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Nonfiction Monday: Big Wig by Kathleen Krull

100 Scope Notes is honored to host Nonfiction Monday this week. Add a comment with your review URL and I’ll include it in the bottom of this post.

Big Wig: A Little History of Hair
By Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by Peter Malone
Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)
ISBN: 9780439676403
Grades 2-4
In Stores

I recently went out in public wearing a bow tie with my hair completely slicked back. I was about to include a picture, but then I realized this is the internet and I may live to regret sharing said image.

This was not completely by choice. I was attending a 1930s themed wedding so I figured this is how a dude of the 30s just might have rolled. It made me think of how every period of time (and culture) in human history can in some way be defined by its hair. Big Wig: A Little History of Hair does a nice job of capturing the evolution and significance of hairstyles through the ages. As Kathleen Krull states in her author’s note, “the history of the world is the history of hair.”

Beginning with prehistoric Africa, each turn of the page highlights a different stage in hair and brings us closer to the modern day. Just about every stop along the way hits a different part of the world reveals something interesting. From Egyptians shaving their heads to fend off bugs, to Aristotle’s unusual (and, for the modern reader, disgusting) cure for baldness, the list of things that people done to their ‘dos is incredible.

Peter Malone’s gouache illustrations set a perfect tone. His refined style fits right in with the historical focus of the book, but also nicely conveys the frequent humor of the text.

A well-crafted title on a topic that doesn’t get much play, chances are your collection is in need of a book like this.

Review copy from publisher

Shout-out to my wife for bringing this book to my attention.

Also reviewed by Bookends, Waking Brain Cells, The Fourth Musketeer, Shelf-Employed.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

Nonfiction Monday continues…

    1. Mary Ann reviews Journey Into the Deep at Great Kid Books
    2. Myra from GatheringBooks reviews Bright Path: Young Jim Thorpe
    3. Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff reviews Wagons Ho!
    4. The Nonfiction Detectives review Baby Mammoth: Frozen in Time
    5. Shelf-Employed reminds everyone to nominate books for the Cybils awards
    6. Alex from The Children’s War reviews Ghosts in the Fog: the Untold Story of Alaska’s WW II Invasion
    7. Wild About Nature blog interviews nonfiction author Carole Gerber
    8. Deborah at The Swimmer Writer reviews I Feel Better With a Frog in My Throat: History’s Strangest Cures
    9. Lori Calabrese Writes! reviews Seymour Simon’s latest, BUTTERFLIES
    10. Jennifer at Jean Little Library reviews Dreadful Fates by Tracey Turner
    11. Shirley at SimplyScience reviews Polar Lands by Sean Callery
    12. Peggy at Anatomy of Nonfiction  reviews THANK YOU SARAH, THE WOMAN WHO SAVED THANKSGIVING by Laurie Halse Anderson
    13. Jennie at Biblio File rants about Chasing Lincoln’s Killer
    14. Ana’s Nonfiction Blog reviews Tales of the West Coast
    15. Roberta at Wrapped in Foil celebrates World Space Week with a selection of titles
    16. :paula at Pink Me reviews Bobo Explores Light
    17. Janet Squires reviews Fearless: the story of racing legend Louise Smith by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Scott Dawson
    18. Brenda at Prose and Kahn reviews All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson
    19. Tammy at Apples with Many Seeds reviews Going to School in India by Lisa Heydlauff
    20. Anamaria at Books Together Blog reviews Before They Were Famous by Bob Raczka
    21. Anastasia reviews The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont by Victoria Griffith (Author) and Eva Montanari (Illustrator) at Picture Book of the Day and Mammoth Bones and Broken Stones: The Mystery of North America’s First People by David L. Harrison (Author) and Richard Hilliard (Illustrator) at Chapter Book of the Day
    22. Cindy and Lynn at Bookends review The Boy Who Bit Picasso by Antony Penrose
About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Hi Travis, this is our Nonfiction Monday contribution for the week at GatheringBooks:

    The picture book biography of the World’s greatest athlete, Jim Thorpe.

  2. Hi Travis – Thanks so much for hosting! I’m excited about the new Cybils Awards category for Book Apps, and so would love to share a review of an amazing nonfiction book app: Journey Into the Deep, based on the amazing book by Rebecca L. Johnson. Here’s my review:

    I’d love it if you could encourage folks to nominate their favorite book app if they’ve explored any!

    thanks so much – Mary Ann

  3. Travis, thank you for hosting today! Big Wig looks like a pretty interesting book. At NC Teacher Stuff I have posted a review of Wagons Ho!:


  4. Hi Travis,

    Thanks for hosting Nonfiction Monday. Today on the Nonfiction Detectives blog we review Baby Mammoth: Frozen in Time.

  5. My post today is a Cybils reminder, although I see now that you did the same yesterday. I’d love to see a lot of nonfiction entries. I’m a judge this year. (yay!)
    http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2011/10/its-cybils-time-nominate-your-favorite.html I enjoyed Big Wig as well and reviewed it earlier.http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2011/09/big-wig-little-history-of-hair.html
    I hope your school year is off to a great start! Lisa

  6. Hi Travis, thanks for hosting Non-Fiction Monday this week. I have a post on a book called Ghosts in the Fog: the Untold Story of Alaska’s WW II Invasion at

  7. Wild About Nature blog interviews nonfiction author, Carole Gerber, this week.


    Thanks for hosting this week!

  8. Big Wig looks like such a great book! Thanks for sharing. Today at Lori Calabrese Writes!, I’m channeling summer with Seymour Simon’s latest, BUTTERFLIES.


  9. Always fun to see your Nonfiction Mondays! I have Dreadful Fates by Tracey Turner, which has been a huge favorite at my library since I added it last spring


  10. Thanks for hosting today, Travis. I have Polar Lands by Sean Callery today at SimplyScience.


  11. Thanks for hosting, Travis! Today at Anatomy of Nonfiction I am celebrating Thanksgiving early. 158 years ago today Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving all thanks to Sarah Hale who is also celebrated in the book THANK YOU SARAH, THE WOMAN WHO SAVED THANKSGIVING by Laurie Halse Anderson.

  12. I’m in today with a rant about Chasing Lincoln’s Killer


  13. Hello, Travis! I appreciate you hosting today. My review is of “Tales of the West Coast” in Ana’s
    NonFiction Blog http://anasnonfictionblog.blogspot.com/
    There is quite a list of titles today. Wonderful!

  14. Good Morning Travis,

    I’m celebrating World Space Week today with a selection of books sure to excite future astronauts http://blog.wrappedinfoil.com/2011/10/books-to-celebrate-world-space-week/

    I notice Big Wig has been nominated in the Cybils nonfiction picture book category.

  15. That’s so great that Mary Ann did an app today – I had the same idea! I’m in with a review of Bobo Explores Light, a new iPad science app.

    Travis, I had very mixed feelings about Big Wig. I feel like there was an opportunity to go into the culture of black hair – it’s such a big deal, even among little kids – and it decided to stay hands-off.

    Anyway, thanks for hosting!

    • Good observation about Big Wig – I wonder how author Kathleen Krull would respond to that question.

      • Thank you so much, Travis, & thank you for your comment, Paula. So much to say about hair! I feel I addressed African-American hair quite a bit, especially with hairstyles as an art form in Nigeria and Madam CJ Walker. Could have done more, but I was trying to cover the entire world and 2000 years in one book.

      • Thanks for stopping by, Kathleen, and thanks for addressing Paula’s question.

  16. Thanks for hosting.
    My selection is “Fearless: the story of racing legend Louise Smith” by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Scott Dawson.

  17. Happy Monday, Travis. Thanks for hosting. I finally got to read All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon and Katherine Tillotson. Here’s the link: http://proseandkahn.livejournal.com/266898.html


  18. Hi Travis. Thanks for looking after today’s event.
    At Apples with Many Seeds I’m looking at what going to school in India is like with Going to School in India by Lisa Heydlauff.
    Thanks for for your recommendation of Kathleen Krull’s book.

  19. Thanks for hosting, Travis! I reviewed Before They Were Famous by Bob Raczka today:

  20. Thanks for hosting today, Travis! I just posted a roundup of some funny favorite nonfiction books for kids on my blog:

  21. Thanks for hosting today, Travis! I’m in with The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont by Victoria Griffith (Author) and Eva Montanari (Illustrator) at Picture Book of the Day http://wp.me/pWySC-ir AND Mammoth Bones and Broken Stones: The Mystery of North America’s First People by David L. Harrison (Author) and Richard Hilliard (Illustrator) at Chapter Book of the Day http://wp.me/p1fHyF-bQ

  22. I definitely have this one on order for my library and can’t wait to read it myself!