A child wrestles with big emotions caused by hair of tall-tale proportions in the first solo picture book by Montreal artist and Governor General’s Literary Award nominee Nathalie Dion. Malie has a hard time keeping her errant goldilocks under control. Unable to comb her curls into submission, or squish her “huge tangled mess” under the confines of a hat, she dramatically yearns to hide away in her room. But a long list of mother-mandated chores sends Malie out the door in a huff and into even hairier situations.
Wind, rain, and humidity make her voluminous hair scale to epic heights. Teasingly exaggerated details dominate Dion’s retro chic digital and watercolour illustrations. Malie’s billowy mane completely fills a bus shelter, backing the little girl into a corner and eclipsing her dainty, porcelain face. Out on the street, her over-the-top hair appears taller than rooftops and longer than a city bus.
While Malie considers her tresses to be tiresome, others are drawn to her “irresistible nest,” including a flock of birds and a lost lamb. The droll first-person narration is full of wordplay and conversational quips and gripes. Walking by a barber shop, Malie considers taking drastic measures to her buzzkill hair and comes “within a whisker of having it all shaved off.”
As the yarn – and her hair – gets hyperbolically larger than life, Malie directly addresses readers with a curiosity-piquing proviso: “You won’t believe it.” When a grand piano suddenly falls from a window and makes a lucky soft landing, Malie sardonically asks, “Can you guess where?” The cumulative romp continues with a tricyclist crashing safely. “You can guess where.”
Stooped over, Malie is dragged down by her troubles and tuckered out from carrying the weight of everyone and everything stuck in her hair. Frustrated and peeved with her ’do, she recognizes the need for a time out. A restorative nap provides a fresh perspective and allows the child to appreciate the unique gifts that have been with her all along: “I just might begin to like this mop of hair.” Underneath all of the far-fetched fun, there’s a wise message about accepting and loving yourself.