I first learned about Yesenia Moises through a friend and through social media–the best of places, aren’t they? In the era before ‘Rona, fellow BNP writer Leslie was checking out the vendor hall at BlerdCon back in 2019 with her family which included her daughter and her niece when they came across the booth of the artist-illustrator.
I was later told about Honeysmoke: A Story of Finding Your Color, Moises’ first published book as illustrator and started to follow the artist on social media. When I heard that she was debuting her first book, I jumped at the chance to ask for a review copy and, in turn “tell a friend’ about a creative they should check out and a book that they’ll soon love.
Stella’s Stellar Hair opens to one young Stella waking up with the biggest, poofiest, untamed hair. It’s not at all what she wanted, especially on such a big day–today is the Big Star Little Gala! She notes that her hair twisted and turned and zigged and zagged, made loopity-loops and lots of curly q’s. She longs to look her best even though she’s not entirely sure what style will suit her. After speaking with her mama, she’s off on a very important quest to see her aunties on each planet and request their help with her hair!
I love the affirming language used throughout the book! Stella’s head is tended to with love, and she wears a number of different styles with everything from twists and braids to curls that make up an elegant crown. Hair is important to so many of us, and there are many wonderful descriptive words throughout the book to share with young readers to help increase their vocabulary and even boost the confidence of those reading who may see themselves on the page.
So often with hair–with all the variety and beauty that comes with Black hair, there is so much negative talk and mockery surrounding it. With afro textured or natural styles like locs, there’s more than enough ridicule and shame that comes attached to young Black and Brown kids before they even leave elementary school. There’s more than a handful of stories in recent years that will make your heart sink. On the upside, I was elated to hear that California became the first state to ban discrimination based on one’s natural hair, (including lock and braids) a year ago.
The narrative of this adorable children’s book has layers: Stella travels from planet to planet to Auntie to Auntie to be loved on and have her head tended to. It is a ritual that continues with adults that are loving and reassuring. These threads of the story touch on the importance of family, celebrating them, and acknowledging the work of all the women/femme/female presenting persons in our family circles do that, in turn celebrate us.
Each of Stella’s Aunties are a treat to meet on each planet: all come in different shades of brown, different body types and different, unique hairstyles. Towards the end, it is clear that our titular young star gazing character has learned something from each of them, and she remembers them in the end when she approaches her big look for the gala event. As the Ashanti proverbs, goes: it takes a village. Even if that village is spread out in the galaxy!
For young minds who are interested in science, Stella’s adventures will be well welcomed! Moises’ artwork sets the stage with an outer space setting, with each visit to another planet, splashing details of each planet on every page. For example, Auntie Rubi who lives on Mars has now permanent red colored tresses as she lived there so long. Auntie Iris on Saturn clad in roller shakes, leads her niece onto the floor of a fun looking roller rink in space. After my first read through, I counted it all joy to go through the book again and check out all the Aunties once more to further connect them to the planets they resided on.
“Curls, waves, braids, twists or something that is shiny and new. The hair that you wear is stellar as long as it is totally you!”
A fun, colorful tale for the 4-8 age group, Stella’s Stellar Hair will capture the imaginations and the hearts of little ones and parents everywhere with its ode to self-love, self-empowerment, and flair for color. Illustrating a variety of hairstyles and types of hair worn by Black and Brown folks everywhere, it leans towards celebratory with kind, helpful adults present on nearly every page to guide a little girl towards having an attitude of loving how she is and taking everything she’s learned from the kinfolk in her life.
With a sci-fi inspiration, young readers will appreciate visuals like Stella’s hoverboard and Mar’s red hued background, the final two pages after the story wraps up sheds more light on the planets in our solar system that young readers will enjoy. I loved this book even with the heartbreaking exclusion of Pluto, which we know has been reclassified as a dwarf planet. (I watched Sailor Moon growing up–I don’t want to break up the Sailor Scout/Senshi family!) Regardless, this book is still a bright, fun shining example of what kid-lit needs and what I’d be glad to buy a few more copies of for the young readers in my life!
9 Handfuls of Glimmering Stardust Out Of 10
Read more about the book and see where to purchase it here!
Yesenia Moises is an Afro-Latina illustrator and designer with a specialty in product design. Her work proudly portrays people of diverse backgrounds playing leading roles in fantasy adventures that are brimming with color. Yesenia is the illustrator of Honeysmoke: A Story of Finding Your Color. Stella’s Stellar Hair is her first picture book as both author and illustrator. See more of her on her personal website, on Twitter, and Instagram!