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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Frizzy, a beautiful graphic novel written by Claribel A. Ortega and warmly illustrated by Rose Bousamra, shows that it's OK to have big, curly hair. And that different hair needs different care. The novel recognizes some of the challenges people with Black hair face, including bullying, internalized racism, and structural prejudices. There's also some discussion of the importance of character vs. appearance. Many people, including adults, classmates, and family members, suggest that Marlene's hair is weird. She perseveres with courage and integrity as she looks for ways to be authentic despite these challenges. Marlene is a typical middle schooler, and sometimes she deals poorly with bullying and appearance-based expectations, but she works on communicating well with both family members and classmates. While preteens and teens will likely be able to draw their own conclusions, 8- and 9-year-olds may need some support to focus on the positive messages and discourage bullying. Frizzy won the 2023 Pura Belpré Award, presented by a division of the American Library Association to an author that best portrays the Latino cultural experience in a work of literature for children or youth.
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What's the Story?
Claribel A. Ortega's FRIZZY is the story of Marlene, an Afro-Dominican middle schooler in the United States who learns to care for and love her hair despite regular commentary about how it isn't good enough. Between weekly visits to the salon with her Mami, drama at her cousin's quinceañera, and bullying at school, she starts deciding who she wants to be, with the support of a friend and her tía (aunt).
Is It Any Good?
This tender graphic novel is a needed validation of different kinds of beauty and the importance of being true to yourself. Marlene is deep into the uncomfortable stage of growing up where appearances seem to matter a lot more than she was told as a child. She deals with miserable salon visits and cutting remarks from all sides because of her curly hair. Despite all of this pressure, she's courageous and persistent as she tries to be true to herself. As Marlene deals with bullying and the constant pressure to "look her best" (whatever that means) she has the support of a friend and a very independent tía (aunt). The pressures of gender expectations, internalized racism, and grief are neatly and authentically braided into the story.
Although there are a couple of resolutions that come together too easily, overall Frizzy is a nuanced book with themes of appearance, respect, and bullying that will feel relevant to both older children and younger teens.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how Marlene shows integrity takes courage and perseverance in Frizzy. How do these character strengths help her be true to herself?
Marlene faces bullying and pressure from her family. Sometimes she communicates honestly and firmly, while other times she responds in ways that hurt other people. What makes communication successful? How can kids respond to unwelcome pressure?
Marlene and her family deal with colorism, favoring skin and hair that looks a certain way. Have you ever noticed someone who was criticized just because of their looks? How did that make them feel? How did you feel about it? Has it ever happened to you?
- Author: Claribel A. Ortega
- Illustrator: Rose Bousamra
- Genre: Graphic Novel
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School
- Character Strengths: Communication, Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: First Second
- Publication date: October 18, 2022
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 14
- Number of pages: 224
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Awards: ALA Best and Notable Books, Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: March 27, 2023
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For kids who love middle school stories and characters of color
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