________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 3 . . . . September 19, 2014


Bad Hair Day. (Whatever After; 5).

Sarah Mlynowski.
New York, NY: Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2014.
165 pp., hardcover, $16.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-62728-3.

Subject Headings:
Rapunzel (Tale)-Juvenile fiction.
Fairy tales-Juvenile fiction.
Magic mirrors-Juvenile fiction.
Brothers and sisters-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Alicia Copp Mokkonen.

*** /4



Suddenly, I'm right back there in the classroom, remembering how it felt to have everyone's eyes on me.

"C-I-N-A-M-M-I-N," I'd spelled out with assurance. I waited for my teacher's smile. Or maybe a thumbs-up. Or perhaps applause?

"I'm sorry, Abby," Ms. Masserman said, pinching her lips as if she'd just tasted something sour. Like vinegar. Definitely not cinnamon. "That's incorrect."

Huh? What?

"The correct spelling for cinnamon is C-I-N-N-A-M-O-N," she said. "Abby, you're out. Penny, your turn again."

My body froze. My neck. My back. My feet. "But..." My voice trailed off.

"Yes?" Ms. Masserman asked.

"Can I try again?" I whispered.

"Sorry, Abby. One strike per student."

My throat closed up. Tears pricked my eyes. I would not cry in school. I WOULD. NOT. CRY. IN. SCHOOL.

I cried in school.

It was horrible.

When the story begins, Abby's little brother Jonah is feasting on an after school snack of chips and ketchup, asking her about her day. Fifth grade Abby is miserable after coming in ninth-place in the annual spelling bee, and she retreats to her bedroom and takes comfort in the company of her puppy, Prince. That night Jonah appears in her room just before midnight with hopes of cheering her up and having an adventure - he tries to convince Abby to go through the Magic Mirror in their basement which will take them directly into a fairy tale. Abby isn't in the mood, but, worried that Jonah will go alone, she and Prince accompany him. Soon they realize they have entered the story of Rapunzel.

      As in the other "Whatever After" tales, the siblings' interference will change the course of events and impart life lessons along the way. When they climb up Rapunzel's rope of hair to visit her in the tower, Jonah's new soccer cleats make a mess of her hair. In an effort to fix it, Abby cuts Rapunzel's hair, making matters even worse. Rapunzel worries that the only thing that made her special is gone and dramatically declares, "I'm hideous. No one would love someone with such hideous hair." The witch returns to the tower and is incensed that Rapunzel has cut her hair and cannot throw it down to her so she can climb up. While the witch goes to fetch a ladder, Abby and Jonah convince Rapunzel to flee the tower and find her parents. When Rapunzel is turned away from her former home by a woman who claims she has no children, Rapunzel is heartbroken and returns to the tower in sorrow. Abby and Jonah manage to find the prince and lead him to Rapunzel. When they convince Rapunzel to sing, the prince is entranced by her melodic voice and vows his love and promises to help her find her parents.

      Some suspenseful turns in the plot along the way involve magic herbs which turn Jonah blue and a gigantic pet spider the witch uses to seek her revenge on the children. Each chapter ending is eventful and encourages the reader to keep turning the pages. The segments are short and driven by lighthearted and humorous dialogue. At times, the plot is overly didactic rather than simply fun. For instance, when Rapunzel finds her happy ending, she thanks Abby and says, "If it wasn't for you, I would never have known the truth [...] That I am not just my hair." A few pages later, Abby tells herself, "Maybe sometimes the thing you think you need - the thing you think makes you special- isn't really that important." Vocabulary and descriptive choices are sometimes a bit off the mark, including, for instance the description of the damage to Rapunzel's hair where she unties a ribbon and "multiple pieces of hair fall to the floor". Sometimes word choices, such as "multiple", which have been at times trendy among youth are inaccurate and may annoy the adult reader!

      The strength of this story, however, is found in the friendly sibling relationship portrayed between Abbey and Jonah. Other highlights of this tale include the depiction of their decision-making processes and the clever ways in which they solve problems, as well as the lighthearted mistakes and errors in communication along the way, and the suspenseful, fast-paced plot.


Alicia Copp Mokkonen, an educator, librarian and researcher, lives in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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