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A Coretta Scott King Award Winner for Illustration
A Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies

Every design has a name and means something in the powerful past and present richness of the Black tradition. Mama's and Great-Grammaw's gentle fingers weave the design, and their lulling voices weave the tale, as they braid their children's hair into the striking cornrow patterns of Africa.

"Camille Yarbrough captures the warmth of family affection and the pride of our rich heritage in a story that's superbly illustrated by Carole Byard." -- Essence

"Camille Yarbrough is a poet, griot and storyteller who has crafted a special, rhythmic and moving story for you and yours. . . . The illustrations by Carole Byard dignify and give all due respect to the story." -- Council on Interracial Books for Children

48 pages, Paperback

First published November 1, 1979

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About the author

Camille Yarbrough

5 books3 followers
Camille Yarbrough is an award-winning performance artist, author, and cultural activist. With a career that spans over sixty years, several continents, countless awards and accolades, and a few generations, Nana Camille has earned legendary status. She continues to inspire audiences today via her local, long-running television show of sixteen years (Ancestor House), via her popular musical CD (also entitled Ancestor House), and via performances and lectures focusing on poetry, music, Black art, spirituality, and culture.

Camille Yarbrough’s international hit song “Take Yo Praise” introduces the currently running Tribute Collection Commercial for Forevermark Diamonds.

A House Music remix of Camille Yarbrough’s song “Take Yo Praise” can be listened to on SoundCloud.

Eight Page excerpt of Nana Camille Yarbrough’s soon to be published autobiography “Strip Down Personal” pages 160-167 is in the current issue of Black Renaissance Noire. (Volume 17, Issue 2, Fall 2017)

Camille Yarbrough is interviewed in the forthcoming documentary Conversations: The Black Radical Tradition by Ed Stokes.

Most recently, Camille Yarbrough was a featured performer in Onaje Allan Gumb’s “Truth To Power” Concert at Aaron Davis Hall. She then returned to her hometown to perform at The Soulful Chicago Book Fair. Nana Camille also spoke to a group of young students in Harlem, New York at Carolyn Butts African Voice’s Get Your Read On Assembly at The Urban Assembly Academy for Future Leaders.

Nana Camille Yarbrough was honored at the 16th Annual Juneteenth Arts Festival in Brooklyn, The Langston Hughes Cultural Center in Queens, New York, and Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey. She is regularly called upon to share her wisdom and life/work, at Kwanzaa celebrations and Haitian tributes at York College, concerts in New York for Maulana Karenga, or on the Michael Eric Dyson Radio Show. Regardless of the medium, Nana Camille’s life-long vision remains clear. She consistently champions the beauty and greatness of African people wherever they are in the world. Her mission is to raise their glory and in so doing vibrate that thread of humanity that links us all.

Camille Yarbrough was enstooled in New York by Abladei, Inc. (Ghanaian) as Naa Kuokor Agyman 1, founder of the Stool House of Harriet Tubman and was given the honorary title of “Nana”.

Yarbrough’s vision was nourished and became a creative force in her life when she toured as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company of Dancers, Singers, and Musicians. There Nana Camille honed her performance and producing gifts and immersed herself in an independent study of African people throughout the Diaspora.

The world-traveling Chicago native currently resides in New York.

Nana Camille Yarbrough for twelve years was a faculty member at the City College of New York where she taught African dance and the Harlem community courses. As an accomplished theater actress, she co-starred in Lorraine Hansberry’s To Be Young, Gifted, and Black and did the national tour as a member of the company. Later she recorded the cast album and wrote a half-page article about the show published in the Drama Section of The New York Times. She also did a national tour of Ted Mann’s, Circle in the Square Theater Production of James Weldon Johnson’s play, God’s Trombones, was featured in writer Adrian Kennedy’s Cities in Bezique at New York’s Public Theater and danced, sang and acted in the Broadway Musical, Kwamina.

For television and film, her credits include soap operas; Where the Heart Is, Search For Tomorrow, Television Special; Soul, CBS Special; Caught in the Middle and Gil Noble’s Like It Is. She also toured in her one-woman show; Tales and Tunes of an African American Griot. In contemporary pop cultural circles, Nana Camille is known as the singer whose song and vocals were sampled on the international mega-hit, Praise You, by techno-musician Fatboy Slim. Her first solo musical recording, The Iro

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5 stars
54 (53%)
4 stars
31 (30%)
3 stars
12 (11%)
2 stars
3 (2%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews
Profile Image for Whitney.
72 reviews29 followers
January 6, 2017
Beautiful classic. I will always cherish memories of my mother reading this to me, or I to her as she braided my hair <3
Profile Image for Jordan Pierre.
81 reviews1 follower
February 18, 2021
Baldwin, King Jr, Malcolm X, Chisholm, Owens, Carver, Wright,& Hughes. This is a beautiful book displaying the history of black culture and expression. I listened to the animated video + audio narrative on YouTube. I enjoyed how the book illustrates how black people's roots in Africa inspired our culture in modern times. It establishes that our hair is an expression of wisdom, symbolism, and gratitude.Not only does this narrative educate you on the importance of self-worth & character, but it also reminds us of the black leaders before us, whom by being themselves, lead to change.
12 reviews
June 18, 2012
Cornrows is a book by Camille Yarbrough with illustrations by Carole Byard about a young girl named Shirley Ann and her little brother Mike who are told wonderful stories about their hair by their mother and grandmother while having their hair cornrowed. Their grandmother delves into their family history and the history of peoples of African descent to give the children a sense of pride and respect for themselves and their lineage.
The book is beautifully written by Camille Yarbrough and Carole Byard’s illustrations simultaneously bring to life Shirley Ann’s experiences while allowing the reader to visualise the characters from the past that her grandmother describes so vividly. This book would be ideal for reading in classrooms with high populations of Black children, but could also be beneficial with other groups of children as a means of teaching the significance of the hairstyle for African peoples and introducing children to important Black people in history. The book would probably work best in KS2.
Profile Image for April Scheivelhud.
116 reviews2 followers
January 24, 2010
I absolutely loved the poetry, rich tradition, and symbolism in this book. The young girl that is getting her hair braided hears about the origin of the braids. The grandma goes on to say how people used to "name" their braids. This part references some really great african american civil rights leaders. Highly recommend for 2nd grade and up.
8 reviews
October 10, 2018
"Cornrows" is a traditional fictional story written by Camille Yarbrough and illustrated by Carole Byard. It is the story of Sister and her brother, "Me too", learning about the historical background of cornrowed hair from Great-Grammaw and Mama. The tale they tell together is a beautiful prose of history that predates Africans in slavery to the Yoruba, who called cornrows "suku", which is the symbol of the spirit that cornrows continue to carry with it to today.

"Cornrows" teaches a pride of African heritage and a love for the symbols of that heritage. While the story does not have the typical problem and solution, it is interesting to children. The illustrations are realistic and beautifully representative of the story.

I chose this book to be in my text set because it is about cornrowed braided hair styles that many African-American and Black children wear today. The story teaches pride, self-esteem, and history to children. I also enjoyed that the main characters were both male and female with the desire to have cornrowed hair. The images in the illustrations are majestic and positive. Carole Byard includes accurate pictures of such historical figures as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Nina Simone, Alex Baldwin, and Josephine Baker. Only African-Americans and Africans are represented in this book and they are depicted without stereotype and reflect positively on the African-American community.
11 reviews
October 12, 2020
The genre of this book is fiction and the story is about a young girl and her brother who are told historical stories about various things about their African culture while they get their hair cornrowed.The book uses poetry as a mechanism of telling the stories the grandmother and mother are telling the children. The stories being told help show that the overarching theme is having pride for yourself and your history particularly for younger African American readers. Both the author and illustrator are African American and are giving children who look like them a story of their history in a picture book manner.
Profile Image for Karah.
Author 1 book20 followers
December 28, 2022
I love the inclusion of luminaries in this book. Camille Yarbrough upholds black excellence. I want the knowledge of her books to spread. She's underrated. In the attack on black sovereignty, we need more black people to know of our glorious authors. An individual reads this book and learns the names and the knowledge grows of our exquisite history.

Kudos, Miss Camille!!!
Profile Image for Ellon.
3,542 reviews
July 31, 2020
The except on the back of the book from Publishers Weekly says “a jubilant celebration of black culture... with absolutely marvelous drawings” and I don’t think I have much to add. That pretty much sums it up.
Profile Image for Brooklyn Sr.
461 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2022
5 star, easy. Cant wait till my daughter starts reading
Already have this one for her before she was born
Profile Image for Charlotte.
549 reviews
February 14, 2023
What a beautiful book
A family sings and tells stories together while they do each others hair in cornrows.
The mom and grandmother highlight the culture and story of cornrows.
107 reviews7 followers
April 4, 2015
Literature Requirement: **1980 Coretta Scott Kind Award Winner (illustrator)**

My favorite part of this book was the contrast between the musical elements and the text of the story. The musical elements start to pick up and appear more frequently as the story goes on, and they are rich in history and meaning. One particularly powerful portion of song goes as follows:

And the style that once was praise
then was changed to one of shame.
Then the meanings were forgotten
and forgotten was the name...

This section refers to cornrows as a hairstyle, and as the title would suggest, the book is primarily focused on the history of cornrows. It’s a very informational book, although there are plenty of pictures. These pictures add a wonderful visual element to the songs, and it’s a book truly deserving of the Coretta Scott King illustrator award. There is much to be learned once you look beneath the surface value of the words that Camille Yarbrough crafts into the story, and it’s a worthy endeavor to take the time to analyze what has been highlighted and included. Rich history like this deserves to be documented in such an artistic way.
8 reviews
October 28, 2014
This book is about a little girl named Shirley Ann and her younger brother. While they are sitting down to get their hair braided by their mother and grandmother, they are told stories about their hair and the history behind it. Their grandmother tells them about how their ancestors used to name their cornrows. She makes reference to members of their family and even some historical figures, which helps to add the realistic quality to the text.This shows them the history behind their hairstyle that is so unique within their culture. The story promote pride in a familiar African american hair style and introduces students to the historical aspects of it. The genre for this book is realistic fiction. The illustrations and language help to make it developmentally appropriate for elementary aged students. Also, it is a quality children's book because it is understandable and teaches a lesson through story and illustration.
Profile Image for Lindsey Rogers.
125 reviews
October 30, 2012
In this story the young brother and sister get a history lesson when they sit down to get their hair cornrowed by their mother and grandmother. The language in this book is wonderful and the illustrations are beautiful. The reader is able to see the imagination that Carole Byard expresses in the illustrations. Camille Yarbrough's poetry and symbolism are treasures to this story for example, in the title the hairstyle 'cornrows'. In the end the children are able to understand their rich heritage a little better. I think this story could be used around the time of black history month to introduce students to important African American heros.
50 reviews
December 6, 2015
Cornrows written by Camille Yarbrough and illustrated by Carole Byard was a very interesting story. The story was about two young kids who saw that their mom was getting cornrows done by their grandmother. Being nosy they asked were cornrows came from and the grandmother and mother told them a story about where they did come from in Africa and how cornrows are a celebration of being black basically. The illustrations in this used a lot of line and stayed black in white the whole story. The idea of that was most likely they were celebrating being black in the actual story so that could be why they stayed with that.
Profile Image for Azriana Johnson.
114 reviews3 followers
October 30, 2012
Cornrows is a story about a liitle girl named Shirley Ann and her younger brother, Mike, who are told stories about their hair by their mother and grandmother while having their hair cornrowed. Their grandmother tells stories of their family history and the history of African American people. As a teacher, I would use this book during Black History Month and use it as a story of Black heritage. The illustrations were my favorite part of the book because I draw and I love to sketch. The illustrations are beautifully drawn.
Profile Image for Cara Byrne.
3,237 reviews20 followers
November 29, 2014
Powerful picture book from the late seventies about embracing one's history, community, and family through hair. This work seems to have influenced many contemporary writers who also write about self-esteem and hair to an audience of young children - including Natasha Tarpley and bell hooks.
Profile Image for Edda.
182 reviews15 followers
February 28, 2015
Beautifully-illustrated picture book about the rich history of braiding and how the Spirit lives on through this cultural tradition.

Carole Byard won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator award in 1980 for this book.
Profile Image for Jocelin.
1,878 reviews45 followers
July 10, 2011
The one thing that is really great about this book is the illustrations. Loved the sketches and the images in the book. The story was just ok; didn't really blow me away
Profile Image for Brindi Michele.
3,534 reviews51 followers
August 8, 2013
1980 CSKing Illustrator Winner

Byard's illustrations always make me feel comfortable and at home. They're fantastic, and this story was heart-felt and perfect.
Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews

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