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Q&A with Kimberley Kinloch - Me and My Hair

By Elle Summers

We are delighted to welcome Kimberley Kinloch to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release, Me and My Hair,  released on the 6th June 2024.

A heart-warming journey of learning to love the hair you have, and the person you are.

Follow Kyra as she shares her thoughts and feelings about her amazing Afro hair, and the facts she learns about all kinds of hair types and styles. After a trip to the hairdresser's, Kyra's school friends have lots of questions for her, and she has lots for them too. Learn about straight hair and coily hair, red hair and black hair, cornrows and french braids and more in this celebration of all things HAIR.

Hi Kimberley, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us here at The Reading Corner! Your book Me and My Hair is such an important piece of children’s literature, and I can’t wait to learn more about how it came to be!

Could you tell us a little about your own journey, and what brought you into the world of

children’s literature.

Sure, I've been writing stories since I was a little girl, so it's probably no surprise that I went on to study Creative Writing at university. As part of my course, I studied a lot of children’s literature modules and started to appreciate it as an art form, and not simply books made for children. In my final year at university, I became a children’s bookseller at my local Waterstones and found myself buying more and more children’s books every week (thank you, staff discount!). So, between university and work I was utterly surrounded children’s books! That’s really when I fell in love with them and decided I wanted to work in the wonderful world of children’s publishing.

How did the idea of Me and My Hair come about? For you, why is hair so important to identity?

So, I feel like the two things came hand-in-hand. In terms of identity, I consider my hair an

expression of who I am. When my hair looks good, I feel good. I wear it with pride and joy. I love my hair today but it took me a while to get here. Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of Afro hair representation around me. There weren’t many Black characters in the books I read, and very few people on TV wore natural Afro hairstyles. It was always weaves and relaxed styles – straight, straight, straight. So, it was hard for me to really embrace and be proud of my natural hair. My friends would sometimes ask questions about it (as I show in the opening of the book) but it just sort of made me feel alienated. But thankfully, as I grew older, I experimented with it more, learned how to treat and take care of it, and eventually came to this place of love. So I wrote this book to give children a little boost in their journey to loving their hair and themselves.

Although Me and My Hair focuses mainly on black hair, a wide range of people from a variety of backgrounds are mentioned. Why is it important for you to show diversity in children’s literature and how do you think representation can make a difference to your readership?

I included a variety of hair types, colours and styles because I wanted as many children as possible to see themselves in this book, because we ALL go on different hair journeys. And while it’s important for children to pick up a book and see themselves, it’s also important to learn about other cultures and the world around them too. Books are a great way to walk in other people’s shoes, so the more diverse stories are told, the more journeys’ children can take.

Jessica Gibson’s illustrations in the book are so fun! I loved the used of bright colours and

drawings to make the story come alive. Did you work collaboratively on how you wanted your

work to look?

Oh, I’m glad you like them. I was SO happy with all the illustrations in this book. Yes, it was a

collaborative effort between myself, the editor and designers, and Jessica. We sent Jessica briefs on what sort of illustrations we wanted and where, and she was brilliant at adding her own style to things. This was part of the reason I really wanted a Black illustrator for the book, so they not only knew how to illustrate Afro hair/hairstyles, but also understood it too. For example, when drawing the grandma character, she gave her looser curls in her hair, as this is common in Afro hair as it ages. Small touches like that really helped bring the book to life in an authentic way. Yay for illustrators!

I read that this book was written in consultation with The Halo Collective. Can you please tell us about their work, and why you wanted to get involved with the organisation.

Yes! I actually found the Halo Collective through my daughters’ school website. I saw their school had signed something called the ‘Halo Code’, a pledge to support and CHAMPION the right of its staff and students to embrace all Afro hairstyles. I researched more about Halo and was in awe of what I found. They had worked with BBC News, Stylist, Black Ballad, The Independent, The Evening Standard and various other media outlets, all with the aim to promote hair equality. It was a bit of a no-brainer to reach out to Halo and see if they wanted to work with us on this book. I contacted one of the founders, Katiann Rocha who told me that when she went to school natural Afro hairstyles – cornrows, braids, locs, afro puffs or anything in its natural form – were BANNED. They were deemed messy and unprofessional. I’d read a lot of stories about this sort of hair discrimination and knew I wanted to shine a light on this in my book, to get people thinking. So I was thrilled when the Halo Collective agreed to work with me on Me and My Hair.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Kimberley! Where will our readership be able to buy a copy of Me and My Hair?

Thanks for taking the time to read my book! Me and My Hair is available from 6th June, in shops, online and in all good retailers. Oh, and libraries too!

Kim always loved reading and writing from a very young age. One of her earliest memories is eagerly reading her own stories to her primary school class, every week.

She went on to study Creative Writing at Roehampton University and later became a Children's Bookseller at Waterstones. This was where she fell in love with children's books and never looked back.

After university, she knew she wanted to work in children's publishing and eventually became a member of the brilliant Usborne sales team. However, she recently returned to her writing roots, joining the buzzing editorial team. Now she can be found writing stories for Usborne or reading stories to her two young daughters - feeling so happy she didn't give up on her dream.


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