cover image BINTOU'S BRAIDS


Sylviane A. Diouf, , illus. by Shane W. Evans. . Chronicle, $14.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2514-6

"My name is Bintou and I want braids. My hair is short and fuzzy." So laments the heroine in the straightforward style she uses to narrate her story. Though Bintou dreams birds would enjoy nesting in her hair, she mostly envisions wearing "long braids with gold coins and seashells," as her sister and other young women of her African village do. Her Grandma Soukeye explains that girls are only allowed tufts or cornrows in order to avoid vanity, and relays a village cautionary tale to underscore her moral. Diouf (Growing Up in Slavery) creates strong female characters and evokes the feeling of a small village as extended family. With their large expressive eyes and warm demeanor, the girls and women gracefully move through Evans's (Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper's Daughter) oil paintings in abundant earth tones and bright African batiks. Subtle footprints and chicken prints in the ochre sand background add depth to the fluid paintings. When Bintou helps save two drowning cousins and asks that braids be her reward, Grandma Soukeye finds a way to adhere to village tradition while acknowledging Bintou's heroism. This heartfelt story affords glimpses of West African customs as it touches on children's universal desire to be treated as grown-ups. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)