay is the Illustrator.
This is my only book with a boy on the cover. (I’ll fix that when I do my blog about books with locs and braids). Mike is always answering questions about being mixed. He knows he’s perfect because this is what his parents say:
Mom and Dad say I’m a blend of dark and light: “We mixed you perfectly, and got you just right.”
There was very little by way of a preview on Amazon so I hopped over to the author’s website – This small and carefully curated site is a delight , well worth a look. It has elegant, girlie art, three dancing bunny rabbits, prints for hanging and a colouring book. And Mechal ships to Europe.
My own book has a strong theme of natural hair. The lead character Bekki the Fairy has a crazy do (don’t ask) but the hairstyle you see most in the book is the loose natural style of Geeky Mikita the genius baby-sitter.
The stylist gave Mikita a grey streak in honour of Albert Einstein. There is a suggestion that scientists are too busy for nice hair and Bekki offers to fix Mikita’s hair. This is just Bekki being tactless – and it’s kind of an in-joke as we’ve worked with this model since she was a little gal with big hair.
At the back of the book a real life scientist, Mumbi, talked about black hair and gave all the baby-sitters hair advice. There are jobs for female scientists in the hair industry. Black women entrepreneurs played big role in the products we have today. In amongst all the silly scenes in my book is sneaky positive message!
This book really is ‘last but not least’. Urbantoons started following me on Instagram just as I was finishing up this blog. I’m happy he did! He hails from Mali and has wonderful items (dashikis and hi-tops!) on his website celebrating ethnicity, identity and the spread of multiculturalism.
Anyone who knows me probably knows that I own far too many dolls for someone of my age. My collection of Christie, Wesley, Madison, Nikki and other black Barbie dolls is a guilty pleasure. I tried to share a few with my niece but only managed to set one doll free.
With Christmas coming I thought that now would be a good time to do a round up of some of the sources of dolls of colour. Visitors to my site come from all over the world so my list of sources will too. I’ll start with a few alternatives to Amazon and then I’ll do a few guidelines on finding the best Barbies on Amazon.
This website has a mixture of baby dolls, best-friend dolls, boys’ toys, accessories and books. Many of the dolls listed can be bought directly from the site which I think is UK based. Some of the dolls have sold out but this site is all about sharing the info so the listings and picture remain online.
They want black kids to have black toys and nice childhood memories so they seem happy to share info even if it means people shopping elsewhere. Good on them. The photography and descriptions on this site really show off the charms of each doll.
Taofick Okoya is the Nigerian entrepreneur who created this range of dolls to give African girls dolls that “reflected their culture and heritage” – in other words, dollies rockin’ a Naija look. The Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba dolls have royal ancestry. Maybe you do too?
The story is a good one. Local women hand braid the girls’ hair and sew the modern and traditional outfits. Recently the company was proud to announce the fact that they outsell Barbie in Nigeria! The website – which is full of lively African content – gives links to where the dolls are on sale globally. There are storybooks too.
Our pals Zolie and her author, Sonya J Bowser, recently visited London so I’m sure parents and kids , and of course Santa Claus, will want to know where to get the gorgeous, plush doll. Girls and boys really bond with Zolie Zi (who is an unusually likeable character) and want to be ‘doll mommies’
US doll mommies can head to Amazon. The doll is not yet on Amazon UK so for now either head toZolie’s storeon her website, ask your friends in the US or try Coloured Goodies in the Netherlands. More on them below. Zolie Zi is back in London next year and I am sure the merchandise will become easier to buy.
Not met Zolie Zi? Our interview with Zolie herself is right here.
This site is a treasure trove of items that kids will love. After you log in, hit translate as the site is in Dutch. They have dolls, toys, books, a useful range of greeting cards and clothing.
They make good use of the famous Dutch wax print fabrics and you can buy dresses for Barbie-sized dolls as well as very sweet head-wraps for baby dolls. They have a wonderful range of baby dolls. There are plenty of baby boys in there. Shanice and Jaylee are not just beautifully dressed but soooo darn cute!!
It is easy to feel daunted when you go into Amazon looking for a black Barbie doll. The prices can be shocking and how on earth do you choose? I’ll give you a few tips.
Don’t look for black Barbies Amazon and Mattel who make Barbie dolls tend not to to use the word black. Barbies come from California so the terms AA or African American are used instead.
Keep it simple You know that your doll will probably spend most of her life in the bath in her swimming costume. Don’t overspend on lavish dresses unless you really want to – or if the doll is for a collector. I have put a few cash-splashing options at the bottom.
Keep it current The dolls are changing all the time and usually to current dolls are the most affordable. They tend to have simple outfits and cost around ten British pounds in the UK.
In my day Christie was the name to search for but she is now vintage and priced accordingly. In the 1990s I would go to Woolworths in Brixton and pay a fiver for a swimsuit Christie on my way to work. Another doll whose price has risen is My Scene Westley. Better to try eBay for old dolls. That will be my next doll post.
The e-Book version has taken many, many hours, days and weeks to make. Believe me, you cannot just press a button to turn square pages into rectangular ones. I think the e-Book looks amazing and I’ll be posting when I do my free giveaway on Kindle.
Bekki the Fairy is looking forward to chatting to Malcolm Bakersfield and his pal Nia, the new girl in school. Malcolm is an African American boy and Bekki thinks he has the most coolest ever, ever way of talking.
In my day I believe I was responsible for the most expensive children’s book illustrations ever. My “Fairy in the Family” books with their lavish studio photos of real models absorbed all my spare cash.
I was intrigued to hear that I could buy illustrations for as little as five dollars from a website called Fiverr. Fiverr is one of those new ‘gigging economy’ websites where sellers all over the planet offer tantalising art works. The offers are presented in the first person “I will sing your jingle for a fiver”, “I will create your cartoon portrait for a fiver” and so on.
The website has the feel of an affordable sweetshop. I have decided to give it a go for my book “Kei-Ling and the Ivory Princess”. After looking at dozens of drawings I have settled on someone with very cure drawings on her profile page.
The first thing I noticed was that while many people offer a service for a fiver, added extras can bump up the cost. But the sellers vary widely in their pricing. There are bargains to be had but also you can pay what you feel to be fair and right. I would feel bad about paying five dollars for something this good.
I am very excited to think I can have something as lovely as this after a few days wait and a few euro going out of my PayPal account.
I have sent off my own version of a front cover to an artist in the Philippines. I want a cover, not just a drawing and I want commercial rights so the cost is closer now to fifty than five and heading upwards. I think this style will suit my characters and give them a professional, commercial look.
My own cover is here. This labour of love took many hours with hand drawn pictures researched and coloured by hand. I cannot wait to see how the artist reinterprets my drawing.
Bekki the Fairy is very excited to meet Zolie Zi, also known by her nickname “Miss Chit Chat”. Zolie is the narrator of a series of books set in the Helping Hands Academy for Gifted and Talented Children.
Before we start check out the pics of Zolie on this video. She’s a cutie!
Bekki: It is good to meet you. My name is Bekki the Fairy and I can do magic. Tell me, what is special about you?
Zolie: Hi Bekki! Nice to meet you! Wow, you do magic, that sounds cool!! You will have to show me some of your magic one day! Well, what makes me special is my love of Science. My teacher says that the science that I like is called, Metaphysics and Astrophysics. I would like to build my own space ship one day so that I can travel beyond the light barrier. I am fascinated with space and I want to travel to different planets to see how other kids live.
Bekki: If someone tries to bully me or my friends I do a spell to turn them into a slug or frog for few minutes, how do you deal with bullies?
Zolie: I usually tell my mom, a teacher and I confront the bully. It is isn’t always an easy thing to do, but somebody has to do it. My mom said that my voice has POWER.
Bekki: Who do you think smells nicer, you or your brother?
Zolie: Definitely me!!!
Bekki: I come from London but I am a mixture of Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil, Portugal and Scotland. Are you a mixture?
Zolie: Yes, I am a mixture of two tribes from Africa, the Bushmen and Zulu and I am also African American.
Bekki: Wow! No wonder you can take on the bullies! Tell me about your doll mommies. Do you have many of them?
Zolie: Yes, I have so many doll mommies. I think about 500 or more by now.
Bekki: How do school-kids in America react when they meet you? Who was the best person you met?
Zolie: Kids get really excited when they see me. It always amazes me to see boys who are really happy to see me, sometimes they even try to cut the line in front of the girls to get to me. The best person that I met was a little girl named Yakini. Yakini was so shy to meet me, but she was my biggest fan, she has everything Zolie Zi.
Bekki: What about boys? Do you like boys? And do they like you?
Zolie: My mom doesn’t allow me to even think about boys. She says that I will have plenty of time for boys and that I have to focus on my books. No, I don’t like boys right now, I think they have the coodies!! Yes, boys like me all the time. Ewwwww…
Bekki: Is it true you have been to the Bahamas? What other cool places have you told your stories?
Zolie: Yes, I have been to the Bahamas two times and I am going back again this year. I have told my story in the Netherlands and Canada.
Bekki: My baby-sitter Rose watches Dallas on the TV. Is your life like that? Do you ever wear a cowboy hat?
Zolie: No, Dallas has changed a lot. They are building a lot of houses and apartments in the country where I live. Oh yes, I am a true cow girl and I have worn a hat before. I love wearing hats, they are pretty cool!!
Bekki: Is it true your story was on the radio read out by a very special presenter. Tell me about that, please.
Zolie: Yes, my story has been on the radio several times, but one little girl named Wynter Avery reads my story every Saturday. She read my first book on air and now she is on my second book.
Bekki: I live in London and I’d like to be a doll mommy. Where can I get Zolie doll?
Zolie: You can order a Zolie doll on Amazon.com or on my website zoliezi.com
Bekki: My mum gets the fabric for her dresses in the Netherlands. I hear there is a shop called Coloured Goodies where people can buy your things. What can they buy?
Zolie: Yes, you can buy my things at Coloured Goodies. They carry my book in Dutch, my new drawstring bag and my doll.
Bekki: What do kids in the Netherlands think of you?
Zolie: The kids absolutely love me. I can’t wait until they read my book.
Bekki: Who wrote a book about you and why?
Zolie: My Author Sonya J. Bowser wrote a book about me after being bullied on the job which resulted in her being fired. After being fired, she felt powerless and discouraged. It was the first time that she felt like her voice had no power and was silenced.
She decided to use her niece Sariah Martin as my face and Sariah also inspired my lisp because she also has a lisp. When she wrote the story she had Sariah in mind because she noticed that Sariah would be a target for bullying because of her lisp so wanted to use my story to encourage her and other girls/boys to love themselves for who they are. You must never let anyone bully you to make you feel powerless.
Bekki:Would you like to come and hang out with me in London? Kids over here would love to meet you. We can go to the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton together and visit the library next door.
Zolie: I would love to come. Just let me know and I am there!!!!!
Bekki: Thanks for chatting Zolie.
Zolie: Thanks for having me Bekki!!
Bekki hopes you liked her second ever interview. Now she wants be be a helpful fairy and tell you where you can find out more about Zolie Zi.
The Zolie Zi website with games and things to buy ishere.
There are pictures of Zolie and her author and her doll mommies on Instagram.
People in the USA can go to Amazon to get the books
and and a dolly
Here is where UK and Ireland readers can get the latest book –
In her first ever blog interview Bekki the Fairy is delighted to meet Raffi the star of Made by Raffi. He tells her why is it cool for boys to knit.
Bekki: Hi Raffi. It is good to meet you. I’m Bekki the Fairy and I am a very helpful fairy. Now i should point out that I am a girl. Are you one of those boys who doesn’t like playing with girls?
Raffi: Hi Bekki, aren’t all fairies helpful? I like playing with everyone, even adults. The spelling of your name is really cool.
Bekki: Back Atcha! That means ‘same to you’. Tell me, what is so good about knitting?
Raffi: Knitting is really peaceful. I like to be quiet. It’s a great way to pass the time on a long, boring ride to school. I have to concentrate so I don’t miss a stitch ,and the time flies. Another great thing about knitting is “tinking”. that is knitting backwards – you can always go back and “unknit” any mistakes.
Bekki: My granny used to knit. Who knits in your family? Is it only the grannies and aunties?
Raffi: Only me — I saw my teacher knitting during recess and she showed me. My parents were really surprised when I asked them if I could get some needles and yarn.
Bekki: Where did you get those lovely drawings of yourself and the wool?
Raffi: My friend Margaret Chamberlain is a famous illustrator and she made them. Don’t you think it’s funny to see a drawing of yourself? Who made your drawings? How did they get you to sit still? Did you fly all over the room?
Bekki: My mum was at all my photo shoots and she helps me be good. What is your favourite type of sheep?
Raffi: I like the cute black faced ones. I like all kinds of animals, especially dogs. My dog’s name is Scamp. Do you have a pet?
Bekki: Yes, I sometimes do spells on my cat and cat to make their lives fun. Do some sheep have better wool for knitting? Do you use real wool?
Raffi: I do use real wool. I like merino wool because it is really soft, but it is harder to work with because it is so fragile. Sometimes I use acrylic yarn — it comes in the most awesome colors!
Bekki: What knitting project are you doing now?
Raffi: I like to make presents for people. My mother’s birthday is coming up so I thought I would make her some gloves with each finger a different color. My first knitting project was a scarf for my dad. I just started knitting and finally when I stopped i didn’t realise the scarf was soooooo long. It ran the length of the school bus.
Bekki: I am from London but I am a mixture. My family come from Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil, Portugal and Scotland. Where are you from and are you a mixture?
Raffi: That is a mixture! I live in New York but was born in Russia, does that make me a mixture?
Bekki: Of course it does! Congrats! My books are in English and Irish. What languages is your book in and how did you pick them?
Raffi: My book is in eight languages (11 countries) with more coming: Italian, English, Danish, Dutch, Korean, Norweigian, Chinese and Taiwanese. I didn’t pick them, I think they picked me because they liked my story. Isn’t it cool that all over the world people like the same thing? I enjoy looking at the different kinds of writing, but my picture looks the same in every language – haha!
Bekki: I won the three legged race in my School Sports Day. Have you won any prizes?
Raffi: Wow – a three legged race sounds fun. Congratulations! I haven’t won any prizes, but I am not so good at sports. At school I am the person everyone comes to when they want clothing or costumes or any homemade craft things. I once made a pair of shoes!
Bekki: I think you are being modest. i hear you are a Little Rebel. What’s that all about?
Raffi: I was nominated for The Little Rebel’s Children’s Book Awards. They nominate kids like me who stand up for themselves and fight for social justice and equality and even change stereotypes. they narrowed it down to three really cool kids out of hundreds!
Bekki: Ooooh! Props to you! Who wrote a book about you and why?
Raffi: My Uncle Craig. He isn’t really my uncle, he’s my mom’s best friend. He wrote it because some kids at school teased me for being a boy who likes to knit, but I showed them knitting is cool! I think he hoped the story might help some other boys who like to sew and knit or even any kid who feels out of place. Are you surrounded by other fairies? Do you think you would feel out of place?
Bekki: Out of place, me? Never. i am extraordinary and special! Will you be starring in any more books?
Raffi: Gee, do you think I am a star? LOL. My uncle is working on a book about how I like to bake. I might share some of my recipes and show kids how much fun it is to be in the kitchen. I make white chocolate macadamia cookies! and who doesn’t like cookies!!!
Bekki: Yes, you are a sparkly star cos you didn’t let the teasing put you off doing what you love.
Bekki: It has been entertaining talking to you. If you like I can do a magic spell and turn you into anything you like for a few minutes.
Raffi: You are great to talk to, Bekki. You’re the first fairy i have ever met! i think you are great and I hope we can be long time friends. Thank you for the magic spell! I’d love to be a bird for a bit and see as much of the world as possible from the sky, as long as it isn’t raining.
Bekki hopes you liked her first ever interview. Now she wants be be a helpful fairy and tell you where you can find out more about Raffi and his uncle.
Here’s is the website for Raffi’s uncle. He is actually a singer too and his name is Craig Pomranz.
Remember we said there might be music? Well, have a listen to Uncle Craig singing about everyone being Different.
And if you want the book you can find it on Amazon.
And for Ireland and UK here is a link you can click on
I am very happy to say that my first ever guest blogger is going to be Raffi from “Made by Raffi”, a book by Craig Pomeranz.
Craig Pomeranz is a cabaret singer who has written a charming story about a little boy who loves to knit. When I first heard about Craig I was pretty envious. He is published by Frances Lincoln who do the Amazing Grace books. And his book is illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain who did the loveable artwork for My Two Grannies. What’s so special about this guy, I wondered.
Plenty, it turns out. Craig has a lot to say about what in means to be a boy or girl in these modern times. His book has a light touch but makes powerful points about identity, gender-roles, love and encouragement. You’ll see what I mean when the blog comes in.
Craig is a good sport and is going to let my character Bekki the Fairy interview his character Raffi. It should be fun and there might even be music!
So, can a girl get a job in science that she might actually enjoy? Uh, yeah!!! Mumbi Dunjwa has a very cool life.
Mumbi’s family come fromKenya and she lives in the US. She is a scientist and has spent a lot of time in the lab developing products for black hair.
Here is what she has to say about her company Naturaz :
“Our passion is to get you to love, handle and wear your beautiful natural hair, regardless of type, with ease, beauty and grace”
STEM and girls
As you might know lots of girls are great at maths and science when they are in school but not enough girls are making a career out of science. We are delighted to have Mumbi in our book showing how someone can have a cool career in the beauty industry using their science skills.
Mumbi had nice things to say about ‘A Fairy in the Family Again’:
“It would be great to contribute to your book and subsequently to inspire young black girls to not only pursue science but to love their hair.”
All the baby-sitters in the book have different hairstyles. They are schoolgirls so we couldn’t go too crazy with the styles. Mumbi talks about braids, extensions and relaxers and how to care for your hair.