Frizzy | Review
By Claribel A. Ortega with art by Rose Bousamra
First Second, October 2022, $12.99
My 10-year-old daughter has frizzy curly hair. I love her curls! I always tell her how beautiful they are, especially because I know how unhappy my sister-in-law was with her own curls as a child. Growing up, I think my friends with curly hair wanted straight hair and vice versa. It’s a sad fact that often people don’t love what they see in the mirror.
So reading Frizzy really spoke to me, even though the culture is so different from the one I grew up in. Some ideas are just universal! The universality of the title, while heavily enmeshed in its own culture, likely was one of the elements that made this a winner of the 2023 Pura Belpré Award for the outstanding portrayal of Latine culture.
The truth is our main character Marlene loves her hair. She wants to wear it curly and own her look, but each Sunday her mother insists they visit the salon where Marlene’s hair is straightened and styled. When Marlene purposely washes her hair one day before school, allowing the curls and frizz to return, she attempts to wear her hair the way she likes it. But at school, she is teased and bullied. Kids stick things in her hair, and when one boy’s comments go too far, Marlene pushes him.
At home, her mother is livid. And insists she helps her aunt over the weekend. Manual labor. But at her aunt’s, Marlene also gets a lesson on how to care for her curls properly. She also gets insight as to why her mother dislikes her hair. When Marlene’s mother sees this, the blowout leads to a heartwarming resolution.
The book is filled with many endearing moments. The story gives a rich sense of family and tradition. There is a Quinceanera and a great sense of community. Ultimately, this is a mother-daughter story. A story about growing up and accepting one’s self. And even a story about grief. I love the twist where Marlene is happy with who she is and doesn’t know how to tell her mother she is okay.
The rich and bold artwork pops off the page. It’s jazzy and fun, adding dimension to the characters’ personalities. Soft pastel colors soften everything up, creating a great balance to the story.
This is a wonderful addition to the middle-grade repertoire of coming-of-age graphic novels. It will give young girls a great sense of self and help them be happy with the features they were born with.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at William E. Grady CTE HS in Brooklyn, NY. In addition, she curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics and worked in the same middle school library for 20 years.
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