Big Wig (Jonathan Hillman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Big Wig, written by Jonathan Hillman and illustrated by Levi Hastings, a story of finding one’s inner fabulousity.

Meet Wig, a vibrant magenta Dolly Parton-inspired bouffant. Wig belongs to young drag performer B. B. Bedazzle, and is excited to help her queen compete in the Big Wig Ball drag contest. Initially, she grows with pride, but when she sees the other wigs that she’s up against, she begins to feel anxious and “wigs out”, fleeing B. B.’s head and the stage to take cover in the crowd. Can Wig find her inner confidence in time for the big competition?

An ambitious tale with an unfortunately mixed message. I’m delighted to see drag culture making its way into another picture book, and the core theme, finding confidence by being your authentic self, is always one worth exploring, especially for audiences that may include young LGBTQ+ readers. However, other aspects of the story feel lost in translation. For instance, whenever Wig finds sanctuary on the head of another child in the audience, that child transforms into the fabulous drag performer of their dreams. It’s a nice notion, but since nearly all of these expressions are feminine, it also sends the message that wearing a wig feminizes the wearer. And while it’s nice that Wig is helping others find their inner self, she’s also regaining her self-confidence based on the approval of strangers (and notably, not her friend B. B.), suggesting that validation should come from outside sources rather than from within, or even from trusted loved ones. There are some nice moments, especially in the vividly colorful illustrations, such as B. B.’s parents enthusiastic support of her drag persona, hints that B. B. has a wide range of interests both traditionally-masculine and -feminine, and some considerations towards diverse characters in crowd scenes. The length was good for a storytime, and JJ liked the energetic story and artwork. Overall, this one a mixed bag. As a story that highlights and affirms drag, it’s a treat, but as a tale of self-acceptance, it misses the mark. Still, with some follow-up discussion, this one is worth a look – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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