Review of J.D. and the Great Barber Battle

J.D. and the Great Barber Battle
by J. Dillard; illus. by Akeem S. Roberts
Primary, Intermediate    Kokila/Penguin    128 pp.    g
2/21    978-0-593-11152-9    $15.99
Paper ed.  978-0-593-11154-3    $6.99

J.D. is excited about starting third grade at Douglass Elementary School. At least he was excited before his mom gave him a disastrous haircut that makes him the laughingstock of the whole school. Unable to withstand any more teasing, he decides to literally take matters into his own hands and fix his hair. After using his little brother, Justin, for practice, J.D. realizes he is good at cutting hair and starts a barbershop out of his bedroom. Artistic by nature, and with skill and creativity, he attracts lots of customers, not to mention the owner of the only barbershop in town, Henry Hart Jr. When Hart follows through with a threat to shut J.D.’s business down, our protagonist has to use his wits to save everything he has worked so hard for. This early-to-middle-grade chapter book delivers lively black-and-white illustrations and laugh-out-loud moments. At its heart is J.D.’s loving, hard-working, multigenerational family and his close-knit, small-town ­Mississippi community. While there are subtle references to separation (J.D.’s parents) and money struggles (he sports hand-me-downs and gets his video-game and junk-food fixes at his best friend’s house), these are not personal deficits. Rather, they fuel J.D.’s entrepreneurial spirit and his mathematical prowess. The African American cultural references and community values will resonate with readers of all ages, while the joyful, wholesome story will give them something to look forward to in subsequent entries.

From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Monique Harris

Monique Harris is a public educator, reading specialist and independent educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science degree in Education from Simmons University, and is enrolled in a PhD program at Florida State University.

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