Princess Hair! is wonderful, so I was excited to read Miller’s newest picture book. Notice: I’ve linked an article on touching black women’s hair at the end that is a must-read. So three must-reads, friends: Miller’s books and Johnson’s article.
Little, Brown, 2018. Hardcover, 40 pages. Picture Book. Ages 3-8.
Aria loves her hair.
It’s soft and bouncy, and grows up toward the sun like a flower.
But what will Aria do when curious hands can’t resist touching her curls?
Author-illustrator Sharee Miller tells a colorful and hilarious story about the importance of personal boundaries and asking for permission first. –jacket copy
People are attracted to and curious about Aria’s hair, which leads to hands reaching out to touch her hair without permission. The culprits come in all shapes and sizes, and as Aria flees, the human culprits are joined by a mermaid, octopus, monkeys, a dragon (“Girl, your hair is FIERCE!”) and a space alien. The only place where no one wants to touch her hair is a deserted island…where she gets lonely. Upon Aria’s return, Miller is sure that the townscape includes the presence of her more fantastical creatures.
Whimsy and humor still allows for that necessary edge of discomfort, that the characters are so apparent in their desire to touch her hair without permission, reaching out a hand when her posture says no. And she shouldn’t have to go through her day avoiding hands, hiding her hair, or answering questions about her hair.
Miller and Aria call a halt to the nonsense—and we’re all grateful, empathizing with Aria. Aria declares her boundaries to the onlookers who look appropriately contrite and embarrassed. Miller then moves to model how healthy interactions look. I like that she includes the answer no and that the person asking permission respects that answer.
I also like that Miller changes what Aria’s neighbors talk to her about: from just about her hair to greetings that identify her as a subject (not object) and more than her hair: “How are you today?” and “Hello!” As you should anyway, notice the open and close endpapers. Aria moves from helpless and fleeing to empowered and assertive.
Miller offers an engaging energy in her color palette and expressively drawn heroine. Her message is also engaging in that it is encouraging and empowering—and important.
Recommended for all the libraries, and not only for girls; and not only for your black or curly-headed friends and/or their black or curly-headed children.
An Entertainment Weekly interview with Sharee Miller, where after I wrote my “review,” I learned about some of the thinking behind the inclusion of the more whimsical/foreign creatures.
I appreciate how Miller writes a story that transmits a message that is about more than hair, but I appreciate her decision to use hair-touching specifically to talk about consent, body autonomy, boundaries. I’ve several adult friends—black women and curly-headed—who still have to fend off people from touching their hair.
One of the best articles I’ve read on this is Maisha Z. Johnson’s “8 Reasons You Want to Touch Black Women’s Hair—And Why They Mean You Shouldn’t”: “I’m sure you’ve come across the warning not to touch Black women’s hair before. But do you really understand why it’s so important to keep your hands out of our tresses?”