There are some moments, events, you never forget. When I was growing up my hair was long and fairly wavy naturally. My mom, using bobby pins,would make rows of pin curls after shampooing to make it extra curly when it dried. In the spring of my tenth year that abruptly ended with a visit to her hair dresser (who, by the way, did her hair for fifty years).
My protests, which were many but respectfully presented, were not taken into consideration. My hair was cut...short. Perhaps this is some misguided rite of passage. Author/illustrator and Caldecott Honor winner (Blackout), John Rocco, addresses this very thing in his new title, Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom (Disney Hyperion).
Every superhero gets his powers from somewhere.
Young Rocco gets his from his hair which grows and grows; the longer his locks, the stronger his powers. It's the same with his buddies and their hair. These four are champions.
They are able to swing inside a tire hanging upside down by their ankles, leap across a stone bridge, frog and net firmly clasped in each hand, make awesome bike jumps off a homemade ramp, skateboard over train sets, kick box building block towers and dive off a ladder into a kiddie pool. All is well until the fateful day when Rocco is abducted and turned over to the enemy, the big...bald...barber. Ack! Thoughts of retaliation swirl in his brain.
He can hardly climb into his treehouse in his weakened state; the loss of his hair makes him feel diminished. He wonders, worries and attempts to replace it. Plants, mops and dogs are not what he needs.
In this dejected state he meets with his friends only to discover they too have met with a similar fate. Sitting on the playground bench, holding her doll, an observant younger girl zooms in to the rescue. In a moment of instinctive reaction superpowers reappear as if by magic.
Part of the sheer fun in reading this title is the word choices used by John Rocco. In telling this story as if it is an adventure shared by a champion and his comrades with extraordinary talents, he gives it a sense of heightened drama with a humorous flair. The mix of first person narrative with dialogue and thoughts in balloons makes this boy's experience read like those superhero comic books he loves. Rocco excels in the placement of the text with each turn of page.
When opening the book's jacket seeing Rocco whizzing along on his bike atop the big, bold primary colored title letters and on the back, astride his bike, Sidekick Sam sitting next to him, cape and hair billowing out in a breeze, you simply have to smile. Close-ups of the superhero on his tire swing and riding his bike, filled with animated action illustrate the cover. The exuberance in these four pictures is contagious.
The opening and closing endpapers done in two shades of rust feature silhouettes of Rocco performing various feats of derring-do with words like POW!, WHOOSH and SPLASH! patterned among them. Readers paying close attention will notice the difference between the two; it's all in the hair. Before the title page Rocco begins the story, a full page illustration of the boy superhero running from a comic book store, huge grin on his face.
With that initial page and in the remainder of the visuals within the book, readers see the blend of black, white and gray with the full color elements; drawing your eyes toward the central character or action of that moment. The book is alive with activity; alternating illustration size, switching between smaller ones surrounded by white space to the larger double page spreads. The use of all the dots makes you feel like you are stepping into the pages of your favorite comic book.
The first two pages are extremely clever. Rocco, in full color, is kneeling on a carpet reading his comic books. The carpet is compromised of enlarged comic book pages. We see the bottom of a chair, adult shoes and a portion of pant legs in the upper right hand corner. These two pages are one of my favorites in this title.
From beginning to end Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom written and illustrated by John Rocco is pure pleasure, destined to be read over and over again. You can't avoid an appreciation for the resilience and ingenuity of all the characters in this book. With many people looking for a first day read aloud, this title addresses having a passion for what you like and finding the source of your strengths.
There is a link embedded in John Rocco's name above to his official website. Stop in and have a look around. Enjoy the book trailer below.
SUPER HAIR-O and the BARBER of DOOM from John Rocco on Vimeo.