Sihle Nontshokweni & Mathabo Tlali, illustrated by Chantelle & Burgen Thorne
“Intombi mayizithembe mayazithe, Wanda. Be confident. Trust in yourself.” So says Wanda’s Mama in this uplifting story starring a girl with a wonderful head of hair that makes her feel anything but confident as she’s teased by unkind members of her class. Unbeknown to her Mama, who spends ages combing her daughter’s hair each morning, before she goes into her classroom Wanda usually changes her hairdo making the ‘big switch’ so that her teacher won’t call her hair a “bird’s nest”. However on this particular day she’s late and unable to make the alterations.
Mrs Stewart sends her to find an Alice band in the lost property box and this she wears throughout school time.
On the way home she sadly tells herself that maybe after all, she’s not that proud African queen with beautiful hair, ‘strong like clouds’, as her Mama tells her every morning. However on her return she’s greeted by her Grandmother who, after a distraught Wanda has shared how she feels, is able to help her swallow all that sadness, partly by giving her a scrapbook that they look at together. Therein Wanda sees pictures of African women with amazing hairstyles, each one of them beautiful and every one of them, deservedly famous;
then on the final page is her own mother. At last Wanda can truly embrace her own hair, especially with a bit of extra knowledge from her gran concerning the secret of her crown – “Water and 100% olive oil.”
Next morning,, it’s a proud, emotionally strong Wanda who waits at that bus stop.
This heartfelt look at how society can drain the positivity instilled by a loving family, is a powerful reminder that everyone has the right to feel confident to celebrate their culture and that we should all share in that celebration rather than attempt to undermine it. The broad themes of the story – self belief and kindness, with its compelling, vibrant illustrations, make this a book to share with primary classes wherever they are.