Don't Touch My Hair!

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
Don't Touch My Hair! Book Poster Image
Girl speaks up, sets boundaries in funny picture book.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Educates readers about boundaries and personal space, as a girl becomes aware of her right and power to decide who touches her body, specifically her hair. It's also an introduction to the sensitive issue of people touching black people's hair out of curiosity, and the unfortunate hurt feelings that can cause.

Positive Messages

Respect the personal space of others, and demand that they respect yours.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is an African American girl. Girls, boys, and adults are depicted in a variety of skin colors and ages. There are representations of other kinds of diversity, including women in hijab and an elder using a walker. Aria figures out that she can set her personal boundaries.

Violence & Scariness

There are a couple of illustrations where Aria runs and hides from people aggressively coming after her to touch her hair. Though these people don't intend to harm her, Aria sometimes looks scared by their behavior.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Don't Touch My Hair!, written and illustrated by Sharee Miller, is a picture book about an African American girl who finds herself annoyed by people who touch her hair without asking permission. There are some fantasy elements to the story, as Aria tries to escape from the world of people with grasping hands by going to outer space, under the ocean, and to other imaginary locales. The illustrations are fun, with an occasional touch of scariness: Some of the pages are framed with reaching hands, and occasionally Aria looks frightened. A lot of diversity is shown, including people of all ages, women in hijab, an elder who's using a walker, and people with a variety of skin tones.

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What's the story?

In DON'T TOUCH MY HAIR!, Aria is an African American girl with big, soft, curly hair "that grows up toward the sun like a flower." She loves her hair and other people do, too. But others love it a little too much; they keep trying to touch her hair without permission. This makes Aria so uncomfortable, she tries to withdraw from people altogether. She hides underwater, but the mermaids try to touch her hair. She hides in the jungle, but the animals try to touch her hair. No matter where she goes, she can't run away from the problem. She returns home, and finds the only good solution: She tells them they have to ask. Sometimes she says yes. Sometimes she says no. But the important thing is that people respect her boundaries.

Is it any good?

This ALA Children's Notable Book offers a funny take on serious topics. Author-illustrator Sharee Miller packs a lot of emotion into the illustrations in Don't Touch My Hair! There's a repeated motif of hands (in a variety of different skin tones) reaching from the borders of the pages towards Aria at the center. This image manages to be funny, claustrophobic, and multicultural all at once. The way Aria experiences her dilemma is particularly nuanced and effective. The author communicates that touching other people without their permission is wrong, but she also delivers the lesson that running away is no answer: Aria doesn't cure her problem; rather, she learns to navigate a world where other people are not perfect.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how setting personal boundaries is shown in Don't Touch My Hair! What kinds of touch are OK? What kinds are not OK? How do you let someone know that you don't like the way they are touching you?

  • When people won't stop touching her hair, Aria runs away. Why do you think she does that instead of speaking her mind?

  • How are the people in the book different from one another? Do you know people who have different kinds of hair?

Book details

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For kids who love picture books and funny stories

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