Ivylocs Teaches Children to See the Beauty of African American Culture

On August 28th, 2016, my husband and I attended Hug Day Detroit in Detroit’s Eastern Market. There were many amazing, talented artists and various vendors selling art, jewelry, clothing, and other products at the event. We came across Danielle Carin Dunn’s table where she was holding a meet and greet and selling her first novel for young people.

I purchased a copy of Dunn’s Ivylocs book for my younger daughter and she really enjoyed the book. I love how Dunn’s book shows a positive depiction of African American culture! Check out today’s blog post review of Danielle Carin Dunn’s Ivylocs!

Meet Ivylocs! She’s a professional problem solver who loves to help others. “When challenges come as they may, I tell myself: ‘I WILL find a way!'” Ivylocs uses critical thinking skills to examine a problem, create a plan, and then execute the plan.

She doesn’t let any obstacles stand in her way from solving a problem. In fact, if new hurdles arise, she just re-evaluates her plan and the obstacle and tries again. There’s nothing stopping this young problem solver!

Sometimes when you’re a kid, you think you can’t do certain things. You think you’re not big enough to solve problems.

Yet, when I have a problem to solve, I grab my magnifying glass. I turn it toward myself so I realize I am bigger than the problem. So when challenges come, as they may, I tell myself: ‘I WILL find a way!’ 

Ivylocs by Danielle Carin Dunn

Ivylocs by Danielle Carin Dunn (Photo courtesy of Danielle Carin Dunn/Artwork by Cliffton “Mr CliffNote” Perry)

Ivylocs: Tee-Tee’s Wedding Episode 1 by Danielle Carin Dunn

Author Danielle Carin Dunn

Ivylocs: Tee-Tee’s Wedding Episode 1 is a novel for young people written by Danielle Carin Dunn. Dunn’s concept of creating a story series which spotlights a girl as the protagonist is brilliant! Not only is the main character a female, but she is also African American.

Dunn created Ivylocs because she believes there’s “still a need for girls and children of color to see themselves” in literature. Dunn says it’s important to feature girls as the protagonist of a story because “a lot of times girls are not the main protagonist.”

This is true even more so for African American girls. There is still a small percentage of young adult literature which features African American girls as the strong lead of a story. Dunn hopes with her creation of Ivylocs, she can help change that.

Dunn believes when it comes to featuring African Americans as lead characters in children’s literature, “representation matters”. When African American children read books that feature characters who are African American, too, it is very encouraging because they can relate to the characters. “If you see yourself, you feel like things are possible. If you don’t see yourself, you think that things are not for you,” Dunn says.

“If you see yourself, you feel like things are possible. If you don’t see yourself, you think that things are not for you,” Danielle Carin Dunn, author of Ivylocs


1Black, natural hair is seen as beautiful.

Remember the “Black is beautiful” cultural movement from the 1960s? This was a movement created to “dispel the notion in many cultures that black people’s natural features such as skin color, facial features, and hair are inherently ugly” (“Black is Beautiful”, Wikipedia).

In Dunn’s Ivylocs, she portrays African Americans as beautiful with their natural features and natural hair by showing the main character Ivylocs, Ivy’s Auntie Tee-Tee, and Ms. Vicky the natural hair stylist with dreadlocks. In fact, this is why Ivy is nicknamed “Ivylocs” because her hair is styled in locks.

A 1974 German “Black is beautiful” poster. Wikimedia Commons by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a German political foundation, as part of a cooperation project.

Descriptions of how the characters style their natural locks into beautiful hairstyles are seen throughout the book. For instance, Ms. Vicky, the natural hair stylist, styles Tee-Tee’s and Ivylocs’ hair for Tee-Tee’s wedding. Vicky also teaches Ivylocs how to care for natural hair by having Ivylocs help her style Tee-Tee’s hair. Ms. Vicky places small drops of tea tree oil on Ivylocs’ fingertips and guides her hands to massage the oils into Tee-Tee’s scalp and locks.

‘This helps in having a healthy scalp. It also relieves stress. Doesn’t the tea tree oil smell divine Ivy?’, Ms. Vicky asked (Dunn, p. 72).

Ms. Vicky teaching Ivylocs how to properly care for her natural hair demonstrates to African American readers how Black truly is beautiful. This self-care description highlights the beauty of African American hair.

‘Your hair is goregous Ivylocs. That is the perfect style,’ Mommy said (Dunn, p. 80).

Ivylocs does not show natural hair as being “nappy” or “too messy” as other negative depictions of Black, natural hair has been shown in media and society. When Dunn writes about the way to care for natural hair, she is showing readers Black hair is beautiful. It really encourages other African American children to find beauty within their own natural features and hair.

2. Children learn about African American culture.

In the first episode of Ivylocs: Tee-Tee’s Wedding, Ivylocs is on a mission to help her Auntie Tee-Tee restore her special broom which is used in the wedding. In Ivylocs, Tee-Tee explains to Ivylocs what “jumping the broom” means:

“You see Ivylocs, jumping the broom is a part of African culture that survived American slavery. Even though it was illegal for slaves to marry, jumping the broom is a wedding tradition where the bride and groom jump over a broom during the ceremony. It represents a new beginning. It joins two families as one. It’s also a way to show respect for family ancestors” (Dunn, p. 15).

“Jumping the Broom” is an African American cultural tradition in which the newlywed couple jump over a broom during their wedding ceremony. Many African American couples still use this tradition of jumping over the broom in their weddings. By featuring an African American cultural tradition in Ivylocs, Dunn is connecting African American children to their own culture. Not only that, it also teaches children from different cultures about the African American culture.

My daughter Zhen (3) with Danielle Carin Dunn at the Hug Day Detroit event on August 28, 2016.

3. Positive, strong family values of an African American family are shown throughout the novel.

In our media today, there are too many negative depictions of African Americans. In movies, Black men are portrayed as drug dealers or gangsters. Whereas, Black women are shown as poor, single mothers. There needs to be more literature and films featuring African Americans in more positive roles. And Dunn does just that with her Ivylocs series.

One example of how Dunn focuses on a positive aspect of an African American is how she focuses on Ivylocs’ intelligence. The character Ivylocs is an educated, young lady. She demonstrates her intelligence by the steps she takes to solve a problem. For instance, when Ivylocs formulates a plan to save Tee-Tee’s broom jumping ceremony.

Dunn also promotes a positive depiction of African American culture by highlighting loving and strong family values. Ivylocs’ parents are in a healthy marriage and Ivylocs’ auntie is getting married. This shows children a more positive side of African American families instead of focusing on the negative stereotypes we see in our media.

Ivylocs by Danielle Carin Dunn is a novel for children teaching them about problem-solving skills and the beauty of African American culture. (Photo courtesy of Danielle Carin Dunn/Artwork by Cliffton “Mr CliffNote” Perry)

Ivylocs– wonderful children’s novel should be read by all!

Danielle Carin Dunn’s Ivylocs is a wonderful novel for young people, which should be read by all families of all cultures. Not only will other African American children get to see their own culture depicted in a more positive light, but people of other cultures can also see how beautiful African American culture truly is.

For more information about author Danielle Carin Dunn and to purchase her book Ivylocs, visit her official website here.

Connect with Danielle Carin Dunn on Instagram! She’s giving away FIVE FREE books of Ivylocs! Contest ends on September 30, 2016, so hurry!  **CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED**

Special thanks to Danielle Carin Dunn for sharing her very inspiring story with Good Life Detroit and creating Ivylocs so my children and other children can see the beauty in African American culture!

56 thoughts on “Ivylocs Teaches Children to See the Beauty of African American Culture

  1. Bravo to Danielle! Thanks for stepping up and providing a solution while empowering our young girls of color. I remember a book by Debbie Allen called ” Dancing in the Wings” which featured a black ballerina. That book encouraged me to pursue my ballet training. The impact your book will have will be far greater than you can imagine.

    1. I love Debbie Allen! She is so amazingly talented. I will check out the book Dancing in the Wings so I can share it with my girls. My younger daughter loves to dance. And it is so wonderful Allen’s book encouraged you to pursue ballet! I love that! You’re so right– this is why we need more literature like this for our youth. Thanks, Lay!

  2. Am African and Nigerian so i can understand the beauty in this so well, African-American is so true when it comes to this kinds of books so i guess this is a very well detailed book to enable the little ones get to know and blend more into their rooted cultures as well as the cultures over there. did i enjoy reading this?… yes i did, more of this please.

    1. Thank you so much!! I really appreciate you taking the time to read my post and I am so glad you enjoyed it. I agree with you, writing about diversity and different cultures in children’s literature teaches children about the beauty in each culture. We need more of this! 🙂

  3. This is exactly what Zoe-Grace needs. She needs to identify with beautiful little black girls like herself. Thanks! I am following the author and hoping to snag a few of her books soon.

    1. I like finding books and toys that are about African American culture so my kids can learn more about their culture. They also like to learn about other cultures, too. I hope you are able to check this book out!

  4. I love this so much. As a former teacher I remember when we bagan seeing more and more books that celebrated diversity we were so happy. Especially when children outside of the audience they were intended would read them to learn about others.

  5. Deep and universal understanding of humanity starts from this!
    I guess parents will enjoy it as resource for their Montessori cultural activities
    Keep up the good work!

    1. It took me until I was adult to to learn I am beautiful as a half African American woman. I used to always think my hair was just horrible. I am really excited to see children’s literature like Ivylocs teach young people that Black is beautiful!

  6. This is wonderful!! I agree we need more books and TV shows and movies like this! It’s great that the books highlight natural hair and teach African American history!

  7. This is so cute. I never really understood why are African American woman obsessed with their hair. I think curls are so gorgeous, and so natural. And it’s so great for little girls to have books like these to be confident and not look into media for “what beauty is”. I love it ❤️❤️❤️

  8. I love this. My grand-daughter is African American and Mexican. She relates more culturally to her Mexican culture and we are always exploring ways for her to learn about African American culture and I think a children’s book is a perfect and engaging way to do so.

    1. Hi, Heidi! I agree with you. I think children’s books is a great way to introduce children to other cultures, especially if it’s a character he/she can relate to.

What are your thoughts?