Friday, September 8, 2017

CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Cover Reveal & A Visit with Charles Waters

The irrepressible Charles Waters!
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme for Roundup. Yay for Matt's soon-to-be-released FLASHLIGHT NIGHT... I can't wait to read!

So a year and a half ago, Charles Waters and I embarked upon a poetic journey -- a book about race and racism with the working title It's Not Black and White. 

That title got scrapped by the marketing department in favor of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship. (Share the excitement -  pre-order your copy today!)

Those marketing folks are smart, aren't they? We feel so fortunate to have worked with Carolrhoda/Lerner Books on this project... our editor Carol Hinz is a superhero! And wow, Sean Qualls and Selina Alko did such a lovely job with the illustrations... but you know what is most exciting?

This is Charles' VERY FIRST BOOK. Yes, his poems have appeared in a gazillion anthologies, but this is his first book. Congratulations, Charles!!! I'm so honored to share this with you!

And because the book contains a whole lot of yes-it-actually-happened content, we thought it might be fun to share a "2 Truths and a Lie" challenge with you today. You can find mine over at Charles' Poetry Time blog, and I will share about Charles here at Live Your Poem. (Fun fact: Charles and I have yet to meet in person! But that meeting is coming... we will be presenting together at both AASL and NCTE conferences in November.)

But first: Behold, the cover (which went through so so many versions before it finally landed here)!

available January 1, 2018!
Sneak Peek!! Here is Charles' introductory poem in the collection... you can read mine at Charles' blog!


Mrs. Vandenberg wants us to write poems?
Finally, an easy project. Words fly off my pen
onto the paper, like writing is my superpower.
The rest of the time, my words are a curse. I open my mouth, 
and people run away. Now I’m stuck with Irene? 
She hardly says anything. Plus she’s white. 
Her stringy, dishwater blond hair waves
back and forth as she stutter-steps toward me. 
My stomach bottoms out. “Hello,” I say. “Hi,” she says. 
I surprise myself by smiling at her—she smells like 
a mix of perfume and detergent. We stare at our sneakers
before I ask, “So, what do you want to 
write about?” She shrugs. I say, “How about our shoes, hair? 
Then we can write about school and church?”
She takes a deep breath. “Okay.”
I match it. “Let’s start there.”

- Charles Waters

And now, 2 truths and a lie with Charles! Answers below.

1. Charles had "friends" disrespect him in front of other people for no other reason than to show off at his expense

2. Charles is obsessed with rap music. 

3. Charles had a Grandma who understood him, supported him and didn't judge his choices.

wee Charles...


1. True
2. Lie - "While I listened to rap growing up, L.L. Cool J., Rob Base, PM Dawn, Salt and Pepa, D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and Public Enemy to name a few, I listened more to top 40 pop songs on the radio."
3.True - "My grandmother Victoria (Vickie) had my back. She passed away in 1997. I miss her. She was a most excellent human being."  
Thanks so much for reading!


  1. Hey Poetic forever friend. Hooray for our book reveal and thanks for being covered in awesome sauce! :-)

  2. So happy for both of you, Irene - this looks like such a good book!

  3. I absolutely cannot wait to read this collaboration. And to see little Irene and little Charles in these pictures...and that your names are the same in the book. Just gosh. Your final cover is gorgeous and of course the words are sure to be. I adored reading each of your introductory poems and now am off to order. So much love. xxx

  4. What a thrill! It looks lovely! Congrats!

  5. So excited to see this book of poems arrive! I love the cover. I wish I could attend NCTE this year to attend the roundtable with you and Charles.

  6. A FIRST picture book is glorious! BRAVO Charles.
    And cool to be partner with you, Irene, the Queen of Poetry joy.
    Appreciations for this p.b. double take on tentative times that transcend difficulty. MUST read!

  7. I feel the love here....and think this is just the beginning of collaboration between the two of you. I so look forward to meeting you both at AASL. I will be making sure to get your autographs!
    The introductory poem is solid....let's start there....perfection. I want to read more.

  8. I'm looking forward to CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR. I just love the poems you and Charles shared on your blogs today. Congrats, Irene! And how fun to present together! Those who will learn from you and Charles are so lucky!

  9. Congratulations you two! Sounds like a match made in... school! And the two opening poems (I just came from reading Irene's poem on Charles' blog) make me want to read more.

  10. I also just came from Charles' blog, so I have had two chances to explore this book, which looks so, so good! Congratulations!!!

  11. Like I said to Charles -- I needed this book last year! (Literally. A neutral way to have conversations about race with my Quick To Play the Race Card Without Understanding It students would have been a godsend. Can't wait to hug you both at NCTE.

    That joyous Charles smile! I keep looking from the Charles+baby picture to his school picture. So. Much. Joy.

    1. ...but as for your afro? Not a look to repeat!! ;-)

  12. Irene -- As I just mentioned to Charles, the timing of this book is... I can't wait to devour it personally and share with my Kindergarten poets. Thanks to both of you for taking this magnificent project on. Already loving the cover and intro poems! -- Christie @

  13. What a gorgeous cover - and I love that you're walking the pages of the book. It must be precious.

  14. Can I touch Your Hair is a genius title. Who hasn't said or thought that very phrase? The best of luck, you two! I'll order a copy for the Library this week!

  15. You're both covered in awesome sauce. Congrats. The title is a touch of genius.

  16. This title is definitely on my list of books to order. Congratulations to you and Charles!

  17. How exciting, Congratulations to you both, Irene and Charles! The preview poems are enticing and the cover is perfect for the title–I love the fresh, textural quality it has. And what fun are both of your pics, especially Irene's with the fro! I'm hoping that your journeys may bring you to Chicago sometime, so I can have the book autographed. Thanks for all on both of these rich blog reveal posts, xo!

  18. Congrats on the new book. I can't wait to check it out.

  19. Irene, I read through Charles' blog and am so thrilled that your partnership has come to be. Little did I know that you never met before. I love the poems about each other.


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