If there was ever any doubt why representation matters in picture books, look no further than Nancy Redd’s Bedtime Bonnet. The award-winning on-air host, bestselling author, former Miss Virginia and GLAAD-Award nominee’s debut picture book is a vision.
Nighttime bonnets have been historically tucked away from mainstream consumption, a shame-inducing reality that Redd shares impacted her childhood. When she witnessed it shaping her daughter’s, she was inspired to write this book. This is what makes a story centered on a multi-generational Black family’s nighttime rituals such a groundbreaking one. Each page is packed with Nneka Meyers‘ richly textured illustrations of locs, curls, du-rags, silk scarves, wave caps, rollers and doobie wraps.
This story also underscores why picture books centered on under-represented groups don’t just benefit the children who finally get to see their lived reality reflected in books. It matters for other children— white children— who now, because of this book, are broadening their awareness and de-centering their own stories.
Thank you for this joy-filled, touching celebration of family, Nancy! I hope everyone reading this will find your favorite local indie bookstore online, snag a copy and share the love!
What is your favorite line from Bedtime Bonnet?
“When the sun comes down, our hair goes up!”
You described your now 6-year-old daughter as the inspiration for this story. What is it like to finally read your book to her?
Amazing! Especially since she loves her bonnet now. Proof that a little representation can make anything possible!
You talk about wanting children to see bonnets as a source of pride, not shame. What role do you think picture books can play in re-shaping this narrative?
Picture books are the cornerstone of childhood, and the more kids see themselves in them, the better self-esteem they’ll have!
Can you share a meaningful moment in your journey of bringing this book to life?
My daughter started drawing bonnet fan art when Nneka Myers’ beautiful BEDTIME BONNET cover arrived last year! It was so sweet to see how excited my daughter was! She wants to be an artist when she grows up, and Nneka is an amazing role model. 🙂
I knew I wanted to be a writer when…
I was in elementary school spending waaay too much time on essay and journal assignments that were supposed to be perfunctory! I’d take a paragraph assignment and turn it into a multi-page saga, ha!
Do you have a writing habit or quirk that has served you well?
I have the ability to sit in one place for days at a time without getting antsy. I’m not saying it’s healthy but it helps when there is a deadline looming.
Who are your writer heroes?
All of the people, in particular the women, and especially women of color, who are writers at heart, but life dictated a different path for them, making it virtually impossible to put their words down on the printed page for people to enjoy. I feel that so many folks have books inside of them, but whether by desire or necessity, they prioritized the success of others above their own goals and capacities. These “unwritten” writers are my heroes, because they sacrificed their dreams for mine and countless others.
Do you have words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
WRITE. JUST WRITE. Something, anything! What are you waiting for? Get to writing!
How would your story’s multi-generational family spend time together during a shelter in place?
Grandma might take this chance to give up on the sponge rollers and let her natural curls finally peek through. Mom and Sis would spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos on how to box braid and cornrow hair. Grandpa would keep shaving and telling corny jokes, Bro might convince Dad to try starter locs, and the little girl would probably just enjoy all the attention everyone in her family is paying her and her hair now that they’re all at home together!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you for thinking of me!! I hope to have inspired someone to write today!
Bedtime Bonnet was published by Random House Books for Young Readers on April 7, 2020