Written in rhyming couplets, this modern-day fable explores the consequences of not brushing one’s hair, as the little girl protagonist discovers after she refuses to let her mum near her long, curly locks.
Waking one morning to find a chaffinch settling in her red and orange crayon locks, the girl’s delight is mirrored by her mum’s despair. A much-feared avian invasion ensues, the little girl’s hair becoming a home to pigeons, swallows, chiffchaffs, doves and house martins, and then larger birds, like barn owls, mallards, turkeys and a peacock. The last addition is a bird too far, its vast, beautiful plumage extending her hair by metres and weighing her down to the ground: “You can brush my hair now Mum, I’ve decided to give in”.
To match its narrative, the illustrations are childlike, with flourishes of sophistication and detail. The girl’s hair makes use of good and proper scribbling, a red-crayon mess that stands out on the page, particularly against the more delicately illustrated birds that nest in it, as well as the intricate patterns of the wallpaper, some of the clothes, and the mugs they drink tea from.
This contrast between simplicity and intricacy, which makes dexterous use of pastel, pencil and paper, creates a finish product that is pleasing for the child and their parents.
The front and back pages are dedicated to an index of the birds featured in the book, a reference that the reader can use to identify the birds found throughout the story. It is pretty comprehensive, in terms of common British birds, and will arm children with the knowledge to explore wildlife in their gardens and local parks, as well as providing a new way to experience the book. The omission of the kingfisher – the poster-boy of British ornithology – is perhaps the only disappointment.
Author Notes Sarah Dyer has authored and illustrated many books, including Five Little Friends, which won the Smarties prize and has been published in ten different languages. Living in Hove with her husband and son, she also teaches illustration at the universities of Middlesex and Kingston and blogs regularly on illustration and motherhood.