Can I Touch Your Hair?
Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship
Two poets, one white and one black, explore race and childhood in this must-have collection tailored to provoke thought and conversation.
How can Irene and Charles work together on their fifth grade poetry project? They don’t know each other . . . and they’re not sure they want to.
Irene Latham, who is white, and Charles Waters, who is Black, use this fictional setup to delve into different experiences of race in a relatable way, exploring such topics as hair, hobbies, and family dinners. Accompanied by artwork from acclaimed illustrators Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (of The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage), this remarkable collaboration invites readers of all ages to join the dialogue by putting their own words to their experiences.
|Interest Level||Grade 3 - Grade 6|
|Reading Level||Grade 4|
|Category||Diverse Books: #OwnVoices, Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity, SEL: A Self-Awareness, SEL: C Social Awareness, SEL: D Relationship Skills, Social Emotional Learning|
|Publisher||Lerner Publishing Group|
|Imprint||Carolrhoda Books ®|
|Number of Pages||40|
|Dimensions||7 x 10|
|Guided Reading Level||U|
|ATOS Reading Level||4.6|
|Accelerated Reader® Quiz||195373|
|Accelerated Reader® Points||0.5|
|Features||Author/Illustrator note, Awards, Original artwork, Reviewed, and Starred Reviews|
Author, Narrator: Irene Latham
Irene Latham is the author of more than a dozen current and forthcoming works of poetry, fiction, and picture books, including Charlotte Huck Honor Book Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship (co-written with Charles Waters) and the Caldecott Honor Book The Cat Man of Aleppo(co-written by Karim Shamsi-Basha). Winner of the 2016 ILA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, she became obsessed with octopuses after reading The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. Just like Agnes, she enjoys sending—and receiving—postcards. Visit her at www.irenelatham.com.
Author, Narrator: Charles Waters
Charles Waters is a children's poet, actor, and co-author of Charlotte Huck Honor Book Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship. His poems have appeared in various anthologies including One Minute Till Bedtime and The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. Charles performs his one-person show as well as conducts poetry performance and writing workshops for elementary and middle school audiences. He lives in Georgia.
Illustrator: Selina Alko
Selina Alko spends her days melding words and mixed-media art to convey stories of hope and inspiration—as well as an alternative viewpoint. Her books include The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, Can I Touch Your Hair?, Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama, and I is for Immigrants, which was selected a 2022 Best Children's Book of the Year by Bank Street Books. Selina lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Illustrator: Sean Qualls
Addressing Race and Racism with Readers
This week and throughout the coming month, the United States marks several notable anniversaries: The 2nd anniversary of George Floyd’s death on May 25, the 101st anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre on May 30, and Juneteenth on June 19 commemorating the emancipation of enslaved… View →
- Utah Beehive Award Nominee
- Blue Hen Book Award Nominee
- William Allen White Children's Book Awards Master List
- Great Lakes Great Books Award Nominee
- NCTE Notable Poetry Books
- Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards Nominee
- White Ravens
- ALA Notable Children's Books
- Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction Honor Book
- Cybils Finalist
- Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Books of the Year
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“[A]n unusually candid book for pre-YA kids about race and difference, allowing for the possibility of the mistakes (the word is right in the subtitle) but also a hopeful outcome as Irene and Charles find enrichment in their friendship.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
A Fuse #8 Production
“It took four people to bring us Can I Touch Your Hair? and countless others to bring it to our library and bookstore shelves. It takes only one person to buy it and show it to a kid. And it takes only one to use it as the conversation starter we’ve needed for so long.”—A Fuse #8 Production
The Horn Book Magazine
“Qualls and Alko’s layering of print newspaper clippings over paint begs readers to take a closer look. . . . [A]n excellent read-aloud or a launch pad for collaborative classroom writing.”—The Horn Book Magazine
“[D]elicately demonstrate[s] the complexity of identity and the power of communication to build friendships.”—starred, Publishers Weekly
“Young readers searching for means to have difficult, emotional, and engaged discussions about race will find an enlightening resource in Irene and Charles’ explorations.”—Booklist
“A fresh approach to exploring interracial communication. . . . A brave and touching portrayal worthy of sharing in classrooms across America.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
Carole Boston Weatherford
“A fresh and heartwarming take on bridging the racial divide.”—Carole Boston Weatherford, author of Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
“These poems explore diversity with refreshing honesty and complexity—and truly capture the personalities and voices of these two rising stars of poetry.”—Janet Wong, author and co-creator of The Poetry Friday Anthology series
J. Patrick Lewis
“In tantalizing free verse poems, Irene Latham and Charles Waters reimagine themselves as fifth-grade strangers, then classmates, and finally friends. Can I Touch Your Hair? is a compelling portrait of two youngsters dancing delicately through a racial minefield.”—J. Patrick Lewis, former US Children’s Poet Laureate