An unkempt lad with a deep aversion to combs and brushes learns his lesson when birds take up residence on his head.
Unlike many other takes on this popular premise, which are spun into celebrations of individuality, Le crafts from it a cautionary tale. Harry’s refusal to let anyone tame his wild mane not only results in a nickname of “Hairy,” but draws a pair of doves who in time raise such a noisy family that he’s thrown out of choir practice at school. Worse yet, a tree grows (rather suddenly) atop his noggin—providing both room for more nesting couples as well as branches on which all sorts of errant clothing and bric-a-brac catch. But it’s the continual noise that at last drives him to let his mom replant the tree and scissor down his thatch. The accomplished, artfully mottled illustrations feature lots of white birds and short-haired, light-skinned children flocking around a button-eyed lad with a grayish-brown mop and an unhappy moue. In the end Harry’s frown is transformed into a smile beneath a cutely fringed bowl cut more consistent with what his peers are sporting, and the avian chatter becomes “happy songs.”
This spin on a familiar comical trope offers some chuckles, but the valuation of conformity over personal choice may leave readers scratching their heads—and maybe wondering where cleanliness, never mentioned, comes in. (Picture book. 6-8)