Any child who's ever suffered through tangled hair should read The Copper Braid of Shannon O'Shea, a book that's bound to make little readers feel better about their own agony. Regardless of hairstyle or length, kids will relish this tall tale a story inspired by myths of women who undo their bound locks and thereby release chaos. Chaos certainly reigns here. It's unleashed when a tiny sprite named Bernice is captivated by a shimmering wisp of hay caught in the braid of Shannon O'Shea. She plucks it out, causing new bits of hay to appear, and Bernice's fellow sprites come to the rescue, unfastening the many ribbons and bows holding Shannon's braid together. A tidal wave of unexpected objects begins to fall from the seemingly endless weave, starting with a few buttons and thimbles, and building to a burgeoning crescendo that includes a volcano, a dinosaur egg and the lost island of Atlantis! In this, her first book, Laura Esckelson has written a rhyming text filled with humor, as every tangle unfurls: As they unbraided, a song filled the air From some carolers who had been tangled in there, And when they were found, were puzzled to find The holidays were over and nine months behind. Pam Newton whimsically illustrates Shannon's riot of copper hair, every inch of which is manned by an overwhelmed gang of fairies and sprites. Every being whether fairy or animal, mermaid or pirate wears a silly expression of surprise. Only an artist with Newton's lighthearted, deft touch could make such a wildly unrealistic tale spring to life. Where can all this chaos end, one wonders. Esckelson brings it all to a fine conclusion, when, after 17 miles of madcap unfurling, the army of sprites finally comes to the end of the braid, thereby reaching a much-relieved Shannon O'Shea. Then, of course, it's time for the sprites to go back to work, re-braiding her unruly locks. Just like the heroine's hair, there's more to The Copper Braid of Shannon O'Shea than meets the eye its seemingly simple plot is filled with raucous pleasure at every curl. Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.

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