cover image CRAZY HAIR DAY


Barney Saltzberg, . . Candlewick, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-1954-1

Stanley Birdbaum has committed perhaps the worst possible kid faux pas: he has worn a wacky hairstyle to school for Crazy Hair Day—on the wrong day. In fact, it's actually Class Picture Day. Granted, Stanley's 'do has been expertly executed by Stanley's mom: "She wrapped. She dipped. And to make his hair perfect, she sprayed Stanley's hair bright orange and blue. 'Ta-da!' said Stanley. 'I am a work of art!' " But his pride vaporizes when Stanley discovers his error, and he takes refuge in the boys' bathroom, resolving to be a no-show for the class photo. Saltzberg (Soccer Mom from Outer Space) portrays the characters as roly-poly hedgehog-like critters, but the school setting and social milieu are authentically and poignantly human. He understands how kids revel in the ostensible rule-breaking and goofy creativity of "Spirit Days" ("Stanley rolled the rubber bands in his hair. He gently tapped the tops of his spikes" before entering the classroom), and also how life at the elementary level takes no prisoners—even Stanley's best friend Larry scores a quip at his expense ("Is that a hair-do or a hair-don't?"). The story begins to sink under the weight of empathy as the coif- challenged hero slowly works through his embarrassment (with an assist from the now conciliatory Larry). But the wrap-up offers Stanley the perfect hair tonic: the entire class welcomes him to the class picture with their own hastily improvised but undisputedly zany headdress. Ages 5-8. (Aug.)