c.2022, Bloomsbury
$16.99
263 pages

You know this truth: The curl’s the thing.

Short and close to your head, wound around your finger, standing tall in a pineapple, you love how your hair curls around your face, over your shoulders, and down your back. The curl’s the thing — it might even be something you’re known for — but in “Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution” by Sherri Winston, it’s a thing to get someone in trouble.

Everything was fine before the paper airplane.

Well, maybe it was more like fine-ish. On her first day at a new magnet school near Miami Beach, Lotus Bloom had to walk past her old school with her BFF, Rebel, who’d be staying at MacArthur. Rebel wasn’t happy that the two girls would be in different schools for the first time ever. She hated that MacArthur’s building was falling apart. Rebel couldn’t be happy that Lotus was over-the-moon happy.

And oh, Lotus was happy! Her big dream was to play violin in a major concert hall with a full orchestra in front of a big audience. She’d been playing violin since she was 4 years old and music “was life” — and so when she was singled out by a celebrity teacher at her new school in the first week and she was chosen as first chair in the school orchestra, she was so excited!

But the boy she replaced as first chair….? Not so excited.

In fact, ninth-grader Adolpho Cortez was angry that a 12-year-old seventh-grader could land a position that he’d worked so hard for, an orchestra position that his parents promised him was his. And so Adolpho and his friends started hassling Lotus with paper airplanes and paper-wad bombs during orchestra class.

And this wouldn’t have been a big deal, except Lotus was rocking a monster Afro that she was proud of, and that took a lot of work — and when she complained about the harassment, the school said she had to cut her hair! How was this fair? How was this right?

How was Lotus going to stand up for herself?

Who remembers a time when young ladies were told to go along and be demure? Who wants that for their own daughter? Who wants “Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution”?

Probably you, because today’s girls are strong, and so is author Sherri Winston’s main character. Lotus Bloom is also a modern girl, a good kid, smart and proud, and her inner world is rich with observation and the kind of wisdom that comes from being almost 13. This lends a nice bit of humor to the story but mostly, it’s a sort of been-there, done-that for young teens, within a road map to respectful disagreement. Bonus: the kids in this book aren’t fools, and there’s no big-boy drama inside this story.

Parents may enjoy reading “Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution,” perhaps even along with their 11- to 14-year-old, who will love a character with guts. For any girl (or boy!) who needs a dose of bravery, it’s a book to curl up with.

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