Listen. LISTEN. Denene Millner Books DID. NOT. COME. TO. PLAY. WITH. YOU. Introducing our latest offering—this dopalicious children’s picture book, CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, by celebrated author Derrick Barnes and illustrated by fine artist Gordon C. James.

The book has gotten four HUGE reviews—three of them starred!—from the top children’s book review publications of record. Check out this starred review from Kirkus:

Barnes’ imaginative prose mirrors the hyperbole and swagger of the barbershop. No cut is just good. It will have you looking “presidential,” “majestic.” Like you own “a couple of acres of land on Saturn.” The swagger is on a million. The sauce is drippin’. James’ oil-based portraiture will send many readers reminiscing. This book oozes with black cool and timely, much-needed black joy, using the unique and expansive experience of the barbershop to remind young boys that their inner lives have always mattered there. One of the best reads for young black boys in years, it should be in every library, media center, and, yes, barbershop.”
And then there was this review from School Library Journal blogger Betsy Bird, who said Derrick’s words are every bit as beautiful, cunning and sharp as a Muhammad Ali “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” riff.
Now sure, the cover of Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut looked awesome, but this wasn’t my first time at the rodeo. I was trepidatious. I knew that there was a good chance that I’d open the book and find so-so art, good intentions, and underwhelming writing. So I opened that darn book and instead what I got was this electric jolt of vitality, pride, strut, and joie de vivre. This isn’t a book for kids. This is a friggin’ pamphlet on how to seize onto what makes you feel good about yourself and use it to guide your life. I didn’t initially know who author Derrick Barnes or illustrator Gordon C. James were, but if this is the kind of firepower they’re capable of then they better have a lot more ammo in their arsenal. This is a book that desperately needs to be on every library and bookstore shelf in the country.

How hype is that?!Derrick’s story is inspired by childhood memories of the time he spent in the barber’s chair, reveling in the conversations and company of hardworking Black men while Mr. Tony cut his hair. It was there that Barnes began to care about how he presented himself to the world—where, with a fresh cut, he felt smarter, more visible, more handsome, and more aware of every great thing that could happen in his world.

Your baby will identify with the book’s main character as he rhythmically recounts the ritual of a new haircut. He’ll also appreciate the celebration of swagger black boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a rare salute to the beautiful, raw, smart, perceptive, assured humanity of Black boys and how they see themselves when they highly approve of their reflections in the mirror. CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut also pays tribute to the one place in the black community where a black boy is “tended to” like royalty: the barbershop.

Beyond the words, you’re going to LOVE the lush illustrations Gordon C. James created, based on pictures he took of Derrick’s son, Silas, at a Charlotte, NC, barbershop, called Heads Up. His hand-painted illustrations are every bit as vibrant, creative and rich as the words—the perfect complement to Derrick’s prose.

While the book’s themes of confidence and self-esteem are universal, CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, does a fine job celebrating the what rarely gets an airing in children’s picture books: #blackboyjoy.

Get CROWN: An Ode To the Fresh Cut on your bookshelves. Buy one for your son, your nephew, your little cousins, your neighbors—the boys at church and your local library, too. Cop it for any little boy who deserves to see himself, in all his Black boy glory, reflected in the pages of the most remarkable form of entertainment on the planet: a book written, illustrated and printed just for him.

I couldn’t be more proud of this work. CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is in bookstores October 10, but you can pre-order right nah on Barnes & NobleAmazon, and in your favorite independent book stores.

Stay tuned for more updates and sneak peeks at CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and each of the other Denene Millner Books offerings.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

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