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Granddaughter’s experiences inspire new book

What would you say if your best friend asked you to give her something?

You’d probably give it to her, right? You two have been friends forever, and you share everything. You trade clothes, toys, books and secrets. But what if someone you didn’t know needed something from you? Would you give it to her, too?

In the new book “The Long and Short of It” by Barbara Meyers and Lydia Criss Mays, illustrated by Shennen Bersani, you’ll see that giving may be the best thing you’ll ever do.

Isabel was a little girl who lived in Illinois with her family. She loved to play chess and cook in the kitchen, and her hair was the color of caramel candy.

Emma lived in Georgia with her parents and her brother and sister. Emma loved to climb rocks and garden with Mom. She had blond hair, and when she smiled, you could see a hole made by her first lost tooth.

Isabel always wanted to have long hair like her cousins. Their hair swayed when they danced, but hair-growing took a long time. Isabel was proud of her hair and made all kinds of hairstyles with barrettes and ribbons.

Just before school started, Emma felt sick. The doctor told her family that she had cancer, and soon, the medicines made her hair fall out. Emma’s dad said being bald is fun, but it didn’t feel that way to Emma. It made her sad, especially when other kids teased her about it.

One day in first grade, Isabel’s best friend came to school with short hair! Isabel couldn’t imagine why anybody would cut their long, beautiful hair — but her friend explained that she donated it to kids who were sick. That made Isabel think …

And so, as soon as her hair got to be 10 inches long, Isabel cut it off! It felt weird to have very short hair, but it felt good because she knew that another little girl somewhere else needed her hair more than she did.

Back in Georgia, Emma’s family got some good news: Emma’s cancer was gone. Her hair came back curly and dark, and she was happy. It meant that she could start growing hair, too, and she could donate it to someone else some day.

“The Long and Short of It” is one of those books that you hope you never need to have around, on one hand. On the other hand, you’ll be proud if you do.

Based on the true experiences of Meyers’ granddaughter and Criss Mays’ friend, this book is sure to inspire girls on both sides of the wig. I was impressed with the kid-friendliness in both word and picture, and I liked the happy ending. Be warned, though: If you’re an adult reader, expect a lump in your throat.

While there’s no reason a boy can’t enjoy this book, I think girls 5 to 13 will get much more out of it. For them, “The Long and Short of It” is a cut above.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s children’s book reviews appear weekly in View.

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