cover image CROWNING GLORY


Joyce Carol Thomas, , illus. by Brenda Joysmith. . HarperCollins/Cotler, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-023473-7

Thomas (Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea) celebrates the beauty of African-American hair in this collection of 14 poems. Based on Thomas's daughter and granddaughters, Joysmith's (This Is My Song) full-bleed pastel portraits, opposite, provide loving accompaniment and demonstrate a spectrum of hairstyles. The illustration paired with "Great Grandma's Way" shows a woman instructing her granddaughter by example: "To make the hair strong/ You can't go wrong/ Using black twine, nothing's better/ To wrap and keep loose ends together." In "Adorned" ("Bands and bows/ Shells and nets/ Flowers and hairpins/ Rainbow barrettes"), four elementary-school girls sit on a bed as one works on another's hair. "Mama's Glory" explains the connection between hair and history: "I wear my hair natural/ In memory of a faraway place." Here, Joysmith depicts the mother, a baby in her arms and her son by her side, with a halo of hair. "Good Hair" celebrates everyone's titular crowning glory " 'What is good hair?'/ I ask my daddy/ And Mama answers, 'Why, it's understood,/ Sister, if it's on your head it's good!' " Readers will want this handsomely designed volume not only for its hair-apparent emphasis but also for the ways in which Thomas effortlessly uses her theme to integrate its ties to family, friendships and tradition. Ages 4-8. (June)