“Dear Diary, Amma wants me to cut my hair again. This time I don’t feel like cutting it. I know it is hard for amma to take care of it and I am not old enough to braid it myself, but sometimes when I look in the mirror, I feel like someone out there has hair like mine. Maybe my birth mother? I can’t talk about it to amma because I think she would feel sad…”
Avantika brushes and brushes, but there’s no keeping her curly hair down. How she wished her hair was straight and smooth like Amma’s and Appa’s and her brother Avnish’s. Their parents had adopted the two of them when she was three-and-a-half years old and Avnish a six-month-old baby. Avantika often wonders if their birth mother had curly hair.
There are so many questions in her head, the school year has started with hair-raising troubles and Amma is busy at work. Then, Avantika finds a confidante in the mysterious paati she meets in the park.
Despite my out-of-control pile of unread books, I downloaded this during Westland Books’ 31 Days, 31 Free eBooks initiative because a children’s book about hair will always have my attention. It allows me to live out my childhood fantasies. 🙂
Ten-year-old Avantika is returning home to Chennai after visiting her grandparents in Coimbatore. With a week left on her summer vacation, there is a lot on her mind. At the top of this list is her hair – her thick unruly curls that refuse to be tamed. She has been teased enough about them at school and this summer her cousins had taken to calling her Medusa.
Avantika tries to ignore the jibes but feels pained knowing her hair is cause for so much trouble. Her mother won’t playfully ruffle her hair, like she does Avinash’s, for fear it will get caught in her fingers. Even getting ready for school every morning is a battle when no amount of pulling and straightening will hold it in place. With all this, Avantika can’t help but wonder, if only she had her birth mother. Maybe she would teach her how to manage her hair.
When Avantika notices the mysterious paati following her around the neighbourhood, her parents’ warnings play out on loudspeakers in her head. Despite them, she befriends the old lady and begins spending evenings with her at the park. She tells Avnish about her new friend but Avnish is convinced this paati is a figment of her imagination. How else can he explain that no one has seen her? But Avantika knows paati is real. She is even teaching Avantika how to braid her hair.
It is when she finally decides to tell amma about paati that things at home become strange. Her parents are engrossed in closed-door conversations and Avantika is certain her mother has been crying. Avantika expects to be scolded but it is her parents’ silence that bothers her more and she suspects she has made a grave mistake. If only she knew what she had done wrong.
Lakshmi Iyer tells a cheerful tale of a young girl trying to understand the reasons behind her curly hair. In learning what bring out this uniqueness, she develops the courage to stand tall and embrace it. Using Avantika’s story, Iyer introduces the young reader to the concept of adoption, family dynamics, and genetics. She highlights the need to be inclusive, no matter how different one may be.
The book is beautifully illustrated in black and white by Niloufer Wadia. Even with a monochrome palette, she captures the energy and playfulness of the story that is sure to make you smile.
In a world that constantly judges the female gender, this captivating portrayal of a young girl’s emotions emphasize the need to recognise one’s self-worth.
Why is My Hair Curly? by Lakshmi Iyer. Illustrated by Niloufer Wadia. Published in 2020 by Red Panda, an imprint of Westland Publications.
Book 35 of 2021.
Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟.
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