Quick book review and how we use it: Crazy Hair by Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean

This is one of my favorite read alouds of the year.


This book is actually a poem in which a little girl asks the main character why his hair is so “crazy”. He responds with the most dazzling array of answers. There are beasts that live in his hair, and a wild animals, carousels, and hot air balloons.. The art is also phenomenal. Each stanza ends with, “..in my crazy hair” and even our 5th graders will fill in that section and join in the reading.

How we use it:

We use this text in our poetry unit. We LOVE it. This is one of the last poems that we have our students write in the unit because it is more personal.

The prompt for this poem is to take back ownership and claim an aspect of yourself that you sometimes feel insecure, judged, or uncomfortable about.

I then talk about how even though people ask about my hair, touch my hair without asking etc.. this poem embodies my claiming of this part of myself with PRIDE. Our students write poems about their hairy arms, big feet, ‘funny’ ears, “being weird”, “tallness”, freckles.. The list goes on. It is a hard and vulnerable poem — but we love the social-emotional work that this lesson brings to the table and the poems are personal mantras of hard internal and academic work!

Questions / conversations with the students:

  • There are always students who feel resistant to this poem, it makes them feel uncomfortable (“I like everything about myself” or “I can’t think of anything”). For these students we return back to a brainstorming list we’ve done in the past.
  • “Crazy” is a complicated word, and we know that. One thing we talk about in this context is how since this is your poem of ownership — you can call it whatever you’d like to. I make a point to share that I do NOT like it when other people tell me that my hair is “crazy”. We talk about the difference between what you or an inner community can call yourself/itself, versus what doesn’t feel okay for others to say about you. This conversation comes up again and again in our room in different veins.
  • We make a point to celebrate what they share. It is brave to take something on that you don’t always feel secure about and claim it with pride. We tell them how proud we are of them for doing this work and how as humans this is hard, but important work to do. We all have to be our own cheerleaders sometimes!

I’d love to hear how anyone else uses this awesome text — or if there are other ones you especially love!

Originally published at teachpluralism.squarespace.com on December 15, 2016.