Rocco and his friends are superheroes whose long hairstyles (afro, bangs, dreadlocks) are the source of their superpowers. But when they are forced to go to the barbershop for a haircut, it’s up to an ingenious little girl and her doll to reassure the boys that it’s not their hair that makes them powerful. Much of the book’s appeal comes from the hilarious disconnect between text and image: while the text plays up the valiant narration of a superhero (“One day, while preparing for our latest quest, I was captured”
), the illustrations show average kids doing average things (Rocco is seen being carted away kicking and screaming in the family station wagon). The author plays up the comic book superhero aesthetic with occasional speech bubbles which allow Rocco to utter perfectly timed superhero comic clichés (“I will have my revenge, Must
back.”), along with many details and some backgrounds rendered in newsprint dots, and a smattering of appropriate exclamations (POW! ZOOM! WHOOSH!). Cleverly, after receiving his haircut from the barber, the color slowly drains out of Rocco until he becomes black and white like the rest of the world, and it’s only when Rocco and his friends find heroic purpose again that their color returns. Front endpapers depict wild-haired kids in silhouette demonstrating their powers, while back papers show kids in same poses, but with shorn hair, reinforcing the notion that true power comes from within. Children and adults alike will snicker at the many entertaining details.
Eric Barbus, San Francisco Public Library
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