Review of My Powerful Hair

My Powerful Hair My Powerful Hair
by Carole Lindstrom; illus. by Steph Littlebird
Primary    Abrams    48 pp.
3/23    9781419759437    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781647005740    $15.54

“Our ancestors say / Our hair is our memories. / Our source of strength.” Lindstrom’s (author of Caldecott winner We Are Water Protectors, rev. 7/20, and an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) authentic storytelling text explains the importance of hair—“Native/Indigenous peoples believe that hair holds strength and power”—and its connection to Mother Earth. An Indigenous girl is eager for her hair to grow. She tells us that her mom kept her own hair short because she was told as a child it was “too wild.” Nokomis (her grandmother) had long hair, but it was cut off at the Indian boarding school she was forced to attend as a child. The text follows the girl as her hair grows longer and longer: “When Nimishoomis taught me / how to fish for the first time, / my hair was at my ears”; “When my baby brother was born, / my hair touched my shoulders.” The intergenerational interaction of family highlights the idea many Indigenous families have that future generations can reclaim what was lost. The narrative’s powerful ending brings this story to a satisfying, hopeful conclusion. Debut illustrator Littlebird (a member of Oregon’s Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde) captures the closeness of the family and the strength and determination of the protagonist in bright colors set against woodgrain-like backgrounds. Subtle visual cues in the characters’ facial expressions enable viewers to distinguish emotions as well as depicting the beauty and honor long hair holds for Indigenous people. Appended with an author’s note and a short glossary of Ojibwe words.

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Naomi R. Caldwell

Naomi R. Caldwell, PhD, is an educator and a board member for the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature.

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