Celebrating black hair is becoming a trend, and yet there are still instances in which black girls and boys are bullied and harassed about their glorious curls. Authors Sihle Nontshokweni and Mathabo Tlali's adorable picture book, Wanda, offers a realistic example of how black curls that are celebrated at home are often criticized or laughed at out in the world.
In this richly-illustrated book, a young beauty named Wanda is struggling to come to terms with her curly "cloud" of hair. At home, her Mama teaches her that she is a queen and her hair is a crown. On the school bus, pesky boys call her "Miss Bush" because her hair is so full and curly, and at school, the teacher calls her hair a bird's nest. This negativity toward her hair leads Wanda to begin making the "big switch." In other words, she wears the style Mama gives her but secretly changes her hair the moment she arrives at school.
But one school day, the bus is late and Wanda has no time to make the big switch. Although she remembers the words of affirmation her mother has made her memorize -- "My hair is strong and beautiful, like clouds" -- she feels embarrassed and frightened to hear what the others think of her hair. By the time she returns home, she is so sad she tells her grandmother, "I am NOT a queen. I don't want this hair.
But like grandmothers are prone to do, her grandmother Makhulu tells her she IS a queen and proceeds to prove it.
Wanda is an adorable book about being different, and being beautiful because of this difference. It is a book about culture, pride, and a burgeoning self-love that every mother hopes her little queen-of-color will experience. The authors' prose is so sweet and simple it is as if the words have been written from the innocent heart of a child. Illustrators Chantelle and Burgen Thorne use deep rich browns, hot pink backgrounds, and curly hair as black as night with a few vibrant strands of pale red for good measure.
Use this book in pre-school and elementary classes to open discussions about race, hair, cultural identity, acceptance, and self love. Also, be sure to read Wanda's next adventure, called Wanda the Brave.