AS HAIR LOSS HAS BECOME MORE OF A MODERN REALITY, AUTHORS ARE WRITING BOOKS TO USE AS TOOLS TO TEACH THE YOUNG TO UNDERSTAND HAIR LOSS.
Children’s books featuring bald characters or discussing baldness are an important tool for changing the way society looks at hair loss. Below we discuss three books that fall into this category.
Mighty Kasey by Jarrett Mentink, PhD; illustrated by Patrick Carlson (Kids in the Clouds, 2010).
A fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County (Washington), Mighty Kasey tells the story of Kasey Keller, the soccer star for the Seattle Sounders who played in four World Cup tournaments and became a regular participant in Germany, England and Spain’s soccer world. Although Keller has probably peaked in terms of his athletic ability, he’s still a sensational player and a much-loved public figure in his native state. He also sports a nifty bald head, which gives him a distinctive and easy-to-spot look on the field.
In Mighty Kasey, Mentink briefly tells Keller’s life story in rhyme, starting in childhood and hitting his career highlights. As a result, Keller starts out as a kid with a full head of hair, which he keeps until page 16, when his hairline starts receding. His current, familiar bald look is glimpsed on page 21 and then shown in its full glory on page 24 and all pages thereafter. This gradual representation of Keller’s hair loss is quite effective; the book doesn’t dwell on (or even allude to) his hair loss, and this subtle acceptance of his changing hairline is admirable. Mentink and Carlson are in effect simply letting kids know that hair loss happens; it’s a change that doesn’t affect what kind of person or athlete Keller is.
Young soccer fans will be delighted with this picture book, which is a short, breezy read. Mentink writes in simple rhyming verse, and his style is lightly engaging and informative. Carlson’s illustrations are colorful and well composed, and he presents some visual metaphors in an entertaining way.
Sometimes children themselves have to deal with baldness
Cocoa Goes Bald! The Adventures of Cocoa Pelou by Anthony Molock; illustrated by Henry Brown (AuthorHouse, 2008).
As one can tell from the title, Cocoa Goes Bald! very definitely deals with baldness and in a straightforward manner. The Cocoa of the title is Cocoa Pelou, “a very average 9 year old girl from the town of Camden, NJ” who discovers one day that her hair is falling out. Cocoa and her family soon discover that she has alopecia totalis, a condition that will eventually cause her to lose all of the hair on her head.
The Pelous call a meeting of their extended family to discuss how to handle this situation, especially since the new school year will be starting in just a few days. A weave is ruled out because her hair won’t be able to sustain it. A wig is considered, but Cocoa is afraid it will get blown off by the wind. A hat is explored, but the young girl imagines it getting knocked off in a fierce game of double Dutch jump rope.
Finally, after much consideration, Cocoa decides to shave it all off. Knowing that she will be the subject of mockery and ridicule, her father advises her to be strong and to find a way to laugh at herself so that the others will grow tired of teasing her. Cocoa takes his advice and creates a song and dance that explains what it’s like to be bald. When she debuts this, she creates a sensation. Soon other children are shaving their heads, and Cocoa becomes famous for starting a new fashion and dance craze.
Clearly written from the heart, Cocoa Goes Bald! does a very effective job of presenting the fears that confront a child with alopecia. It doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the cruelty that a child often must endure from her peers, and it delivers an important message concerning self-esteem and learning to accept a new definition of beauty. Children with hair loss, especially young girls, are likely to respond to its messages on a deep level.
On a technical note, Cocoa Goes Bald! could have used a good proofreader to correct numerous mistakes, but this shouldn’t interfere with any young reader’s enjoyment.
A balding mouse can teach a child about hair loss fears
I’m Too Fond of My Fur! by “Geronimo Stilton” (actually Elisabetta Dami); illustrated by Larry Keys (Scholastic, 2004).
The Geronimo Stilton series of books feature an amusing, rather cowardly mouse reporter (Geronimo Stilton) who, along with his intrepid sister Thea, loutish cousin Trap and sweet nephew Benjamin, gets into all sorts of scrapes. I’m Too Fond of My Fur! seems to promise a hair loss-related adventure, but in fact baldness is only the subject of the first couple of chapters, after which the book becomes a rollicking adventure in which Stilton & co. go off in search of a scientist who appears to have discovered the Abominable Snowman.
The opening sequence, from which the book gets its title, has to do with Geronimo being taken in by an in-your-face television commercial for what is obviously a bogus “fur restoration” potion. While it takes up only a small portion of the book, those who have gone through hair loss will sympathize with the panic that Geronimo feels, as well as the sense of vulnerability to the “hard sell” tactics that the advertiser employs. Along the way, young readers will perhaps learn a bit about sales resistance and self-confidence, and hopefully about not letting other people dictate what is an appropriate physical appearance.
As with other books in the Geronimo Stilton series, this one is captivating, lively and fun.