Big Wig: A Little History of Hair

Overview


History has never been hairier.

Did you know that kings AND queens wore fake beards in Ancient Egypt? Or that hair was used in medicine at the height of the Incan Empire? Or that Queen Elizabeth I had more than 80 wigs in various shades of red? Kathleen Krull and Peter Malone start at the dawn of history and bring us up to contemporary times, using incredible bits and bobs of hair fact and lore to show us just how much things have changed (and...

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Overview


History has never been hairier.

Did you know that kings AND queens wore fake beards in Ancient Egypt? Or that hair was used in medicine at the height of the Incan Empire? Or that Queen Elizabeth I had more than 80 wigs in various shades of red? Kathleen Krull and Peter Malone start at the dawn of history and bring us up to contemporary times, using incredible bits and bobs of hair fact and lore to show us just how much things have changed (and how they haven't!).
This is a perfect way to introduce young readers to the idea of a longitudinal study. And it's also an irreverant and playful look at what funny fashion victims we humans have always been!
Deserves a permanent spot on every bookshelf. (Get it?)

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—From early humans to the British punks of the 1970s and many stops in between, Krull teases readers with intriguing, humorous facts about hair and grooming. The picture-book format is perfectly suited to impart just the right amount of information that children will find both entertaining and riveting. The author describes how the ancient Maya used boards to flatten and elongate the heads of infants and then tied beads in front of their eyes to encourage crossing them, and how the women of Marie Antoinette's era created elaborate dioramas on top of their heads that sometimes lasted for months. Wigs, horse-grooming techniques, and a multitude of ingredients, both edible and repulsive, all make appearances in the pages. It is clear that the fascination with hair is certainly not a modern trend, but one that has been around since humans had hair on top of their heads. The muted pastel-colored gouache paintings are whimsical and delightful, depicting scenarios such as Hippocrates and Aristotle arguing over the merits of various cures for baldness and a woman using a vacuum cleaner as a hair dryer, which will surely bring out the giggles. Notes at the end extend the facts and provide yet more tantalizing strands of information.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
Children's Literature - Sherryn Craig
Ever wonder where the terms "big wig," "rats nest," or "powder room" come from? Readers will find the answers in this beautifully illustrated history of hair. Quirky and playful, this picture book relates obscure facts about hair, including the products, colors, and cuts used to style it. The illustrations are windows to the places, periods, and people in history as well as the fashions of the day. With passport in hand, readers can travel around the world, visiting ancient civilizations, faraway empires, and indigenous tribes. There are familiar Heads of Hair, including Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth, Marie Antoinette, and George Washington. Beyond the fashion, the book briefly touches on issues of class and social status associated with one's hair. Unfortunately, the hairdos from the twentieth century are not as colorful and multidimensional. The pop icons used to illustrate them are interesting (e.g., the Supremes, the Beatles, and Dorothy Hamill), but there are equally compelling styles (i.e., bob, pixie, shag), subcultures (i.e., flappers, greasers, grunge), and icons (i.e., Elvis, Bob Marley) which fail to make the cut. Furthermore, while the author makes reference to the socio-economic status of prior dos, no mention is made of their socio-political context, an unfortunate shortcoming for a period defined by its social movements. Given the age groups for which this book is targeted, readers will still enjoy the stories and the well-coiffed pictures that accompany them. Reviewer: Sherryn Craig
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—From early humans to the British punks of the 1970s and many stops in between, Krull teases readers with intriguing, humorous facts about hair and grooming. The picture-book format is perfectly suited to impart just the right amount of information that children will find both entertaining and riveting. The author describes how the ancient Maya used boards to flatten and elongate the heads of infants and then tied beads in front of their eyes to encourage crossing them, and how the women of Marie Antoinette's era created elaborate dioramas on top of their heads that sometimes lasted for months. Wigs, horse-grooming techniques, and a multitude of ingredients, both edible and repulsive, all make appearances in the pages. It is clear that the fascination with hair is certainly not a modern trend, but one that has been around since humans had hair on top of their heads. The muted pastel-colored gouache paintings are whimsical and delightful, depicting scenarios such as Hippocrates and Aristotle arguing over the merits of various cures for baldness and a woman using a vacuum cleaner as a hair dryer, which will surely bring out the giggles. Notes at the end extend the facts and provide yet more tantalizing strands of information.—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Katherine Krull's humorous history of hair (Arthur A. Levine Bks., 2011) offers amazing facts about hair styles and hair products from prehistory to the 21st century. Listeners will enjoy hearing about the hairstyles of famous people such as Marie Antoinette, crazy concoctions to stop balding, silly hairdos containing live birds, and gross ingredients used to make hair shiny. Krull's writing is succinct and clear, and her style is colloquial. She often uses short sentences and sentence fragments, making make narration pace quick and engaging. Eliza Foss's performance is a combination of composed energy and understated humor. She sounds like she enjoys sharing all the crazy facts about the history of human, and listeners are invited to join the fun. At the end of the book, Krull includes "Hair Extensions," further notes about hair history. In the print version, this information is included in an appendix; here it is presented the same way as the first part of the text. As a result, listeners are presented with the history of hair twice, with new facts each time. Have the book available so students can peruse Peter Malone's hilarious illustrations. Listeners will be engaged throughout.—Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439676403
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/2011
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 559,644
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


PW says that Kathleen Krull "knows exactly how to captivate her audience" by combining historical particulars with "amusing anecdotes that put flesh and blood on dry literary bones." Her subjects range from music to science to sports, but her books are consistently smart and incredible fun to read. She lives in San Diego, California.

Peter Malone is the illustrator of HOW MANY MILES TO BETHLEHEM by Kevin Crossley-Holland and many other gorgeous books for children. This is his first opportunity to let his prodigious sense of humor shine through. He lives in Bath, England.

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