I Love My Hair!
Author: Natasha Anastasia Tarpley; Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Pages: 32
Publisher/Date: Little, Brown/1998
ISBN: 0316523755 (pb)
Age Levels: 4-8

Book Review

Oftentimes picture books with such weighty themes as self-esteem lean toward the didactic. That is not the case in this thoughtfully written narrative. The author delivers the story, like a gift, allowing the reader to discover its powerful message page by page.

Told from the perspective of a young girl, the book opens with Keyana sitting between Mama's knees having her hair combed. When Mama gets to the "especially tangled places," Keyana says, "I try my hardest not to cry, sucking in my breath and pressing my hands together until they're red."

When Keyana finally cries for her mother to stop, Mama gently rubs the "hurting places," and asks, "Do you know why you're so lucky to have this head of hair, Keyana?" Keyana doesn't. Mama continues, "Because it's so beautiful and you can wear it in any style you choose."

Mama can spin her hair into "fine, soft yarn," or part it "into straight lines and plant rows of braids" along her scalp, "then wait and watch for them to grow." This Keyana likes, especially when Mama puts colorful beads in the braids and they "Tap! Tap! Clicky-Clacky!" as she dances down her street.

Keyana begins to see her hair as a blessing instead of a burden. "I love my hair," she says "because it is thick as a forest, soft as cotton candy, and curly as a vine winding upward, reaching the sky and climbing toward outer space."

Keyana's favorite style of all is two plain pony tails, one on either side of her head, that "flap in the air like a pair of wings." Someday, Keyana says, "I just might take off and fly!"

The double-page, watercolor illustrations are superbly done. More than simply enhancing the text, they meld seamlessly with it, and the reader cannot imagine one without the other. When Keyana talks about her braided rows of hair, for example, Lewis shows only the upper part of her face, the dark brown braids on the top of her head giving way to green rows of plants. In the scene where Keyana believes she will one day fly, we are looking up at her, surrounded by blue sky, arms outstretched, smiling.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis.
©2003 Education Oasis®

About the Author

Natasha Anastasia Tarpley is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and numerous other awards. Ms. Tarpley is a graduate of Harvard University and Northwestern University School of Law. She currently resides in New York City.

About the Illustrator

E.B. Lewis is the illustrator of several books for children. His work is frequently exhibited in galleries throughout the United States. Mr. Lewis lives in New Jersey.