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Nappy Hair (Dragonfly Books)


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About the Author

Carolivia Herron lives in Chico, California.
Joe Cepeda lives in Rosemead, California.


Based on a tape recorded at a family gathering attended by the author, this zesty book also draws inspiration from the African American tradition of call and response. At a family picnic, Uncle Mordecai serves up jibe after jibe about young Brenda's locks-"the kinkiest, the nappiest, the fuzziest, the most screwed up, squeezed up... hair you've ever seen in your life." Each sally elicits responses from the relatives, who chime in with "Don't cha know"; "That's the way"; and so forth. As Uncle Mordecai continues, he describes a delegation of angels trying to talk God out of giving Brenda her wild hair; he flashes abruptly back to Africa, where Brenda is "getting ready to come to America with them slaves." Herron, a first-time author, captures the free-for-all atmosphere of a Sunday get-together, and the spontaneous, true-to-life quality of her writing will resonate with children and families who share Brenda's experiences. Other readers, however, could easily be left at sea, confused by the erratic progression of the narrative. To some extent, both the book design and Cepeda's (The Old Man and the Door) vibrant paintings help pull together the text's disparate strands. Skillfully varied typefaces set off the responses of different speakers and thereby convey the impression of hearing from many voices. Cepeda's stylized art picks up on the energy and exuberance of the crowd; his work also focuses on Brenda (who otherwise is not heard from), defining her character to be as strong-willed and lively as her famous hair. All ages. (Jan.)

"The family's cross talk takes on the high-voltage spark and crackle of a gospel revival. The accompanying illustrations are deliriously silly and sly." --Parenting magazine

"Herron captures the free-for-all atmosphere of a Sunday get-together and the spontaneous, true-to-life quality of her writing will resonate with children and families who share Brenda's experiences."--Publishers Weekly

PreS-Gr 3‘The title leaves no doubt about the focus of this picture book. At a family picnic, everyone pokes fun at the youngest girl's nappy hair. Devised as a call-and-response dialogue, the interchanges offer explanations and comments on why Brenda's hair is the nappiest, the curliest, the twistiest hair in the family. The answers involve African origins, God's intent, and pride in one's self; e.g., the Lord "looked down on this cute little brown baby girl" and said, "One nap of her hair is the only perfect circle in nature." The slightly exaggerated, colorful illustrations depict hair as wild and woolly as Don King's, and they comically embellish the message. The device of the multi-voiced dialogue, characterized in different type styles and sizes, rhythmically carries an ethnic flavor, but what's missing here is story. It's nice to see such familial unity but there's no strong narrative to reinforce that theme. Because the message is the entire point, the effect is akin to a one-joke book.‘Julie Cummins, New York Public Library

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