Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School by Laurie Halse Anderson

Yeah, yeah. Let’s get the jokes out of the way up front. I’ll give you a moment...


Yes, I’m bald. But it’s bald by choice, just so we’re clear, and does NOT disqualify me from reviewing a book featuring HAIR as a main character, and honestly …

[Get on with it, Cue Ball!]

Eh-hem. Yes, well, Zoe’s hair.

It’s pretty amazing, it is! “Zoe Fleefenbacher had one blue eye and one green eye, and bright red hair that went on … forever” readers learn on the first page. The illustrations show even more. As Zoe stands at the sink, her hair has packed her lunch and written her name on her brown bag, chosen her school outfit, gathered her school books, brushed her teeth, and held the alarm clock.

When she was young Zoe’s parents purchased two strollers, cribs, and high chairs, one for Zoe and one for her hair. As she became older her hair became more and more useful. Opening cookie jars, pouring juice, petting the cat – activities of great importance to a toddler. Zoe’s hair even learned to fly, and her parents knew “the hair of their Zoe was wild and beautiful. It was her sail, her kite, her flag.”

Zoe was blessed with Mrs. Brodhag in kindergarten. Mrs. Brodhag knew brilliance when she saw it and allowed Zoe’s hair to be its amazing self, picking up trash, erasing the board, and comforting kindergartners at nap time.

Then came first grade. Ms. Trisk. “School has rules,” she said. Wild hair doesn’t fit within Ms. Trisk’s narrow understanding of acceptable behavior, so Zoe’s hair does what any brilliant student would do when faced with a restrictive teacher.


It tickles classmates, releases the hamsters, draws the Wicked Trisk of the West on the wall. No amount of bobby pins, scrunchies, braids, barrettes, rubber bands, or duct tape can hold back amazing hair for long.

The conflict comes to a head (heh, heh, heh) in science class. Will Ms. Trisk comprehend the wonders of Zoe’s lovely locks? Will Zoe’s hair turn away from its rebellious ways? Even a bald guy can recognize a fun book, a cool kid, a teacher who still learns lessons, and a great head of hair.

[You jealous, Kojak?]

Okay, really. Was that necessary?

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