A picture book that celebrates African-American girls’ hair.
Williams’ debut describes what happens when Penny asks her mother if she can take out her braids and wear her hair down like her white friends. Her mom explains that her hair is different from her friends’ hair but that there’s nothing wrong with this. Mom shows Penny pictures of many hairstyles, and Penny opts for two magic puffballs. When Penny wears her hair in the two fluffy pigtails, she has a banner day. She finds her favorite purple pencil, aces her spelling test, and at recess, she manages to jump rope better than she ever has before. She’s sure that her new hairstyle has given her these powers and tells her mom she wants to wear it that way every day. Colorful, cartoonlike illustrations portray Penny and her friends and help to bring Penny and her hair to life in a fresh style that never looks babyish. The book opens with a short message to parents and closes with a photo collage of real girls all sporting their own magic puffballs. Williams offers a positive message about black hair and a likable character in Penny; however, Penny faces little conflict. After the initial dilemma of her friends’ asking her to wear her hair down, it’s all smooth sailing for Penny thanks to her new do. Though nervous about a spelling test, the magic of her hairstyle means, “She didn’t have to think too hard. Even the tricky words just came to her—like magic!” More struggle would have added some welcome realism.
Younger readers will enjoy this wish-fulfillment tale, while parents will appreciate the upbeat way it celebrates differences.