Despite being written about a serious and potentially frightening subject, ‘Nowhere Hair’ has a real sense of fun and lightness to it which should appeal to young children without distracting from the numerous important messages woven into the book.
The story opens with a little girl looking at her mother sitting at her dressing table. In the first illustration we see that Mommy is bald. The girl starts searching for the lost hair, and the story takes on the classic whimsical ‘guessing/finding’ game that young children always delight in: is the hair under the bed, or stuffed in grandma’s pillow, a cloak for a cat or feathering a bird’s nest? Mom provides the answer in a simple straightforward manner:
“The Day I asked her where it went
She had a simple answer
I’m bald because of medicine
I take to cure my cancer”.
We go on to catch a glimpse of the family dynamic as Mom has her cancer treatment. Things have changed: Mom has less energy than before and can’t go to the park as much (she’s seen resting on the couch as the girl plays) and sometimes gets a little more cranky. There is an amazing array of hats and scarves to play with! These become a form of self-expression for the mother (‘There’s one for every mood’). When Mom is feeling very confident, she goes out without anything covering her bald head. The doubts and fears of the girl are met with simple explanations, reassurance and a lot of love by her parents.
This is clearly a picture book that has been developed with a good deal of thought, research and careful consideration. The outcome of the mother’s cancer treatment and what happens to the family dynamic afterwards has not been covered, allowing it to be suitable for families experiencing a wide variety of scenarios. The story ends before Mom’s hair grows back.
Edith Buenen has created stunning illustrations to enhance Sue Glader’s words – graceful figures painted with bold paint strokes – reminiscent of fashion illustrations. The mother moves elegantly through the story looking every bit the powerful and capable woman rather than the victim of an illness, and the changing moods and sense of fun and play between the mother and daughter is captured beautifully.