Claribel A. Ortega (Witchlings) writes buoying books inspired by her Dominican heritage. She empathically takes on the timeless challenges of "good" and "bad" hair in Frizzy, gloriously depicted by debut illustrator Rose Bousamra.
Going to the salon every Sunday is "without fail" the "worst part of the week" for Marlene. But according to Mami--and to many of their Dominican American relatives--having her curly hair straightened is the only way to be "presentable." Best friend Camilla suggests Marlene try taking her hair into her own hands with the help of online tutorials. The plan doesn't quite work--Marlene's hair becomes completely unruly--causing further exasperation from Mami and cruel bullying from other students. Mami, unsure of what she can do, sends Marlene to curly-haired Tía Ruby for the weekend. Ruby finally helps Marlene understand how "sometimes, the things we learn aren't right, but they're ingrained in us," including "hearing about good hair and bad hair every single day."
Ortega's novel is (of course) about so much more than hair. Tía Ruby gives Marlene deft lessons on multigenerational "anti-Blackness," inherited self-denial and family dysfunction--all appropriately presented by Ortega for the intended middle-grade audience. Bousamra's energetic panels are a vibrant delight, further enriched by evocative details that enhance the text. Through warm, encouraging collaboration, creators Ortega and Bousamra underscore and celebrate the joys of being "beautiful in your own way." --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon