Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes



A young man exudes ‘black boy joy’ as he shares his appreciation and excitement for his local barbershop, and gets ready for a haircut that will “frame his swagger”.  Rhythmic language, and youth vocabulary demonstrate how a trip to the barbershop develops the protagonist’s concept of beauty, confidence and sense of self. This is both an ‘ode to the fresh cut’  and an homage to barbers and the barber shop in the black community.

Genre - picture book
Lexile Level  - 700 L
Themes -
self-love and knowledge, community, haircut rituals, community relationships

Rings of Culture represented -

Ethnicity: black/various
Age: 7-13/various
Gender: boy
Socio -Economic: middle/working class
National: United States

Why it’s Culturally Authentic (aka VABBulous)-  

  • Gordon C. James illustrations are vibrant, engaging, realistic, validating and affirming.

  • Presents a positive, affirming perspective of black boys/men and presents a counter-narrative to the biased, negative images often presented in the media/main-stream.

  • Voice and point of view affirms both youth and ethnic rings of culture/experiences.

  • The cadence and vocabulary reflect hip hop/youth culture.

  • It honors the artistry and significance of barbers in the black community.

  • It validates/affirms several cultural elements on the Iceberg of Culture, including concepts of beauty, self concept, non-verbal communication, courtship practices, attitudes towards elders and body language.

Common Core Standards -

W 2.3; 2.8, RL 2.1, 2.2, 2.4, 2.7; SL 2.1

Ideas for CLR -

Set It Off - Into the Text

Journal Prompt + Musical Shares


  1. Give students 1-2 minutes to take a Moment of Silence to respond to one of the following journal prompts in writing.

  2. After they are done, use Musical Shares for them to share their responses with 3-4 classmates.

  • How do you feel after getting your hair cut/done?

  • Where do you go to get your hair cut/done? Who does it? What is your favorite thing about getting your hair cut/done?

The Get Down (Through the Text)

Tag Reading -The rhythm and cadence of this book make it perfect for tag reading.

  • Select a student to begin reading.

    • Student stands and begins to walk around the room while reading aloud.

    • After reading at least 2 lines(or whatever amount you determine as min/max), that student ‘tags’ another student.

    • The student that is tagged stands up and begins to walk and read aloud while the student who tagged them sits in their seat.

    • Repeat this process until several students have had an opportunity to read.

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Sample Prompts

- How does a trip to the barbershop make protagonist feel? Why?

- What adjectives would you use to describe the protagonist?

- What is the most important message of the book?

What are some ideas you have for a CLR lesson for Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut?

Lydia McClanahan