cover image Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker

Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker

Kathryn Lasky. Candlewick Press (MA), $17.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0253-6

Lasky (A Brilliant Streak: The Making of Mark Twain; Science Fair Bunnies, reviewed above) chronicles the life of Sarah Breedlove Walker, who was born in 1870 in Louisiana to former slaves and became the richest African-American woman of her times and a major philanthropist. Her childhood was marked by dire hardships: by seven she was an orphan and working full-time as a laundress; by 20 she was a widow and a mother, beginning to go bald from years of poor nutrition and hard labor. In her 30s, she experimented with natural ingredients and chemicals and created a formula to restore the health of both hair and scalp. Beginning with door-to-door demonstrations in ""colored"" women's kitchens, she built her business into the Mme. C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, by 1912 ""one of the biggest companies in America."" Lasky is better at conveying the young Sarah's suffering than she is at suggesting the texture of Walker's adult life, but she does a good job explaining the sociocultural factors affecting African-American women's attitudes toward hair. Bennett's (Gettin' Through Thursday; Cherish Me) soft-focus pencil and watercolor pictures suggest Walker's personality, although they tend to be short on action. Ironically, the illustrator's concluding note, in which she speaks as a black woman about her own attitudes toward beauty, may be for many readers the most affecting passages here. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)