A young girl’s hair becomes home to animals.
Why is Natalie’s hair considered to be “wild” simply as it grows out of her head? Readers aren’t told. Instead, “wild” is used literally, as a variety of increasingly large animals come to live in the black child’s cloud of kinky hair, which “couldn’t be tamed by a comb or a pick / or restrained by barrettes or a clip.” But the text assures readers that Natalie doesn’t care (though her expressions suggest otherwise)…until the animals’ noise keeps her from sleeping. She then employs the help of a firefighter and a zookeeper, who coax the animals out, after which Natalie’s now–extra-large hair is washed, trimmed, and detangled with a garden hose and yard tools. Her hair suddenly inexplicably cornrowed, Natalie waves goodbye and keeps her hair “neat… / …for at least a week,” the final spread showcasing a frolicking Natalie with her unbound natural hair. The application of the word “wild” to a black girl’s hair may give many adult readers pause, and the plot holes may confuse young ones (are the zookeeper and firefighter stand-ins for Natalie’s parents? Is this all a metaphor for getting your hair done?).
Perhaps one day we can reclaim the word “wild” as a descriptor for black hair, but this book doesn’t do the trick. As it is, it could facilitate discussion on the politics of black hair. (Picture book. 4-8)