Happy to Be Nappy

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
Happy to Be Nappy Book Poster Image
Lighthearted tribute to Black girls' hair.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The text and illustrations show children the beauty and variety of African American hair types and styles, and the joy in having and caring for that hair.

Positive Messages

Love yourself and celebrate yourself just as you are.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The illustrations feature Black children (mostly girls) and adults, with their hair shown in thick, black brushstrokes, surrounded by big, colorful circles that suggest halos and crowns. The text aims to take the stigma from the word "nappy" as well as from the hair type the word refers to. 

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Happy to be Nappy, by bell hooks and illustrated by Chris Raschka, encourages young children to be excited by African American hair and its possibilities. Its playful watercolor illustrations and handwritten text will engage children as they're read to. The original picture book edition was published in 1999, and this board book edition came out in 2017.

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What's the story?

There's no narrative to HAPPY TO BE NAPPY. It's a celebration of black hair types and styles written in a poetic style. Different types of hair styles are depicted, along with words that range from loaded (like "nappy" and "frizz") to lyrical ("soft like cotton, flower-petal, billowy soft").

Is it any good?

This lighthearted board book with mystical elements is fun to read and will be fun to share with young children. One of several collaborations between writer bell hooks and illustrator Chris Raschka (the team that created Skin Again and Be Boy Buzz), Happy to Be Nappy shows Black children and their hair in a consistently glowing light. The authors take care to convey that African hair is beautiful, whether its cut close and tight or long and plaited. A charming detail that parents and children alike can appreciate: Look for the perturbed faces on the children getting their hair styled -- a scene that many people can relate to.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the different types of hair shown in Happy to Be Nappy. What's your hair like?

  • Do you like to get your hair brushed and combed? 

  • What's your favorite picture in the book?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comforting books for toddlers

Themes & Topics

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