"Laxmi's Mooch" by Shelly Anand, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali (Kokila, March 2), ages 4-8, 32 pages, $17.99 hardcover, $10.99 ebook, audiobook available.
STORY: Laxmi was playing happily with her diverse-race classmates when she learned about the fringe of little hairs on her upper lip. Meaning nothing malicious, a blonde pal suggested Laxmi should play a cat in their game, because she has whiskers.
Laxmi (say it like "Luckshmi") is horrified. She imagines everyone staring. And then she notices hairs on her arms and legs. There's even a hair caterpillar between her eyebrows.
At home, her lovely mother and father do not overreact. Amused, they explain she has a mooch (Hindi for mustache, pronounced "mutch") and that she comes from a long line of women with moochay, fabled beauties of India. Her grandmother and cousins have moochay, as does Mummy.
Also, body hair serves a purpose and feels nice. The beautiful Mexican painter Frida Kahlo had hair between her eyebrows, too.
Back at school, Laxmi's confidence makes her mooch seem so fun that less obviously hairy children beg her to draw mustaches on them.
This breath of fresh air was written by an Atlanta lawyer who specializes in human rights and civil rights cases. Besides mooch and moochay, Anand's text introduces other Hindi words that English speakers will understand through context.
Ali's digital illustrations convey the transition from insecurity to triumph, family's affection, the variety of children's bodies and how joyful a girl can be when she understands hers is not defective in the least.
To watch Anand read the book aloud, see arkansasonline.com/53mooch.
Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.