Monday, January 1, 2018

Welcome to the World, CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?

Hello and Happy New Year!

Before anything else, a hearty CONGRATULATIONS to the finalists in the 2018 CYBILS Award for Poetry! Yay for great, kid-friendly poetry!

Today is also special because it marks the official release of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship, written by me and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, and delivered to the world by Carolrhoda/Lerner Publishing. What a team! I'm so grateful to be part of it.

 In some ways it feels like this book has been out for a while, as Charles and I did some pre-pub promotional events at AASL and NCTE, where the publisher gifted books to excited teachers and librarians. We're so grateful for this early enthusiasm! We have been moved to tears more than once, listening to others' stories about race, mistakes and friendship. It reminds me of John Truby's advice to "write a book that will change your life." This book is a life-changer for me. It forced me to practice being a brave writer... and it brought me a new "Forever Friend" in Charles!

And now the fun continues... we've got school visits and podcasts and webinars... readings and interviews and questionnaires... and readers! In-the-wild readers! That's the best part, every time: connecting with readers.

Charles and me on the panel at AASL
To celebrate the release, Charles and I are doing a second installment of "Two Truths & a Lie." I'm featuring Charles here, along with one of his poems from the book. Head over to Poetry Time to read about me! And here are links to the first installment from cover release day at Charles' Poetry Time blog and Live Your Poem.

Charles Waters!
Of the 3 statements below, two are truths and one is a lie. You guess! Answers below.

1. An author came to Charles' school like Nikki Grimes does in the book. 

2. Charles grew up with a mother and father. 

3. Charles wasn't a very good basketball player in school.

Okay... got it? Know what your answers are? Read on to find out if you're right!

1. Lie. 
"Which is a shame because I daresay I would have gotten into writing a lot sooner if an author had come to my school growing up."

2. True!

3. True! 
"I wasn't horrible at it but I was no Lebron. Sadly, one time in 7th grade my shot did go over the backboard, the trajectory looked good for a hot second until the ball sailed away with the speed of a cheetah."

And now for a poem from the book, on the topic of shoes:

Shopping with Dad

Dad doesn't think shoes have anything to do with
fashion. "Shoes are like your complexion," he says.
"They're supposed to fit you perfectly."
I'd rather get a pair of neon high-tops
with tie-dye laces like I've seen on commercials.
Maybe they make my feet hurt sometimes,
and maybe they don't last as long,
but at least I fit in with my classmates.
Dad hands me a pair of low tops,
no cool design or dynamite laces.
I tie them up, walk around. "Wow," I say.
"This pair feels like I'm wearing slippers."
Dad tells me, "The decision is yours."

- Charles Waters

You can read my poem about shoes over at Poetry Time -- and poems about family dinner, punishment, police brutality, the N word, etc. -- in the book! Thanks so much for reading. Happy 2018! xo


  1. Woo hoo, Happy Book Birthday! I just bought two, one for me and one for the girls, have just begun, and it is going to be wonderful! I have a collection of shoe poems that I used with students, asking them to write their own. Somehow shoes are that important to young people, andCharles' poem fits what I knew beautifully. Thanks, Irene. The future plans sound great, too! And, Happy New Year!

  2. Happy book birthday to us, Irene! Here's to a productive 2018 for all of us in the book community!


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