This Saturday marks the 6th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. The free event will feature author readings, performances, kids’ activities and more. In anticipation, we chatted with Derrick Barnes, author of “CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut.” The book, which aims to celebrate black boys, was named a Newbury, Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honor Book and won the Ezra Jack Keats Award.
What inspired you to write this book?
I saw a Facebook post from a fellow children’s book creator Don Tate of his teenage son after returning from the barbershop. It was the side profile of his fresh cut. I reached out to him and asked if he’d like to create a picture book with me of at least fifteen of those profiles, different hairstyles, different boys, and I’d write accompanying poems to each one. He was swamped with other assignments, but I wrote a poem anyway to the pic of his son. That poem ended up being the text in what would become “CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut.”
What are you most excited about with this book?
I’m most excited about its reach. I set to make a book with an affirming message for black boys. A book to let the world know that they see value in themselves, and so do we. Their families, communities and other loved ones all see immense value and hope in them. It was just so cool to see the abundance of love for the project.
How was your writing process?
It took me 45 minutes to write the poem that would end up being the text for CROWN and then an additional two weeks of proofreading, formatting and editing. In comparison, it took Gordon (Gordon C. James, the illustrator of CROWN) three to four months to paint each and every image that ended up in the book.
Do you have any other books in the works that we can look forward to?
My next book coming out is also a picture book that features one of my sons as the protagonist, as well as also featuring a black boy with a regal theme. It’s entitled “The King of Kindergarten” and will be published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. The release date will be March 2019. I’m also working on my first non-fiction project, a three-book deal, as well as more picture books with Gordon James.
For more information on Barnes, check out his website or follow him on social media: