November is National Children’s Picture Book Month and Right On Digital spoke to author Shellice Beharie about her debut, PRINCE AND HIS MOTHER’S CROWN: Tales Within My Mother’s Hair, why she adored the Bernenstain Bears series as a kid and what she wants us to know about people with disabilities!
Right On! Digital: Prior to launching your career as a children’s book author, what line of work where you in?
Shellice Beharie: I attended The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, from which I graduated in 2003. I then did a series of internships within intersecting industries including working with designer Michael Herrera, AKA M protégé of Karl Kanai at Anoname Denim, Interscope and Geffen A&M Records in the Marketing Department with Candace Barry and at Source magazine in New York as a fashion stylist working with Williams Rawls. In 2014, I started my fashion label Blacklisted Couture and had my own showroom at the California Market Center.
Q: What made you go from fashion, music and media to writing a children’s picture book?
A: Oftentimes we experience moments in life that completely redirect us. The idea of writing a children’s book came from my son Nicholas, who passed away on Memorial Day weekend 2019, due to a tragic car accident. His younger brother, Christian, loved to play with my hair and so he kept suggesting that I should write a story about it. In early 2019, I started the process of writing and publishing Prince & His Mother’s Crown: Tales within My Mother’s Hair.
Q: Tell us about Prince & His Mother’s Crown: Tales within My Mother’s Hair.
A: This read-aloud narrative communicates that in their early stages of childhood boys can find comfort and creativity in their mother’s tresses. Full of positive imagery the book is illustrated by Richa Kinra. Each page showcases a graceful, loving Queen mother engaging in the activities of her son’s wild imagination, showing their precious familial relationship. Pictures of a young Prince climbing his mother’s Rapunzel style braid honors her strength, while an image of him slaying a dragon in her curly afro shows where his sense of security lies. For the 2020 holiday season we released a complimentary coloring and activity book.
Q: What message do you want parents and children to take away after reading your book?
A: As a mother of boys, I know first-hand that hair can be a point of love, pride and affection. The mother-son bond is crucial in shaping how are young boys will relate to others and treat people, especially Black women who take pride in wearing their natural hair. Both of my sons were in awe of my hair transformations. I was constantly dying my hair a new shade of red, black, or brown or putting it in cornrows, braids, or a ponytail. The versatility kept them wondering how I did it. Many times, they commented on liking the previous look better. I switched up monthly.
I want young boys to have the freedom to express their affection and imagination during early childhood. It’s healthy for them. It should not be taboo or forbidden for our little boys to play with hair. Touch is a love language and a child touching his mother’s hair is a simple way to express love without words.
Q: Growing up, what was your favorite children’s picture book?
A: I loved the Berenstain Bears series created by Stan and Jan Berenstain. Back in the 80s there wasn’t much representation as far as the African-American community was concerned in children’s book literature. I knew that I wasn’t a bear, but I could identify to the Berenstain bears’ brown hue. Brown loving beings. They were also very upbeat lived in a nice treehouse and exemplified familiar family bonds
Q: You are an Inglewood, California chapter affiliate of the National Federation for the Blind. What advice do you have for someone with a physical limitation?
A: Do not exclude or underestimate people with disabilities; we are perceptive, insightful and fun. There is Bible verse that states, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Basically, don’t avoid socializing and engaging with our disabled citizens; you could be missing out on a remarkable experience.
Editor’s Note: Shellice Beharie is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Connect with her at www.AuthorShelliceBeharie.com