How good can a haircut make a person feel? “Magnificent. Flawless. Like royalty.” In a powerfully moving tribute to barbershop culture, Barnes (We Could Be Brothers) addresses readers directly—and it’s safe to say his audience is primarily boys of color—using hyperbole to boost their confidence and help them recognize their own value. “You came in as a lump of clay,” he writes, “a blank canvas, a slab of marble./ But when my man is done with you,/ they’ll want to post you up in a museum.” Created with thick, forceful daubs of paint, James’s luminous portraits reinforce the idea that, when a person looks this good, not even the sky is the limit. Of a man admiring the curving designs newly shaved into his head, the narrator remarks, “Maybe there’s a river named after him on Mars. He looks that important.” Pride, confidence, and joy radiate from the pages, both in the black and brown faces of men, women, boys, and girls featured in James’s majestic paintings, and in writing that celebrates human worth with every syllable. Barbers included: “Tip that man! Tip that man!” Ages 3–8. (Oct.)
Correction: An earlier version of this review attributed the paintings in the book to the book's author.