Monday, September 13, 2010

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School
Written by Laurie Halse Anderson, Illustrated by Ard Hoyt
Picture Book: K-3
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Summary: In this book, Zoe is having difficulty with her long, crazy hair once she begins first grade. Her first grade teacher, Ms. Trisk, demands that Zoe keep her hair under control, finally realizing in the end that she can use the hair’s abilities to her benefit.

            I was drawn to this book as I explored the children’s section at the public library, primarily by the crazy illustration on the front cover. The tiny girl has long hair that is almost four times the size of her body. Once I picked it up and began leafing through it, I realized that the front cover showed a modest mop of hair, compared to the wild and crazy red hair that covered the inside pages. I must admit that the illustrations definitely made the story come to life. Without the illustrations, this picture book would have been anything but complete. The illustrator captured perfectly the unruly and uncontrollable hair that Zoe had to live with. I empathized with this poor child, who could not control her hair, and was constantly in trouble with her teacher for the misbehavior of her hair. In each picture Zoe looks absolutely distraught over her situation. In the end, I was very glad to know that Ms. Trisk found the usefulness in Zoe’s hair. I really enjoyed the personification of Zoe’s hair in this book. I found it interesting that her hair had a mind of it’s own, and operated apart from Zoe herself.
            I think that there is a definite possibility of using this book in my future classroom. The message that can be taken away from the book is that we each have unique talents and can each contribute to the classroom in important ways. What one person may see as a huge disadvantage or inconvenience can be seen as particularly useful to another. Zoe’s wild hair might seem like a pain to Ms. Trisk, and often Zoe herself, but in the end, her hair comes to help teach a science lesson in the classroom. In a similar way, it is important to teach our students that they each bring uniqueness to the classroom, often resulting in insurmountable benefits that could not be achieved otherwise. My only concern with this book arises from an experience I had reading this to a second grader. Before arriving at the end of the book, and the “moral” of the story, she was becoming increasingly frustrated that Zoe didn’t just cut her hair to solve all of the problems. I think that the message may not be apparent enough until the conclusion of the story, and thus it may be hard to captivate students up until that point. It would be useful to maybe talk about why Zoe did not cut her hair as she encountered difficulty in school, as a means of stressing that we each have great possibilities just the way that we are. 

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