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Geeky Parent Guide: Family Book Club: ‘Frizzy’

The Geeky Parent Guide aims to highlight media that both kids AND their grown-ups will be able to enjoy. This year, the GPG is focusing not only on the joy of the content itself, but on digging deeper to determine why media is of interest to various members of the family, as well as the valuable (and challenging) aspects of its messaging. As families grow and evolve, so, too, do their interests, and we hope to provide fun and thoughtful ways for families to sit back, relax, and enjoy new books, movies, comics, TV, and more.

Comic books are a fantastic medium for wonderful storytelling – and Frizzy gives fans of all ages a great look into how kids respond to negative comments, while internalizing what it means to be themselves. Being a parent might be challenging, but Frizzy is an important reminder that being a kid is equally challenging, if not more.

As I take a look at Frizzy, I’ll also give you a personal account from my daughter Adelaide as she brings up points leading to her ultimately declaration that this story is her favorite. Let’s explore Frizzy!

Release Date: 2022
Writer: Claribel A. Ortega
Artist: Rose Bousamra
Publisher: First Second

What Is Frizzy About?

Frizzy follows Marlene as she navigates school, featuring the always unfortunate mean kids (a.k.a. bullies), all while trying to determine whether her hair is associated with beauty – and if that means she’s good enough. The story highlights the harsh viewpoints associated with appearance, and how what’s said aloud can truly impact a child’s well-being.

Marlene relies on her best friend Camila to vent her frustrations, including the frustrations surrounding weekly salon visits with her mom. Although the experiences should be an opportunity for the two of them to bond, Marlene feels like it makes her feel less than who she is by transforming her hair into something she does not want.

Frizzy is a splendid graphic novel written by Claribel A. Ortega, illustrated by Rose Bousamra, and published by First Second. As soon as I read it, I completely understood why this is my daughter Adelaide’s favorite book, why she had to own it, and why she likes to read it multiple times each year.

Frizzy panels 1 edit

Why Is Frizzy Absolutely Wonderful for Parents?

Adelaide Lakata (age 11) vantage point: “It’s good for parents to learn how to listen to your kids and know what they’re saying. This would help to avoid unhealthy relationships with them.”

Travis Lakata (age 43) vantage point: As a parent, I was able to see myself in Marlene’s shoes. Not necessarily because of the hair, but in the way she felt uncomfortable in speaking out and having to deal with hurtful things being said or done to her.

I want my kids to be able to feel free to approach me, or their amazing mom, and share what’s on their mind. It isn’t easy to discuss insecurities, approach grownups who have a scathing disposition, or figure out how to deal with people who just don’t say nice things. Being a kid is HARD, so Frizzy helps to remind parents to help them along the way: Listen. Choose kind words. And, you know, it’s okay to let kids do things they like or dress how they want to – even if it’s against what is viewed as “beautiful” or “presentable.”

Why Is Frizzy Spectacular for Kids?

AL vantage point: “Because it can help you learn how to speak up or find a trusted adult you’re most comfortable with. Or having a friend who will always support you and care about you and your decisions. It’s also just a really good book you can read over and over again.”

TL vantage point: I love that my daughter got me to read this book; her love of this story made me so interested in what made it special. Kids will get to see that parents aren’t always right – and that bullies are always wrong. Parents will sometimes make choices based on what they want and not necessarily think or care about what their kids want.

Marlene used to run and jump and play, until one day it just caused too much of a fuss with messing up her professionally straightened hair. Or she wasn’t deemed “ladylike” because she was having fun and accidentally bumped into someone, causing drinks to spill. I remember growing up thinking, “The best foods are the messiest foods.” Have I lost that mentality? And, if so, why?

It’s true; messy foods are usually awesome. Plus, messes do happen. And sometimes, we just need to let kids be kids. It’s also important for them to see what positive friendships and role models look like. Not only does Marlene have Camila, but she has her Tía Ruby who loves her unconditionally and shows her how to tackle her frizzy hair.

Parental Concerns or Limitations

I love this story. My only concern is not having enough people reading it – and my daughter agrees with this sentiment.

Frizzy panels 2 edit

Conversation Starters

Frizzy bubbles on the edges of family trauma, in the form of Marlene losing her father at a younger age. Death being an exceedingly difficult topic to navigate, this story highlights how things can change in a way where new normal routines and behaviors take place that can lead to even more stress.

Death Can Lead to Unhealthy Patterns

AL vantage point: “It can help them relate to the characters and find a happy place to learn more about themselves and what makes them happy.”

TL vantage point: Marlene’s mom Paola used to do her hair. She used to also wear her hair in a “frizzy” way. After the death of Marlene’s father, the trips to the salon began. This weekly event created a way for Paola to avoid looking in the mirror and seeing her curls that he loved so much, which meant she wouldn’t have to miss him so much. This new tradition, however, makes Marlene unhappy.

Not only does it physically hurt to have her hair done, she receives conflicting information on what it means to be beautiful – or just herself for that matter. If a child is told how beautiful they are when their hair is done a certain way, or maybe something they wear, it makes them wonder if they weren’t beautiful before when they were a sweaty mess. For example: When she’s told to follow her cousin’s example more often in behaving “properly.” In trying to avoid feeling sad for missing her husband, Paola provided a space where Marlene felt like she couldn’t voice what made her sad.

Anger Should Not Be an Answer

AL vantage point: “If you’re a kid and going through it, it can help you learn how to speak up or find a trusted adult to talk to. Or if you’re an adult who has been through it, it can help you not make the same mistakes with your own kids.”

TL vantage point: Whenever Marlene’s mother tells her to do something, she expects it to be followed without question. Even if Marlene was bullied and kids put tape in her hair, it didn’t matter. Enter Paola’s response to Marlene’s frizzy hair: An angry face and “go to your room until dinner.”

I understand being a parent can be hard; trying to figure out age-appropriate books or TV, when to broach sensitive topics, or even when it seems like they need more sleep than they’ve gotten recently. Not to mention the daily worry that comes with all the things that go on in the world. But, and a big but, I realize that I’m not perfect. I understand I make mistakes. And my kids need to know that and feel comfortable enough to point that out when it does happen.

And, yes, it does happen. Responding in anger “because I said so” or “if you would’ve listened to me” seems to ignore one important fact: Were you trying to listen to your kid? It is hard to open up, and if you press down hard enough (and all the time), your child might never feel comfortable or safe enough to do so. Frizzy paints that picture brilliantly, but does so in a way to highlight how those conversations should happen.

Turtle Bread

Additional Recommendations After Reading Frizzy

Read Turtle Bread: A Graphic Novel About Baking, Fitting In, and the Power of Friendship written by celebrity baker Kim-Joy. This story’s main character Yan deals with self-doubt and anxiety around other people. She sees herself as not worthy to have or maintain friendships, because she doesn’t believe she’s good enough – or that everyone will see she’s a fraud.

I read this story at Adelaide’s scouts last night and immediately told her how awesome it is, so she read it last night too after coming home. It’s a wonderful deep dive into what it feels like to be socially anxious and not feel good enough for anyone to like or love. It’s presented beautifully and is accessible for all ages. If you’re able to read Frizzy and Turtle Bread, you’ll be the better for it.

If you like more comic book coverage, or any storytelling medium, featuring my kids’ perspectives, please share your thoughts in the comments or reach out on Facebook or Twitter.

Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.

S.T. Lakata, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor



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