Bintou wants braids. Long, pretty braids, woven with gold coins and seashells, just like her older sister and the other women in her family. But she is too young for braids. Instead, all she has are four little tufts of hair; all she ever gets are cornrows. However, when Bintou saves the lives of her two young cousins and is offered a reward of her choosing, Bintou discovers that true beauty comes in many different forms. Rich, earthy illustrations and a heartwarming story capture the spirit of a West African village in this wise tale about a girl who learns she's perfect just the way she is.
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I have published several books and articles as a historian, but one day, as I took my daily stroll in the park, a story came to my mind. It was the first time since I created tales for my son, so many years ago. I felt a wonderful freedom when I wrote Bintou's Braids. I did not work with real events or people, for a change, so I could make up incidents, characters, include dreams, and end the story any way I saw fit. But I also wanted to be true to the spirit and culture of the Senegalese people I was writing about, so I drew upon my observations and studies.
The strength of the family, the importance of the community, and the respect for the elders inspired me. I have always been charmed by the grace of the Senegalese women, their vitality and their elegance. They wear beautiful, complicated hairstyles, but little girls have plain cornrows or the simplest of braids without any decoration. The women told me it is only when girls are older and become wiser that they too can have elaborate braids. They have to earn them.
I love the idea of having to take the time to be a child, to wait for something instead of always getting it immediately. That what inspired this story.
Sylvianne A. Diouf is the author of several books for children. Of Senegalese and French descent, she has lived in France, Senegal, Gabon and Italy. She currently lives in New York with her son.
Shane W. Evans is a fine artist and illustrator who lives in Missouri. Besides showing his work in galleries internationally, he has illustrated four other children's books. This is his first book for Chronicle Books.
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