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

 

 

Bekki the Fairy talks to Malcolm and Nia from The Magic Pencil

Bekki the Fairy meets Malcolm and Nia from The Magic Pencil

Bekki the Fairy with Malcolm and Nia
Bekki meets Malcolm and Nia from The Magic Pencil

Bekki: Hello Malcolm, I am Bekki the Fairy from London and it is simply, frightfully splendid to meet you. As you can see I speak like the Queen. Or should I say “Yo, Malcolm, what’s the haps?’

Malcolm: Hello there Bekki! Veddy nice to make your acquaintance.

Bekki: I love the way you talk. The words just slide out! Are you allowed to talk like that in school?

Malcolm: Thanks! Glad you appreciate and unnerstan my usin it. Naw, in school the teachers want us to speak standard English. Sometimes I get away with it if I’m havin a quiet convo with one because they know I know when not to use it! They usually know what I’m sayin too.

A black teen with his hands in his pockets
Don’t try to stress Malcolm, not gonna happen

Bekki: My brother Sam is very good at school but he is not cool. He says things like lickety split and jeepers creepers. Can you please help him to sound more cool?

Malcolm: Probly, but it might take a minute. That means a long time. But it can mean a short time too! A lot of the meanin of a word depends on how it’s said an in what context! An, if you can see the person, you gotta watch the way they move too. You know, understand they body language! Hey, do you see how I mix up the ways I talk together?

Bekki: I come from London but I am a mixture of Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil, Portugal and Scotland. Are you a mixture?

Malcolm: I ain had my DNA done yet, haha. But I think everybody is all a – uh – “mixture”. That sounds better than sayin you “mixed”. Makes it soun like talkin about dogs. Science says we all from Africa, anyway.

Bekki: What kinds of music do you like?

Malcolm: A lot. I got an open mine. You could dig for gold an fine it in there, haha. But I do like a lot of different kinds. That’s anotha thing that’s mixed!

Bekki: Do your relatives from Jamaica like reggae music? Do you?

Malcolm: Mostly. I like it now. I had to get used to it, though. My dad plays it a lot when we ridin together. He plays a lot of the classics and even new stuff.

Bob Marley’s hair looked great on stage

Bekki: What is the best thing about your mum?

Malcolm: Awwww… Moms is great! We have our discrepancies but mostly we cool. She lets me be me as much as possible. And I respect her madly.

Bekki: I have one dad. Is it good having two?

Malcolm: Well, Mom an Jam ain married, yet. But he’s like another dad, and real fun! He got jokes! Dad is basically a standard dad. We cool an all but he don’t play unless it’s wit a soccer ball! Both a them treat me good and I always learn somethin new from em.

Bekki: I go to school in Dagenham where they used to make cars. What’s your favourite car and who is your favourite racing driver?

Malcolm: Right now, I like the Ferrari 488GTB. It got a twin-turbo 3.9-liter V-8 engine and can do 8000 rpm! It’s sweeeeeeeeet! I still like Lewis Hamilton. I like Nicole Lyons too! Bout time I found out about Black female drivers!

Bekki: What do you think of Lewis Hamilton?

Malcolm: He’s a baaaaad Brit brotha! Plus, he’s got a foundation so it makes me know he ain all bout the Benjamins – or whatever they call em where he lives. You know, the money, right?

Lewis Halmilton in leathers on a motorbike
Lewis is not bad, he’s baaaaad

Bekki: Will your mum and dad let you fuse your hair?

Malcolm: Oh, you mean grow locs? Well, I’m not a Rasta – oh, Rastafarian. That’s like a religion thang. They call theirs dreadlocks. I guess they will. Dad wants me to wait til I’m older cuz he thinks Mom won’t like em. But I think she won’t mind.

Bekki: Do you want me to do a magic spell to make your hair as long as your friend Nia’s?

Malcolm: Hahaha! Not really. I think it’ll be fun to let it do its own fusion in its own time!

Bekki: My baby-sitter Ruby saw Beyoncé when she came to London and showed me the video on her phone. Did you see Beyoncé when she sang a reggae song when she was on tour in America?

Beyonce singing and smiling
She’s global- Beyonce in Detroit

Malcolm: Nope. I only seen the videos. She’s done A LOT of reggae stuff! She’s global.

Bekki: I have a question for Nia. Nia, mum won’t let me use my magic wand to do my homework. Do you think that magic is good for homework?

Nia: Not really. It’s kind of cheating, don’t you think? You really won’t learn much more than how to use it better!

Bekki: (changing the subject quickly) I do skipping too. I like the rhyming songs. Have you got any good ones to share with me, please?

Little black girl in school uniform skipping beside a brick wall

Nia: Yep! It’s the kind where you sort of run while you’re jumping. Ms. Quayle, one of my teachers, wrote the rhyme. It’s about a very smart boy named Wyatt. You say the first two parts and jump kind of fast. Then, when you say the third part you go really fast and stomp as you jump. Then you do the same steps for the next three parts. Everyone sings: “Quiet Wyatt! The grow folk say When-I-get-into-their-talking. You’re being smart, Now run and play. I-shake-my-head-as-I-start-walking.”

Bekki: I like rhyming. In London some people use Cockney rhyming slang. It is like a puzzle that you have to work out. So if I say ‘A cup of Rosie’ it means ‘a cup of tea’. Because Rosie Lee rhymes with tea! Can you guess what a syrup is? I’ll give you a clue – it goes on a bald man’s head!*

Malcolm: Uhhhhhhhhh, a stirrup?

Nia: Hmmm. A maple leaf!

Malcolm & Nia (in unison): Who’s right?

Bekki:  Hee hee, nobody is right- a syrup is a wig – it rhymes with syrup of figs.  But most wig shops don’t use that word so don’t make a fool of yourself!

Don’t ask for a syrup in this Brixton shop.

Bekki: If the Pencil Fairy said she would give you whatever pencils you wanted what kind would you ask for? And what would you use them for?

Malcolm: A mechanical one with a never-ending lead and self- regenerating, not-smeary eraser. Plus, I can tell it to make its lead thicker or thinner, darker or lighter and harder or softer! That way I could use it for everything!

Nia: I guess the same thing would work for me. But I’d want mine to also change the lead’s color!

Bekki: My favourite teacher is Miss Treacle because she is kind and funny. She teaches science to my baby-sitters and to my brother, Sam. Who is your favourite teacher and why?

Nia: Oh, I love Ms. Winston. She is the perfect educator! But I also love Mr. Skye. I help him with the kindergarten kids. He is soooo wise and kind.

A drawing of malcolm with his hands in his pockets

Malcolm: Hey Ms. Smarty, you sposed to name only one. I think mine’s Ms. Winston too because she keeps us learning and understands I get bored a lot. But Ms. Kady, the sub, is cool too. She makes things real excitin! I think she’s a chameleon cuz she changes up when she gotstuh!

Nia: You “sposed to name ON-LY one”, boy!

Malcolm: OK. Then I name ME. I teach my self to learn, gurl!

Bekki: Nia, what do you like about Malcolm?

Nia: Malcolm is a great friend; understanding and … loyal.

Close up of the faces of Malcolm and Nia
Nia is never boring…but who is she?

Bekki: And Malcolm what do you like about Nia?

Malcolm: Uh, she’s OK. Hahaha! Fa real, Nia is intriguing; never boring.

Bekki: Who wrote a book about you guys and why?

Malcolm & Nia: (in unison) Ms. Karen E. Dab-ney!

Malcolm: Well, she wants to get kids to read who may not know the fun part of it and she doesn’t think they have to stop talking one way to talk another way.

Nia: She likes to say “Teach and Lead. Reach and Read!” That means a teacher needs to figure out how to encourage children to want to read by figuring out what they need!

Bekki: Will you be in more books?

Malcolm: Oh, yeah. “Play Mom”, that’s what we call Ms. Dabney, is trying to decide what we will be doing next.

Nia: I think she wants to have us save the world! Maybe one book at a time.

Bekki: It has been marvellously, splendid and a’ight talking to you, Malcolm and Nia. Can we be friends?

Malcolm: Call me Malc. An, yeah. You gotta teach us some magical stuff, though.

Nia: Of course, we can, Bekki! Don’t pay any attention to Malcolm. I can tell he likes you! And I do too. 

Bekki:  C’mon, I’ll show you my wand.

Time to See The Books:

Do you want to read about Malcolm and Nia and learn code-switchin to talk like Malc?

Malcolm and Nia appear in the book The Magic Pencil.  Click on the title or pic to see the book on Amazon.  You can look inside the book too!

Drawings of Malcolm and Nia with twinkling stars

And Malcolm is on the cover of a book called The Magic Pencil Black Language Glossary. This cool book will teach you to speak Black English – take all the un-nessry letters out of your words and just flow.  Try it…it might change how you feel about words.  Malcolm will guide you.  Get learnin

Drawing of Malcolm with his hands in his pockets
check this out to learn about conversatin and communicatin – it’s what it’s all about

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.