Bekki the Fairy meets Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest

Cirles with the face of Bekki the Fairy and Jaden Toussaint
Bekki the Fairy wants to ask Jaden Toussaint all sorts

This interview is a work of FICTION with the authors bringing their characters to life.

Bekki: Hello Jaden.  I am Bekki the Fairy. I am great because I do helpful spells. What is your most greatest, bestest thing about you?

Jaden: I think a lot of people would say my hair. When we went to New York City people stopped me on almost every block to say they liked my hair. Seriously. At first, I was giving people helpful hints on growing their afros, but then Mama kept telling me to just say, “Thank you,” even though that doesn’t seem very helpful at all.

But I wouldn’t say my hair is the best thing about me. I think my ninja dancing is way better than my hair.


Bekki: I can do some of the moves from Single Ladies.  What are your favourite dance moves?

Jaden: It’s probably a tie between the Robot and the Moonwalk. Or a mega-tie between the Robot, the Moonwalk, the Warrior, Ninja on Tiptoe, the Rainbow, and the Dab. On second thought, I’ll just say the Dab. My sister taught me that one.

Bekki: My brother Sam used to be my baby-sitter but he won’t do it anymore because I turned him into a hotdog.  Is your sister Sissy your baby-sitter?

Jaden: No, but she really, really wants to be. I told her if she really wants to convince Mama and Baba that she should make a PowerPoint presentation. PowerPoint presentations are scientifically proven to convince parents of anything. That and petitions.

I even said I’d help her make it because I’m kind of an expert in PowerPoints and all we’d have to do is become experts in the law so we could make a perfect case to convince our parents, but she said, “No, thank you,” for some strange reason. Weird, right?

Three book covers
Jaden has a gift for PowerPoint and petitions

Bekki: You’re from New Orleans? That’s in the United States, isn’t it? I come from London but I am a mixture of Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil, Portugal and Scotland.  Are you a mixture?

Jaden: Um…I’m not sure. But [pulls out notebook] that gives me a great idea for a research project.

Street scene in New Orleans
New Orleans is a big US city with lots going for it

Bekki: Can you speak any Swahili?

Jaden: I know the Nguzo Saba (that means seven principles) from Kwanza, and I know how to say hello now that my cousin Muffin taught me. My mom can speak a lot of French, but Chinese is more my thing.

Bekki: Does your big hair take a lot of looking after?

Jaden: Sometimes. My mom washes it and combs it into my alien hair (my mom calls it twists, but alien hair is just better) and then leaves it to dry like that. Then I either wear my alien hair to school or I pull the aliens apart in an epic battle and free my ‘fro. That’s the best part. After a while my mom makes me get it washed again, though.

Bekki: What is the best thing about your mum?  

Jaden: She gives really good hugs and she makes the best muffins.

a boy and girl face each other with aggressive faces
Not all muffins are sweet. Jaden’s cousin Muffin is a handful!

Bekki: Do you want me to do a magic spell to turn you into a Ladek?

Jaden: So that I can become the most hated creature on the planet and nearby galaxies?!? No thanks.

Bekki:  Hmmmf, suit yourself!   I do skipping and I like rhyming songs.  Have you got any good ones to share with me, please?

Jaden: If you like songs that rhyme you should listen to “My Shot” from Hamilton. It’s epic and it has lots of rhymes in it. Like, a ton.

Bekki: I love that song!  Thanks for telling me about it!  [Bekki dances and makes assertive hand gestures].

That show is coming to London– maybe mum will bring me.  Now, next question, who is your favourite teacher and why?

Four actors in historical costume dancing onstage in the musical Hamilton
Scene from Hamilton the revolutionary musical

Jaden: Miss Bates is the best teacher in the whole wide world! She knows how to do all the best stuff. Like, seriously. She does. One time she even showed us how to slice a banana without peeling it.

Bekki: If you were a toy would you be an action hero, a cuddly plush toy or a paper doll with loads of outfits?

Jaden: All of them. Definitely all of them. Action heroes are good for the tub and science experiments because they can get wet. Paper dolls are cool because I could make tons of ties for my tie collection. And, I mean, everybody likes plushies, right? What else are you supposed to sleep with at night?

Parer doll surrounded by outfits
Jaden and Bekki would like to be paper dolls like Jupiter Storm

Bekki: Jaden , will you go and play for a minute, please.  I am going to talk to someone.  Bekki is asking Jaden’s author, Marti Dumas,  why she wrote a book.

Marti: I write stories about Jaden Toussaint, a character modelled on my own son when he was 5, because I couldn’t find books about kids who loved school and loved learning–let alone brown kids who loved school and learning–that were also fun.

diagram of a boy's brain
Look inside Jaden Toussaint’s brain

I try to make the stories something that my own children and their friends enjoy and can relate to. Something where they can see their best selves reflected, including that your best self isn’t always perfect.

Bekki: Will you be writing more books?

Marti: Jaden Toussaint is the star of five chapter books so far, with a bonus book about the scientific method in the works for this summer. We’re kicking around ideas for a 6th book and, funnily enough, the main idea right now involves a babysitter! 🙂

Bekki: That’s super.  My babysitters love me!  [This is not completely true!] It has been splendid talking to you, Jaden.  Can we be friends?

Jaden: Definitely! Do you play toranpu?

End of Interview – Playtime!

***********

First things first – let’s have a Cool Kid Brain Dance Party!!  

drawings of little boy doing ninja dance moves
Are you ready to dance like a ninja???

Let’s do the Monkey, Paint the Fence, cool wave, warrior, ninja on tiptoe, robot, crane, mantis.  Listen to Jaden’s cousin rapping.  Do what she suggests!!!

A boy dressed as the book character Jaden Toussaint holds a copy of the Jaden Toussaint book by author Marti Dumas.
This Ghanaian Chinese American kid NAILED it on World Book Day.

Do you like dressing up as book characters on World Book Day?    This cool dude dressed up as Jaden from The Ladek Invasion.  There are many ways to dress as Jaden.

Covers of all five books about Jaden Toussaint The Greatest by Marti Dumas
Pick a look for World Book Day 2019

 

 

Top 12 best Big Hair books for children

a tiny black girl plays in the hair of a giant black girl
Art from Emi’s Curly, Coily, Cotton Candy Hair

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-Batesdrawing of a little girl with an afro smiling with her hands in the air
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”

2. Color My Fro by Crystal Swain-Bates

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

3.Emi’s Curly Coily, Cotton Candy Hair by Tina Olajide

The artwork by Courtney Bernard is beautiful so I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

 

4.Daddy Do My Hair? Beth’s Twists by Tola Okogwu

A black daddy styles his little girl's long curly hair
This book has a sister book called Daddy Do My Hair-Hope’s Braids.  Art is by Rahima Begun. The author does book readings around London and has her very own blog called My Long Hair Journey.

5.Numbers with Bella by Lorraine O’Garro

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)

 

6.I Know I Can by Veronica M Chapman

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.

 
 
Usually in this series Lola wears her hair in cute twists but in this story both mum and Lola go natural.  Rosalind Beardshaw did the art.

a little girl with an afro hairstyle reads to her baby brother who is on her lap

 
 
 
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.”
 

10Happy Hair by Mechal Renee Roe 

Smiling young black girl reading a book
 
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. 
 
Front cover of A Fairy in the Family Again shows a little girl with a shocked expression.
A Fairy in the Family Again. Click on the pic to buy.
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!  
 
 
 African little girl with afro hair and a crown
 
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. 
 
Have I missed any? Please let me know.

 

 

Bekki the Fairy meets Zolie Zi

A photo of Bekki the Fairy and a drawing of Zolie Zi are accompanied by the words Bekki the Fairy talks to Zolie Zi. A butterfly decorates the page.
Will Bekki and Zolie have anything to talk about?

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!!!
A smiling little boy in a tshirt with arms folded
Zylee smells fine from here
 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.
 

 

Two pictures, one shows a Zolie Zi plush doll. The other shows a cute little girl holding her doll tightly.
The doll mommies enjoy cuddling Zolie
 
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.
 
Beach scene in the Bahamas
Zolie has been to the Bahamas….jammy!
 
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.
 
A little girl DJ sits next to her Zolie Zoi doll while preparing to read a story on air.
Look who is in the studio with Wynter Avery
 
  
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.
 
A backpack decorated with Zolie Zi's face and name
Don’t leave bananas at the bottom.
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.
A flyer for Zolie Zi's book.
Here’s how Zolie looks in her book.
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!!
 

 

A video showing drawings of the book character Zolie Zi
Zolie Zi is always up to something
 
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 is here.
 
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 –

Bekki the Fairy meets Raffi from “Made by Raffi”

The words Bekki the Fairy talks to Raffi accompanied by images of Bekki and Raffi

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.

A scene on a school bus. A little boy is knitting a long scarf while behind him his classmates are playing with the long colourful garment.
Raffi is concentrating hard

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!

Drawing of little boy in a yarn shop holding balls of wool.
Balls of yarn are just so cuddly!

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!  

 

A book cover in Taiwanese with a drawing of Raffi knitting on the front.
Raffi looks the same in Taiwanese but check out those letters1

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.  

A stack of copies of the book "Made by Raffi" in different languages
See all the different ways of saying “Made by”

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