Monday, September 12, 2011

Big Wig: A Little History of Hair

Krull, Kathleen. 2011. Big Wig: A little history of hair. Ill. by Peter Malone. New York: Arthur A. Levine.

From prehistoric times in Africa to England, 2007, Kathleen Krull presents a paragraph on many hair-related milestones in the history of the world,

2,400 Years Ago, Greece
Rubbing goat pee on his head.  That's how the wise philosopher Aristotle thinks he will cure his baldness.  But Hippocrates, known as the Father of Medicine, prefers his own brews, which include opium, wine, green olive oil, horseradish, and pigeon poop.

Each event is featured on a single or double spread page, accompanied by the amusingly detailed watercolors of Peter Malone. (Dorothy Hamill skating in front of an audience of Dorothy Hamill look-alikes; Cleopatra weaving horse teeth and roasted mice into Caesar's receding locks; a blue-faced, punk Celt, sporting a kilt and white spiked hair, they're all here in Big Wig)

The reader learns a bit of history while enjoying the ridiculousness that is mankind's never-ending obsession with hair.

Back matter includes a source list, and "Hair Extensions," which expands on each of the periods introduced in the book.  (Who knew that our current term for the extra bathroom, "powder room," came from 1624, France? Not me.)
As wig styles developed after Louis XIII, white became the favorite color.  The wealthy had their servants powder their wigs by blowing wheat flour with a bellows from the fireplace.  With flour going every which way, the French invented a new room - a powder room ... so they would have a place to powder without worrying about the mess.
The only milestone that I found missing in Big Wig was the wildly popular and risque "bobbed" haircut of the 1920s flapper girls.
Regardless of whether she chooses to present facts with humor or seriousness, Kathleen Krull always delivers education with entertainment.

Big Wig: A (highly styled) Little History of Hair. Comb your shelves for it today!

(sorry, couldn't resist the hair buns puns!)

Another review @ The Fourth Musketeer
Read BWI's recent interview with Kathleen Krull.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Wrapped in Foil.


  1. Kathleen Krull is brilliant. Glad you found this one up to her usual high standard.
    Thanks for the recommendation.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  2. This sounds like a fun (dare I say flippant? :-) ) way to learn about history.

  3. This one will be great for our 8th grade nonfiction unit. Thanks for the review!


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