Review of Braids! * by Robert Munsch
From the Publisher:
Ashley loves her beautiful hair— but braiding it takes FOREVER. Maybe Grandma can help?
At the end of a storytelling show at the Guelph Public Library in 2009, Taya came up to Robert Munsch and asked if she could put one of his stories in her school newspaper. He suggested that she use “Braids,” which he had told with her name in it at the library. And not only did she use it in the newspaper, she published it as a book, with each page featuring artwork by a different kid, including her little sister Eden.
Taya sold the book as a fundraiser for a charity called Children of Bukati, which supports orphans and poor children in the rural village of Butula, Kenya, as well as their school, Bukati Primary School. Taya raised thousands of dollars for the children of Bukati. Not bad for someone in Grade 3!
This is a newly illustrated version of this story. Ashley, a young dark-skinned girl, is frustrated at the time it takes out of her Saturdays when her mom intricately braids her hair. Her grandmother visits and inquires as to why Ashley seems so mad. When Ashley explains, Grandma relates that Ashely’s mom has learned the art of hair braiding from her, and that the mom did not like the time it took the grandma to do on her as a child, either! Grandma and Ashley enter the house and chase the mom around in a quest to braid her hair, too, much to the mom’s comedic horror. They also braid the hair of Ashley’s teacher, who is thrilled with the results, though not everyone around the teacher approves of the style. The theme of this book focuses on the importance of passing down family traditions and also points out styles that may look good on some people may not always look as good on others. This story is typical Munsch fare, following his trademark exaggeration of events for comedic and dramatic effect. Fans of Munsch will like the twist at the end where the teacher’s hair resembles a porcupine and she proudly displays it to her class, much to the horror of some observers.
- presentation of topic the importance of passing down family traditions and the fact that all styles do not necessarily suit all people.
- bright, engaging illustrations
- lack of depth – there is so much more that could be mined here about family traditions and heritage and also racial customs. It is only a surface look, but with further discussion, you could take it much further (see below)
- not a ‘wow’ Munsch book. It lacks the emotional depth of many, as well as its short length eliminates potential depth
Why/How Use it with kids:
- discuss your own family’s traditions and heritage that has been passed down. Do you have any routines or activities that you do because of your race, culture, religion or family heritage? What are they? Have they shifted over the years? Why are they important? Would they suit everyone?
- do you have any physical features that best suit one style over the other such as Ashley’s hair texture that really suits braids? Why? What are they? Would your style look good on someone else? Why or why not?
- what is style? Why does it change? What are some of your favourite styles? Look at some pictures of historical styles (clothes, hair, etc.) for context and ideas. Show pictures of you as a child to your children. Are things the same? What has changed?
About the Author & Illustrator:
Robert Munsch: Long before he started writing books, Robert Munsch was a storyteller. The first time he told his stories to a group of children was in 1972, when he was a student teacher at their nursery school. The children liked his stories, so he started telling them more often. He would often take the same story and tell it again and again, changing it a little bit each time, until it got to be really good. Kids liked how loud and animated he was while he told them stories, so he kept doing that, too. This would become his signature storytelling style. Eventually, once his stories got really, really good, he wrote them down and sent them to a publisher. The publisher said “Yes!” to the story that became the book Mud Puddle. Today, more than 50 Robert Munsch books have been published. Robert was even once a kid himself. He grew up in a large family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Now that he’s grown up and has (grown-up) kids of his own, he lives with his wife in Guelph, Ontario, where you can often find him on long walks with his dog ~(from Scholastic.ca author bio).
Dave Whamond’s work has appeared in publications such as Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, Psychology Today, OWL, MacLeans, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, Outdoor Canada and many others. He has worked on national campaigns in Canada and the US for Taco Bell, Tim Hortons, Canadian Superstores/Loblaw, Labatts, Dominos, Advil, Chrysler, VISA, Bell, Barqs, McDonalds, Canadian Tire, Coca Cola, Disney and NASA. His internationally syndicated panel comic Reality Check has appeared daily since 1995 in papers such as the Miami Herald, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Toronto Star, Boston Herald, Chicago Tribune, Detroit News, Minneapolis Star Tribune and others. It was nominated for best cartoon panel of the year by the National Cartoonists Society. He lives in Calgary, Alberta ~(from illustrator website).