When Dad leaves, a young child is left to deal with roiling emotions and a headful of overgrown, tangled hair.
The story is told from the point of view of an unnamed child with an ambiguous gender presentation who’s used to going regularly with Dad to the barbershop for a haircut. One day, the child’s father leaves. The child’s blond hair starts growing out of control. The longer Dad is gone, the longer the child’s hair grows, until teacher Miss Clarke can’t recognize her student and Mom, hidden under her own hair, can’t hear her child. Young readers will recognize the feeling of tangled, unmanageable emotions represented by the child’s hair. Yet the effect of this metaphor is limited by the author’s seeming unwillingness to commit to details and to develop the metaphor fully. Did the parents go through a separation, then reconcile? Was the father in a psychiatric hospital? The lack of specificity means that adults should be cautious when choosing this book for a struggling child. It could either be a tool to spark discussion and self-reflection or a vehicle of false hope that a parent will return and troubles will disappear. Lumbers’ illustrations are lively and effective when portraying the child in the wild mop, adding detail to the narrative, though the adults seem static in comparison. Child, parents, and teacher all present white; classmates are diverse.
A tender story that fails to realize its full potential. (Picture book. 3-7)