cover image Happy to Be Nappy

Happy to Be Nappy

bell hooks. Hyperion Books, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0427-6

This joyous ode to hair may well restart conversations that began last year with the controversy over Carolivia Herron's Nappy Hair. Bubbling over with affection, and injecting a strong self-esteem boost for girls, hooks's ebullient, poetic text celebrates the innate beauty and freedom of hair that's ""soft like cotton,/ flower petal billowy soft, full of frizz and fuzz."" Waxing poetic about ""short tight naps"" or ""plaited strands all,"" hooks conjures all the lovely varieties of hairstyles that ""let girls go running free."" She sings the praises of ""girlpie hair,"" subtly reinforcing her theme with a chorus of descriptive words like ""halo"" and ""crown."" She also evokes the intimate warmth of mother-daughter time--""sitting still for hands to brush or braid and make the day start hopefully."" A powerful, uplifting and, above all, buoyantly fun read-aloud, the text receives a superb visual interpretation by Raschka (Like Likes Like). A master of minimalism, he works here in nuanced, impressionistic watercolors and suggests his subjects with a quick stroke of the brush here, a graceful sweep of line there. Bolstering the theme of individuality, he provides softly shaded washes of varying hue that set off the dazzling array of hairstyles like an aura and create a rhythmic flow of color across the pages. Broad swoops conjure curls and braids, quick stripes of colors make barrettes, and tiny dots create beads. Though clearly of particular interest to African-American girls, the infectious energy and spirit of this volume will appeal to all readers. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)