From Publishers Weekly
"My name is Bintou and I want braids. My hair is short and fuzzy." So laments the heroine in the straightforward style she uses to narrate her story. Though Bintou dreams birds would enjoy nesting in her hair, she mostly envisions wearing "long braids with gold coins and seashells," as her sister and other young women of her African village do. Her Grandma Soukeye explains that girls are only allowed tufts or cornrows in order to avoid vanity, and relays a village cautionary tale to underscore her moral. Diouf (Growing Up in Slavery) creates strong female characters and evokes the feeling of a small village as extended family. With their large expressive eyes and warm demeanor, the girls and women gracefully move through Evans's (Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper's Daughter) oil paintings in abundant earth tones and bright African batiks. Subtle footprints and chicken prints in the ochre sand background add depth to the fluid paintings. When Bintou helps save two drowning cousins and asks that braids be her reward, Grandma Soukeye finds a way to adhere to village tradition while acknowledging Bintou's heroism. This heartfelt story affords glimpses of West African customs as it touches on children's universal desire to be treated as grown-ups. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Bintou wants braids. All she has are four little tufts of hair on her head, and she is always being told that she is too young for the beautiful long braids that her sister and the women of her West African village wear. Little girls have cornrows, she is told, and she must wait. But Bintou, a very believable child, does not want to wait, and when she is offered any reward she can name for saving the lives of two drowning boys, she knows just what to ask for. This lively story is enriched by descriptions and illustrations of village life and customs. There is a great new-baby celebration, where the hands and arms of many villagers are shown high in the air, a stylized representation of unity and joy as the child is raised aloft. The grandmother is shown in her tribal dress, and readers see the beauty of the women with gold coins woven into the braids over their foreheads. Finally there is Bintou, delighted at the decorations in her hair that make her realize how special she is. The oil paintings glow in rich tones of gold, sand, and blue, and the text uses simple narrative language that will read aloud well.
Marian Drabkin, formerly at Richmond Public Library, CA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.