Today we are doubly delighted to congratulate Poetry Friday friends Irene Latham and Charles Waters on their brand new poetry picture book, Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship (Carolrhoda, 2018), illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko.
Officially released January 1st, this timely collection of 33 free verse poems explores the sensitive issues of race, racism, and identity with heart and candor.
Latham and Waters channel their fifth grade selves in alternating poems written by young “Irene,” who’s white, and young “Charles,” who’s black, two public school students working on a classroom Poetry Project together.
In the course of the narrative, we see how Irene and Charles, initially reluctant at being partners, gradually build mutual trust, sowing the seeds of a unique friendship as they discover things about each other, themselves, and the world beyond home and school.
They start out wary and hesitant; shy and quiet Irene describing Charles as “you-never-know-what-he’s-going-to-say Charles,” and gregarious Charles disappointed that he’s “stuck with Irene,” a girl who “hardly says anything . . . Plus she’s white.”