The subject of Cote's debut work is hair--the unruly kind that bushes out according to climatic vagaries. Any youngster who has ever suffered a bad hair day will relate to Millie, an African American girl who must wrestle her mop-head into submission before meeting her friend Renee. Finally triumphant, she proudly skips into the August morning only to encounter Renee's derision: ``You've got palm trees on top of your head.'' This abrupt confrontation painfully illustrates the potential gulf between our self-perceptions and the way others view us. But a subtle lesson on friendship emerges--Renee soon surprises the sulking Millie with her own rendition of palm trees, and the giggling pair proceed to design wacky coiffures. Although Millie relinquishes her original convictions of personal taste, she learns to take herself less seriously. Cote's dexterous, frisky pastels display sunny facial expressions and carefree gestures--their sense of goofy fun calls to mind the work of Petra Mathers. Although the conversational delivery sometimes lurches toward overstatement (``Above the city noises rang the sound of friendship . . . a sound more powerful than the beating summer sun''), many girls will associate with this entertaining, not-so-hair-raising story. Ages 4-7. (Mar.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
K-Gr 2-- A story of independence and friendship set in an African-American community. After her mother leaves for work, Millie sits down in front of the mirror to fix her unruly hair. Patiently struggling with the comb, she neatly ties up two pony tails. She dresses and walks outside, feeling very grown up, but her happy mood is destroyed when her friend Renee exclaims, ``You've got palm trees on top of your head.'' Embarrassed, Millie hurries home and contemplates cutting off her curls, but Renee arrives just in time, proudly sporting three palm trees of her own. Cote's straightforward text expresses Millie's mixed feelings at being left on her own; she is apprehensive that she will not be able to look after herself but proud of her self-reliance. The bright gouache paintings are made friendly and welcoming by warm summer tones and details of the brush stroke. One side of each spread features an illustration, while the other is filled with text and framed with a border of matching colors. Although left ``alone,'' the girls are surrounded by concerned, smiling adults, giving a comfortable feeling of security to the urban setting. For a more cultural treatment of hairstyles, look for Yarbrough's Cornrows (Coward, 1981). --Joy Fleishhacker, New York Public Library
On a hot summer's day, with Mamma away at work, what's a girl to do with her hair? What Millie does is discover self-reliance and the true meaning of friendship (as well as a few hairstyles) in a real world in which children are often left to fend for themselves. In this warm, charmingly crafted tale, the emphasis is on one's deeper, inner light taking precedence over outward appearances. The formula is not new: Millie's "palm trees," created when she ties her hair up, generate laughter from her friend Renee. Millie then rushes home to get a pair of Mamma's scissors, but a knock at the door puts a halt to the chopping. It's Renee, sporting three "palm trees" in her hair. What makes this story work is that readers can identify with that empty feeling when you know the whole world is laughing at you. Millie and Renee, in return, laugh out loud at life, and we are all the richer. The unspoken bonds communicated in the endearing gouache artwork (including a silent, loving feline who's always near and an interested pup hanging around a fire hydrant) generate an atmosphere of trust and loyalty, a place where learning and growing are not only fun, they're people-building.