Friday, November 13, 2009

REVIEW: The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School

Anderson, L.H.  (2009).  The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School.  New York:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


PLOT SUMMARY:  Zoe Fleefenbacher has wild untamable hair with a mind of its own.  That's just fine until Zoe starts the first grade and she has a teacher who expects both Zoe and her hair to follow the school rules.

This is a fun book.  It has the feel of a folktale or a sense of magical realism.  It's hard not to be entertained by the thought of having hair with a mind of its own (but without the creepiness of it being snakes.  No offense, Medusa).  Students will like examining the illustrations closely, seeing all the places Zoe's hair goes, the shapes it makes and all the things it does.

Students will love the moment when Zoe's hair breaks free of its restraints to save the day.  Anderson does a good job of expressing that empowering child sense of righteousness, which is so engaging.


After sharing this book, a teacher can trigger a discussion on the classroom rules and why they are in place.  A teacher could present some of the rules as a negotiation for the students to decide, that way students could feel empowered and free to be themselves as Zoe and her hair desired.  Or if the classroom rules aren't up for being changed, a teacher could still discuss having a welcoming environment.

As a self-esteem builder, a teacher could ask students to choose an aspect of their appearance or personality that they like about themselves or that makes them uniquely them.  The students and teacher could extend those qualities into superpowers.

Since the students in the story are learning about the solar system, a teacher could pick up where the text leaves off.  Alas, since a teacher won't have magic hair to help, a teacher can recruit students to hold the planets.

This is a relatively text heavy picturebook, which means it will probably have to be used as a read aloud if it's used with first graders or younger.


"Zoe Fleefenbacher had one blue eye and one green eye, and bright red hair that went on......forever."

"When she was two years old, Zoe's hair learned how to open the cookie jar."

"Zoe had Ms. Trisk for first grade.  Ms. Trisk didn't fool around.  "School has rules," she said.  "No wild hair in my class!""

"The grown-ups agreed.  School had rules  That hair had to be tamed."


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