Review of My Hair Is a Garden

My Hair Is a Garden
by Cozbi A. Cabrera; illus. by the author
Primary    Whitman    32 pp.    g
4/18    978-0-8075-0923-4    $16.99

MacKenzie, teased yet again for her “always a mess” hair, turns to neighbor Miss Tillie for help. (Her mother — 
presumably the woman with lighter skin and hair shown in one illustration — has “tried to fix [MacKenzie’s hair] but…doesn’t know what to do with it.”) Over a steaming cup of sorrel and later a walk through her garden, Miss Tillie teaches MacKenzie to care — literally and emotionally — for her hair. Cabrera’s acrylic illustrations exude a softness well suited to the story’s gently positive message. While many skin tones are represented in the book, MacKenzie and Miss Tillie share a rich dark color, so much so that the difference between their skin and ebony hair is almost imperceptible. Contrasted with bright spring tones of blues, greens, and reds in the patterns and backgrounds, the girl and her mentor stand out brilliantly. The (somewhat text-heavy) story strikes an effective balance between encouraging self-confidence and explaining step-by-step self-improvement; even as Miss Tillie teaches MacKenzie the importance of washing and combing her hair, the older woman reminds the girl that her hair is a garden, and she needs to feed it with love. Appended with a brief overview of “Caring for Black Hair,” including sealing in moisture, detangling, and protective styling; and with recipes for an herbal infusion rinse and moisturizing shea butter.

From the July/August 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: ALA Awards.
Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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