In early October, my family experienced what now seems to have become the new normal in schools: my kindergartener got lice, which was rampant in her classroom. A friend and preschool teacher recommended the picture book Bugs in My Hair by David Shannon as a way to find a bit of humor in the situation.
At first, I was apprehensive. The cover of the book totally grossed me out. On it, there's a close-up face shot of a louse, parting strands of hair, looking directly at the reader. It felt very personal and intense, like my space had just been invaded. Which is to say, it completely captured its subject matter.
The story begins with an illustration that really spoke to me: the back of a mother as she runs in terror from her little boy. The text reads, “One day, my mom made a terrible, awful discovery... HEAD LICE!” This was pretty much my reaction last fall when I saw one of those disgusting bugs clinging to my daughter’s long, thick hair.
The book addresses the whole range of feelings you and your lice-afflicted child might be feeling, from shame to overreaction. The latter sentiment is portrayed with a true-to-life-size picture of insect next to an oversized version on a little boy’s head. Then it continues with a scene of the entire classroom vigorously scratching their heads. There's even a louse hiding behind a book in the back row, reminding us of its sneaky and unsuspecting presence. My girls squealed when they saw that. “What?! A bug in the classroom? Reading a book?! Mom!”
The story acknowledges how overwhelming the prospect of getting rid of a lice infestation is with an oversized image of "Bugzilla" destroying a city. Then it follows the narrator and his mom as they consider some of the common, unappealing ways people try to get rid of lice, including head shaving, lice bombs and mayonnaise. One of my favorite pages in the book comes next — a close-up view of a tight-toothed nit comb squeezing the lice and nits, or eggs, out of strands of hair. My daughters thoroughly enjoyed the accompanying caption: “The party’s over, Little Nasties!” They've taken to using that phrase frequently around our house.
The story ends with a picture of the little boy wearing a protective armored mask like a Medieval knight. We closed the book feeling not just entertained but also fortified against lice, should they attempt to engage this family in battle again.