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|Can I touch your hair? : poems of race, mistakes, and friendship|
Author: Latham, Irene
Irene who is white, and Charles who is black, work together on their fifth grade poetry project.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.60
Points: .5 Quiz: 195373
Kirkus Reviews (+) (10/15/17)
School Library Journal (-) (01/01/18)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (00/05/18)
The Hornbook (00/01/18)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 01/01/2018 Gr 4–7—The conceit of a poetry project is this basis for this underdeveloped effort at unpacking racism in a school setting. The poems are presented from two perspectives: Irene's, a white girl, and Charles's, a black boy. ("Mrs. Vandenberg/holds up her hand./Write about anything!/It's not black and white//But it is./Charles is black,/and I'm white.") They take turns responding to everyday occurrences at home, at school, and in public. Charles's poems occasionally introduce important questions ("why do people who/want to look like me hate me so much?"), while Irene's are myopic and fail to challenge bias. In particular, a running thread involving Irene and a classmate, Shonda, is rife with unexamined stereotypes. Shonda is first introduced in "The Playground" as one of the freeze-dancing black girls who won't let Irene join in ("You've got/the whole rest of the playground,/she says. Can't we/at least have this corner?"). Later, when Irene learns that Shonda's family tree is "draped/in chains," she writes her a note apologizing for slavery. Disturbingly, their eventual friendship is compared to The Black Stallion: "I smile/the same way Alec does/when the stallion/nuzzles him/for the very first time." The writing is didactic, with stale imagery (white and black piano keys "singing together"). Qualls and Alko's artwork, done in acrylic paint, colored pencil, and collage, provides literal interpretations of the poems and lacks a certain spark, likely owing to Charles and Irene's almost permanently solemn facial expressions. VERDICT However earnest, this is a clumsy attempt at tackling interpersonal and systemic racism for middle grade readers.—Della Farrell, School Library Journal - Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.