Review: Karen's Haircut by Katy Farina and Ann M Martin

There is something really charming about the Baby-Sitters Little Sister Graphic Novel series, so much so that I keep coming back. In fact, I think I may have now officially read more of the Little Sister books in graphic novel format than I did the originals. (Though to be fair, when I was the right age for Baby-Sitters Little Sister, there were less than ten novels released in Australia--we were a bit behind the United States.) Anyway, the latest Little Sister book to get the graphic novel treatment is Karen's Haircut. (Which is, incidentally one of the books that I read and I remember being shocked by Karen getting what was, in Australian terms, a mullet.)

The story opens with Karen playing dress ups, or Lovely Ladies with her best friend Nancy at the Little House. The pair are having fun until, suddenly, Karen begins to feel self conscious about her appearance. The feeling doesn't last--Nancy assures Karen that she looks fine and soon enough it's time for Nancy to go home and for Karen to leave for a weekend at the Big House. There she looses a tooth, and during a game of Lovely Ladies with her other bestie, Hannie, Karen begins to feel self-conscious again. After all, Hannie is about to "marry" a boy from her neighbourhood, and Hannie wants her wedding (essentially, a ceremony in her backyard organised for two weeks time,) to be perfect. She thinks that Karen will be a beautiful bridesmaid if she gets a haircut. Better yet, there is a new and glamourous hair salon that has just opened up in town. Karen asks her Dad if she can have a haircut at a manicure at Glorias, and surprisingly he agrees. And so begins a sage tale about listening to bad advice and not having enough parental supervision.

Karen gets a manicure she loves, but the haircut is far from what she wanted. Against her wishes, and while her mother is outside, the hairdresser shapes Karen's hair into a much shorter style. The hairdresser tries to justify it by claiming the cut is the latest style, and Karen and her mother leave. 

Then Karen has to go to school the next day and faces not only a whole lot of teasing about her new hairstyle, but Hannie kicks her out of the wedding. From there, we see a fairly realistic example of a kid who feels ostracised, bullied and let down by her friends, while she also tries to come to terms with her appearance. She tries to reinvent herself, and gives herself various new names that everyone around her forgets, and wears new and interesting clothes, but very few people take any notice, apart from Hannie who just wants to ostracise her. Eventually, though, it turns out that Karen's haircut is admired by some of the older girls at school--who go out and get the same cut--and most of the kids in her class have moved on. Then Hannie finds herself on the receiving end of a big lesson of her own--and she's lucky that Karen is willing to forgive her.

Overall, this one is an interesting story for kids about identity, bulling and the perils of getting too caught up in outward appearances. It's not perfect--I found the fact that a parent would leave a seven year old unattended in a hair salon a bit surprising, along with the fact that there was no real ramifications for the hairdresser for forcing a haircut on a kid that she didn't want--but then again, it's fiction. 



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