Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
Written by Derrick Barnes, Illustrated by Gordon C. James

Publisher’s Summary:
The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.

A fresh cut makes boys fly.

This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair–a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.

Primary Source Pairing:
In the Author’s Note, Derrick Barnes writes of the empowering feeling that he got when he was a young boy getting his hair cut. He remembers being treated like royalty and leaving looking like a million bucks. The story is just as the title implies, an ode, a celebration for a new haircut. For this primary source pairing, invite students to analyze an image of a barber shop in Washington D.C. in July 1942. Discuss comparisons from not only the image and the story but also students’ own experiences with getting their hair cut.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What connections can you make between what happened in the story and what is happening in the photograph?
  • How is what you see in the photograph similar or different from your own haircut experiences?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
“Washington, D.C. Negro barbershop on U Street, N.W.” Photograph: Library of Congress

Additional Resources:
Visit the Library of Congress website and search in the subject heading “Barbershops” for hundreds of more images capturing barbershops and their role in society. Click here for the search results.