Shellice Beharie is the author of the new children's picture book Prince and His Mother's Crown: Tales Within My Mother's Hair. She lives in Southern California.
Q: You've said that the inspiration for your new book came from your late son Nicholas. What was his initial idea for the story?
A: Nicholas was an avid reader and his favorite series of books was Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Some of the books that we read together included Room on the Broom, The Gruffalo, and Tiddler, by Julia Donaldson, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
He probably thought it would make a good bedtime story, since he saw his baby brother playing with my hair. I used my mommy liberties to come up with the framework.
Q: In an interview with rightondigital.com, you said, "It should not be taboo or forbidden for our little boys to play with hair. Touch is a love language and a child touching his mother’s hair is a simple way to express love without words." Can you say more about what you hope kids take away from the story?
A: I would like for children to know that each one of them are unique. Even twins. When a child is young they should be encouraged to entertain their curiosity because we all have different interests.
I’ve never been a fan of adults telling kids to play with girl or boy toys. During childhood, we are bursting with curiosity. Our senses are piqued by so many varied stimuli. I want kids to ask questions and be open to trying new things as they find interesting. Embracing a child’s imagination can be a wonderful thing.
Q: Which books did you especially enjoy as a child?
A: The Night before Christmas was one of my favorite books as a child. I love the Christmas holiday season. My 4-year old Christian’s favorite books is The Gingerbread Man, although I do believe his new favorite by far is Prince and His Mother’s Crown: Tales Within My Mother’s Hair. He may be a bit biased.
Q: As someone who is legally blind, do you have advice for other people with visual impairments who are interested in writing children's picture books?
A: For someone who is legally blind and would like to publish a book, my advice is, you are only limited by the boundaries that you set forth within your mind. You can do it.
People are always amazed how someone blind can publish a book. They are most curious about the process of the illustrations. Researching, vetting and hiring an illustrator is a process that is best served by having experienced people to help you.
If you choose to self-publish, I advise you to find a reputable full-service self-publishing company that provides you with the proper support you’ll need. Find someone who you trust and can depend on for their honest advice and support and consider joining your local writing associations for resources and support.
I joined SCWBI (Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators), where you can get industry advice. The majority of children’s picture books start with the love of a child, a child’s wild imagination, or the joy of being a parent, caregiver, or educator.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am currently working on the next book in my series, Hairapocalypse, about a son’s reaction to his mother letting go of her long tresses and getting the “big chop.”
And one day, I’d like to write a memoir.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Prince and His Mother’s Crown: Tales Within My Mother’s Hair is dedicated to my son Nicholas who passed away on Memorial Day 2019. I have set up a scholarship fund in his memory at his school, Pearl Prep.
For those interested in sharing a tax-deductible donation can be made online at https://form.jotform.com/93245472720153 and a confirmatory letter will be sent to you.
Donations can also be mailed to:
1307 E. Longden Avenue
Arcadia, CA 91006
Phone: (626) 442–7737
--Interview with Deborah Kalb