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*Bintou's Braids* by Sylviane A. Diouf, illustrated by Shane W. Evans


Bintou's Braids
by Sylviane A. Diouf, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Ages 4-8 40 pages Chronicle September 2004 Paperback    

Bintou, who lives in a West African village, sees the older girls with their beautiful braids adorned with coins and seashells and longs to look like them, to be noticed and admired. Unfortunately, Bintou has just four little tufts of hair tied in colorful strings; the best she can hope for as a child is corn rows.

Bintouís baby brother is soon to be baptized and given a name, so she greets her grandmother in the village the day before the feast. Since her grandmother knows everything, thanks to a great number of years, Bintou asks why little girls canít have braids. Her grandmother tells the story of Couma, a girl who had braids and thought of nothing but herself. The elders decided that little girls could only have corn rows, so that they would make friends, play and learn before worrying about such grownup things. But still, Bintou dreams at night of braids with coins and seashells.

The day of the feast, all the women are dressed in their bright clothes, their braids shiny, coins sparkling against their foreheads, just as the ancestors used to wear them. Spending some quiet time alone near the waterís edge, Bintou hears cries for help; two boys are in danger of drowning. She takes a shortcut through the brambles, tearing loose two of her four tufts of hair, but finds help in time to save the boys. Promised a reward for her quick thinking, Bintouís older sister says, ďShe wants braids!Ē

That night, Bintou dreams of yellow and blue birds nesting in her soft hair. The next morning, she sits before her grandmother, who is arranging her hair, no doubt in corn rows. When she looks in the mirror, a pretty girl stares back at her, her hair sprinkled with blue and yellow birds. Bintou is content to wait until she is grown for her braids.

This thoughtful story reinforces the importance of family and reverence for tradition, at the same time acknowledging a little girlís dream of growing up - only not too quickly. Surrounded by love and the wisdom of her extended family, Bintou is nurtured through the phases of childhood, perfect just as she is.

The illustrations of a West African village portray vivid scenes of family, Bintouís dreamscapes and the world through the eyes of a child, a perfect match for a timeless tale.

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  Luan Gaines/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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