cover image Wanda


Sihle Nontshokweni and Mathabo Tlali, illus. by Chantelle and Burgen Thorne. Crocodile, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-623-71864-0

In this uplifting South African import informed by the African proverb Intombi mayizithembe (“A young girl must always remain confident”), coauthors Nontshokweni and Tlali follow Wanda, an eight-year-old Black child who struggles to accept her hair: “My hair is a crown, but one made of thorns.” Teased about her Afro-textured hair by classmates, and wary of her teacher’s punishment for students with unstyled natural hair (“I will get a black dot on my star chart. She will say it’s a bird’s nest”), Wanda “makes the big switch” every day—transforming her “cloud” of hair into pigtail puffs while dreaming of a smoother texture. Wanda believes her mother’s affirmations (“My mother says my hair is strong and beautiful like clouds”), but it isn’t until she sees pictures of powerful women with hair just like hers that Wanda embraces her crown, as well as its styling “secret” of “water and 100% olive oil.” Drawing strength from a new hairdo, Wanda marches onto the bus the next morning with newfound conviction. Chantelle and Burgen Thorne’s striking illustrations capture intimate scenarios in bright colors. A worthy, if meandering, celebration of Afro-textured crowns that simultaneously exposes how Black children are sometimes penalized for their textured hair. Back matter includes a brief South African–English glossary. Ages 4–8. [em](Mar.) [/em]