Celebrating black history with “Hair Love” and other picture books.

Cherry has been nominated for an Oscar for a movie short he created for the book.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS: “Hair Love” by Matthew Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. Cherry has been nominated for an Oscar for a movie short he created for the book.
Photo: Penguin Random House
When the seven-minute animated short film “Hair Love” debuted last fall, Houston resident Don Payne couldn’t stop watching it.

By the fifth time, he was nearly in tears. The movie, written, produced and directed by Matthew Cherry, spotlights the relationship between an African American father, Stephen, and his daughter, Zuri, and her hair. It’s based on Cherry’s bestselling children’s picture book, “Hair Love” (Kokila, $17.99), with New York Times bestselling illustrator Vashti Harrison.

The film, which features actress Issa Rae, is nominated for an Oscar for best animated short film.

Black dads are finally getting recognized in a positive way for being great “girl dads” and doing their hair, said Payne, who works in telecommunications and has two grown daughters and a 12-year-old, Trinity. Payne has been styling Trinity’s hair since she was a baby; he found the Brown Girls Hair blog and YouTube channel to help him navigate the plethora of hair products and styles.

“There’s this stereotype of what it is to be a man and what men do and don’t do, but when you see what it means to your daughter or your wife when you do their hair, it makes it all worthwhile,” he said.

Payne is now a pro, in a way, with a collection of product and hair accessories ready for any style.

“I think Trinity enjoys it. She even thought all dads did their daughters’ hair,” he said.

On “CBS Morning News,” author Cherry said he hopes his book and movie will help normalize hair for black people, citing Houston high school senior DeAndre Arnold, who was banned from his own graduation because of his long locks.

“It’s crazy that laws have to be passed to make it illegal to discriminate against black people because of their hair in the workplace,” Cherry said. Or in the classroom.

In honor of Black History Month, here are more uplifting picture books for young readers:

‘The Undefeated’
By Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ages 6-9, 40 pages


“The Undefeated” is Kwame Alexander’s beautiful poetic tribute to African American history and life in the United States. With award-winning illustrator Kadir Nelson, the book highlights the trauma of slavery, the fire of the civic rights movement and showcases heroes who have led the way. The book is a 2020 Caldecott Medal Winner, received the 2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator award and a Newbery honor.

By Lupita Nyong’o and illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Simon & Schuster, ages 4-8, 48 pages


Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o has talked publicly about overcoming society’s negative feelings about her dark skin. Now, she’s made it the theme of her first children’s book. Sulwe’s skin is the color of midnight, and she’s the darkest one in her family. But she wants more than anything to be bright. The book takes Sulwe on a magical journey to show her that true beauty comes from within. The book is a New York Times bestseller and won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator award for Vashti Harrison’s vivid artwork.

‘Parker Looks Up’
By Parker Curry and Jessica Curry and illustrated by Brittany Jackson

Aladdin, ages 4-8, 40 pages


Remember the cute little girl, Parker Curry, who captured the world’s attention when she was photographed staring in awe at first lady Michelle Obama’s portrait as it hung in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery? Parker and her mother, Jessica Curry, have turned the viral image into a picture book that tells the story of a young girl and her family, whose trip to a museum becomes a life-changing experience.

‘The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne’
By Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by John Parra

Aladdin, ages 7-10, 48 pages


This book tells the inspiring story of Ethel Payne, a groundbreaking African American journalist known as the “First Lady of the Black Press.” A native of Chicago, Payne began writing letters to newspapers about black issues and politics during World War II and then went to work for the Chicago Defender, which sent her to Washington, D.C. She was one of only three black journalists with a White House press pass and covered six presidents. Renowned author Lesa Cline-Ransome and celebrated illustrator John Parra team up on this important story in history.

Text courtesy Houston chronicle.com

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