Book Review: Dalia’s Wondrous Hair/El Cabello Maravilloso de Dalia by Laura Lacámara

By Sujei Lugo

18654384DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK: A Cuban girl transforms her long and unruly hair into a garden.

MY TWO CENTS: In this bilingual picture book, with a Spanish translation by Gabriela Baeza Ventura, Laura Lacámara brings us a whimsical Caribbean tale of a young Cuban girl and her luxuriant hair. Lacámara’s colorful illustrations express the joyful spirit of the main character and transport us to the sunny, tropical Caribbean.

The story introduces us to Dalia, a young girl who one day wakes up and finds out that her hair has grown straight up and as tall as a Cuban royal palm tree. Many children would panic with such news, but Dalia can’t hold the excitement of her new wondrous hair. She then embarks on a journey to add to her hair different natural elements of a Caribbean tropical island, such as wild tamarind, coontie plant, and violet leaves. Her purpose is to show her mother the different types of “trees” she can recreate using her hair, ending with a beautiful and unique one.

What stands out in this picture book is Lacámara’s ability to portray through her paintings the endearing relationship between Dalia and her mother and their lives in harmony with nature. The expressions on their faces capture the happiness and warmth of a loving mother and daughter bond. Other characters in the book, Señora Dominguez, Señora Soledad and Soledad’s daughters, all play supporting roles to Dalia’s “hairy” journey and to their connection to the natural world. Through this all-women set of characters, we see a growing sense of community and a sympathetic portrayal of peculiar characters we can encounter in a rural neighborhood.

By situating their home in rural Cuba, the author incorporates the Caribbean’s particular flora and fauna into the story. Through beautiful landscapes that fill the book with a graphical sense of the fresh air and natural environment of this tropical island, the book introduces young readers to different components of the natural world: royal palms, sugar cane fields, wild tamarinds, moonflowers, coontie plants, wild violets, caterpillars, birds, fireflies, ponds, and the ocean. Even the characters’ clothing are filled with flowers and leaf patterns, giving us powerful images that convey a reverence to the natural world.

According to a statement on the first page, the publication of Dalia’s Wondrous Hair/El Cabello Maravilloso de Dalia was funded by a grant from the city of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance and published by Piñata Books, the children’s literature imprint of Arte Público Press. We should acknowledge their efforts, along with other great publishers,  to continuously provide a space for the publication of Latino/a authors and illustrators.

TEACHING TIPS: This bilingual picture book is recommended for children ages 4-7. It works well as a read aloud and for early readers. At home or at the library, librarians, parents, grandparents, family members or guardians can read with their young ones in English, Spanish or both, while teaching new words and identifying different colors, animals, and plants. The author provides a guide to create your own butterfly garden at home, a fun activity for everyone to enjoy.

Language Arts, Science, and Art teachers can create different activities where students can learn new words, identify adjectives mentioned throughout the story, and learn about different types of plants, trees, and animals. The book includes notes of Cuban natural world references (in English and Spanish) that are part of their stories, with a description. Art teachers can use this book to incorporate science to their classrooms. Students can draw, paint, or use different materials to create their own version of Dalia’s hair, using as reference words learned and natural elements of the story. 

AUTHOR: Laura Lacámara is a Cuban-born children’s books author and illustrator. Lacámara holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting from California State University, Long Beach and studied printmaking at Self Help Graphics in East Los Angeles. Her love for writing and illustrating children’s books grew when she signed up for a children’s book illustration class at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, California.

She is the author of Floating on Mama’s Song/Flotando en la Canción de Mamá (Junior Library Guild Selection, Fall 2010 & Tejas Star Book Award finalist 2011-12) and illustrator of The Runaway Piggy/El Cochinito Fugitivo (winner of 2012 Tejas Star Book Award) and Alicia’s Fruity Drinks/Las Aguas Frescas de Alicia.

Laura Lacámara is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and frequently serves as a presenter at conferences, book festivals, and schools. She currently lives in Southern California.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Dalia’s Wondrous Hair/El Cabello Maravilloso de Dalia, visit your local library or bookstore. Also check out worldcat.org, indiebound.orggoodreads.comamazon.com, and barnesandnoble.com.

4 comments on “Book Review: Dalia’s Wondrous Hair/El Cabello Maravilloso de Dalia by Laura Lacámara

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