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Punk Wig
From Boyds Mills Press
Oregon Book Award Finalist
Bank Street College Best Books of the Year 2009

Love the wigs!
Artists: Mikayla, Lexie, Emily, and Mele

PUNK WIG- Cancer Care Connection

Author Lori Ries and Illustrator Erin Eitter Kono have created a safe, none-too-serious haven for parents and kids to help cope with the often harsh realities of cancer treatment. Since hair loss can be one of the most visible and mysterious signs that someone is dealing with cancer, this book is not only well thought out, but highly useful.

The two main characters (a mother and son) have an adventure together at Harriett's Hair, where they try on everything from brown and curly, blue and fluffy, to green and long in their search for the perfect wig. Mom finds a great, spiky orange wig that helps her to feel good again – and it doesn't hurt one bit that it goes with her leather jacket and jeans.

Ries thoughtfully uses terms that children can easily relate to and understand. She also inserts whimsy in all the right places, shedding light on what can be a very dark and often scary situation.

The story ingeniously illustrates the time line for treatment and recovery carefully conceived to help a child understand the steps necessary. Additionally, Ries emphasizes the simple, valuable act of just being together and talking that includes the child pushing Mom on a swing, picking out a pumpkin as orange as the punk wig, and putting the wig on a snowman they have made together.

Kono's appealing watercolors, set mostly against white backdrops, focus on the people in the story, allowing children to see both a little bit of the mother's struggle and the happiness and love the mother and child share.

Punk Wig discusses cancer while managing to be realistic, touching and humorous. Perhaps one of its best attributes is that it fulfills this need without ever becoming a tear-jerker. Suggested for children between ages 4 and 6, this provides a good book to read to children struggling to understand a parent's illness.

PUNK WIG - Library Media Connection - April/May 2008

Dealing with cancer is not easy for any family, but this book is one resource to help a child cope with a parent's illness. The young boy's mother has "alien blobs" inside her, and the medicine that will "zap" them makes Mother ill and causes her hair to fall out. Mother and son go wig shopping and have fun trying on wigs. Mother picks out an orange wig, spiky on the top. As Mother continues to face chemotherapy, the brightly colored wig helps them keep their sense of humor. The day comes when the doctor's report shows her as cancer-free, and since her hair is growing back, she gives the punk wig to the young boy. The story handles a tough subject with sensitivity, grace, and a sense of fun. It covers some of the issues facing families without giving too much information that might overwhelm a young child, and provides a good introduction to a hard subject. The watercolor pictures fit well with the text, portraying both the mother's treatment and her fun with the family. Recommended. Betsy Ruffin, Irving Elementary, Clebume, Texas

PUNK WIG - School Library Journal - April 2008

“My Mom’s got alien blobs inside her. They’re called cancer.” The bright, bouncing voice of the young narrator takes readers through his mother’s cancer year, from her first chemotherapy treatment to the day her hair comes back and “all the alien blobs have gone away.” A parent’s sudden transformation in appearance can be a very big issue to children; it’s not surprising that the focus in this book is on Mom’s hair loss and the wacky wig that she and her son pick out to hide it. Quick moving, positive, and funny at times, this story might well serve to introduce a child to the impending treatment. The expressionistic illustrations are also sprightly but do depict a hospital scene, Mom hooked up to a chemo port, and a tired woman on the couch. Children wondering why a classmate’s mother is sick or showing up at school bald and suddenly skinny might also find this book reassuring. Noticeably absent is any mention of the fears and tears that the grown-ups face and that children usually pick up on. All is neatly resolved in the end when the doctor says Mom is cured and her son gets to keep the wonderful, wacky Punk Wig.–Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA

Punk Wig - A Children’s Book With a Purpose
Punk Wig [PUNK WIG]
By Terri Forehand

Punk Wig is an example of a beautiful and entertaining book for children as it not only entertains but educates the child about the side effects of cancer. The main character describes the cancer as “alien blobs” going through his mothers insides.
The book has watercolor illustrations that take some of the fear away as children can look at the pictures of the mother going through the treatment or chemotherapy. It shows mom tired and talks about when she feels better…time to get a wig.
The character and mom go to “Harriet’s Hair” the best hair place in town. The delightful story takes the two on a wig hunt, finally settling on a Punk Wig… but not before they laugh and try on several silly wigs and hair pieces along the way.
The story cleverly shows the child the time line for treatment and recovery in a gentle way. This story is a wonderful presentation to introduce the young child to the subject of cancer, treatment, and side-effects without being doom and gloom or frightening.
As a pediatric critical care nurse, I recommend this book for any child who has an adult they love facing this disease. It is also a fun read for children to be introduced to the topic of illness and treatment for children who have never had to face something this serious.
Punk Wig puts a smile on your face and warm feeling in your heart with the simple, fun, and clever words in this story. The story will touch everyone who reads it over and over again.

Booklist :

"Narrated by a little boy whose mother has cancer, or what he calls "alien blobs inside her," Punk Wig features a family who gets through a tough time with flying colors. The color in this case is bright orange, the color of Mom's, which has spikes on top that look like candle flames. Ries tells the story with a light touch, leavening a scary subject with comic relief (mother and son trying on funny hairpieces before they decide upon Punk Wig). She also focuses on the simple, valuable act of being together and talking as the child pushes Mom on the swing, picks out a pumpkin as orange as Punk Wig, and puts the wig on a snowman mother and child have made. In the spring, Mom gets the results of her tests and offers her son a wonderful punk wig, which he proudly sports on the last page. The appealing watercolors, set mostly against white backdrops, zero in on the people in the story, allowing children to see both a little bit of the mother's struggle and the happiness and love the mother and child share. -Abby Nolan"

ForeWord Magazine:

In Punk Wig (Boyds Mills Press, 978-1-59078-486-0), a boy cares for his mother as she struggles through the chemotherapy that chases cancerous “alien blobs” from her body. Insight and humor highlight how warmly children can respond to illness: “I …give her the gorilla cup that was mine when I was little.” When Mom feels better, the narrator accompanies her to Harriet’s Hair, a wig shop, where together they affirm her new lease on life. The author, Lori Ries, won a Parenting Magazine award for Mrs. Fickle’s Pickles. Watercolorist Erin Eitter Kono contributes light-hearted pictures that show how hard mother and son both work to demonstrate their love.

Goddess of LA Literature:

"There is absolutely no rhyme or reason when I make a stack of picture books. However, PUNK FARM and PUNK WIG ended up together for some weird twist. I opened PUNK WIG and discovered a gem of a story about a young boy whose mother is on her way to the hospital to have alien blobs zapped with medicine. Mom, it turns out, has cancer. Since her hair will fall out, she visits a wig shop and selects a bright orange wig that is spiky. Her son loves the new look and is thrilled when Mom passes it along to him once her own hair begins to grow back.

There are too few books to share with kids whose parents or another loved one (or a teacher) is undergoing treatment for cancer. I know because one of my former students and I searched for some in the last year as she underwent treatment for breast cancer (and is now in remission, YAY!). Add this one to HAIR FOR MAMA to a short but useful list.