Gr 1-4-A romp through hairstyles from the ancient Egyptians to the Greeks to the Romans. The text then jumps to 16th- through 18th-century Europe, and then shifts to Native Americans and 17th-century China. The breezy compilation of trivia takes readers up to the present day. Smith's cartoons are well suited to the lighthearted tone of the narrative and show 18th-century grimacing women scratching piled-up-high hair with knitting needles and 19th-century Chinese in America with queues. A page is devoted to Grace Bedell's letter to Abraham Lincoln advising him to grow a beard. A three-page section called "Hairy Information" is appended. Youngsters can pick up this book for fun and learn a little about the subject. However, Karin Badt's Hair There and Everywhere (Children's, 1994) is a superior treatment of the same material.-Barbara Buckley, Rockville Centre Public Library, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Moving on from Bedtime (1999), Swain and Smith turn to hair as a cultural statement. From people who shaved their heads and those who chose to be hairy, to people who grew beards or wore elaborate hairstyles, preferences often changed throughout history. The Ancient Egyptians were not a hairy bunch, whereas the Greeks were, often wearing long beards into battle. That is, until they realized that a beard could be grabbed by the enemy and used against them. Razors soon caught on. The thinning hair of King Louis XIV led to a run on the wigmaker's shops, while 18th-century European women had towering mountains of hair that were coated with lard and flour and lasted for weeks or months. Native American and African hairdos reflected the styles of their tribes; while the Chinese queue was originally ordered by the invading Manchus, but caught on to become a popular style. Hair adornments are also addressed, including the Egyptian method of keeping cool by placing a cone of perfumed (and melting) beeswax on the top of the head. Swain's mixture of humor and history makes this an effective look, not just at hairstyles, but also at social change. While more heavily Western, she has done a nice job of representing many non-Western cultures. Whatever the style, the message is clear: hair grows quickly, easily changes styles, and can demonstrate to people anything from religious or political views and occupation, to social or marital status. Smith's watercolor-and-ink illustrations fit hairstyle and era together seamlessly. Each page features not only the hair of the time, but also the clothing, furniture, and some aspects of everyday lives. A cut above. (hair facts, bibliography) (Picturebook/nonfiction. 6-10)