Review of Cornrows

Cornrows Cornrows
by Camille Yarbrough; illus. by Carole Byard
Primary, Intermediate    Putnam    48 pp.
4/23    9780593625071    $17.99
Paper ed.  9780698114364    $8.99

This is a welcome reissue of a classic of early African American picture books, first published in 1979, for which Byard won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. A lengthy text by today’s standards, narrated by Shirley Ann, or Sister, describes the origins and the meaning of the cornrows Great-Grammaw braids in Mama’s hair. Great-Grammaw explains, in dialect: “A long, long time ago, in a land called Africa,” people represented the “spirit that lives inside of you” with “symbols of courage, an honor, an wisdom, an love, an strength.” Byard’s powerful black-and-white illustrations capture everything from the horrors of the Middle Passage to the sophistication of ancient Yoruba culture to the warmth of Sister’s family life.

From the September/October 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is a contributing editor to The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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