When I had the opportunity to review Lily and the Magic Comb about a child of colour with curly hair, I knew it would be a story my son could relate to. He’s three years old with beautiful, curly hair that in-keeping with my culture, we’ve decided not to cut just yet. However, while he’ll happily regale willing audiences in telling them of “my curls”, his relationship with his hair isn’t always a welcome one.
Hair washing is an ordeal, complete with screaming protests from the bath or the shower, as is combing his hair. When he sees my wife or I coming with the spray bottle in the morning (because leaving the house with dry hair is a definite no-no), he’ll run off in an attempt to evade his hair being made presentable for the day. While sometimes amusing, we’re keen to ensure that his aversion to combing his hair doesn’t create a negative relationship with his hair as such a strong cultural symbol.
Diversity in childrens books
Similarly, my wife and I are passionate about exposing our son to literature where he is able to see characters in his own image within a diverse world. Yet this isn’t always easy. The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education reported that only 7% of the children’s books published in the UK over the last 3 years (2017, 2018, 2019) feature characters from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background. Even before reading it, Lily and the Magic Comb was therefore ticking many boxes as an ideal book to read with my son.
Firstly, the book is beautifully illustrated by Kate Hazell. The colours and images are vibrant, bold and compelling. My son was instantly drawn to the cover, rhetorically asking “what’s in the girl’s hand?” before keenly opening the book. Subconsciously or otherwise, the image of Lily with her comb served as an ideal hook and the conversation point for what this book might be about before we started to read it (yes, I’m a primary school teacher).
Brilliantly told by VV Brown, the story tells the tale of Lily receiving a magical comb for her birthday. Propelled by her imagination, it takes her on a journey of wonder and realisation that she can be anything she wants to be. While the suspended reality captivated my son, the idea of celebrating self belief and one’s identity was consistent throughout the story via the illustrations and the actual text.
The narrative and the themes of Lilly and the Magic Comb were certainly accessible for my son. Furthermore, it’s a great read for slightly older children and those who are able to read themselves. VV Brown’s storytelling creates vivid imagery that makes it an enjoyable read for children and adults. It also provides opportunities for older children to develop their vocabulary without detracting from the flow of the story while reading.
It was a joy to read a book with my son that he was able to make such a personal connection with. And to extend that connection to the celebration of his identity, and the promotion of self belief, makes this a great book.
I would wholeheartedly recommend it as a wonderful addition to any child’s book collection. It makes an excellent Christmas present. Especially, if you’re looking for a children’s book that celebrates and promotes diversity in its characters while allowing the reader to delve into their imagination.
Watch our interview with author VV Brown on Sunday, 13th of December at 9 pm on our Instagram