Bintou wants braids so badly it's all she can think about even though she knows she isn't old enough to have them. An act of heroism on Bintou's part grants her a special wish teaching her that true beauty comes in many forms.
Bintou is a very young girl living in a West African village. The older girls and women have many beautiful braids adorned with shiny gold coins, lovely beads, even seashells. Some of the hairstyles are so elaborate they take three days to finish. Bintou only has four little tuffs of hair and she thinks they are plain and silly in comparison.
One day she asks her grandmother why she can't have braids and her grandmother tells her about a girl who was young like Bintou and all she thought about was how pretty she was. Everyone envied the girl and she became vain and selfish. The mothers decided that little girls should not have braids so they would concentrate on making friends, playing and learning. It is important for little girls to be little girls and not worry about grown-up things, like how they look.
Bintou decides to walk on the beach where she can be alone and think about what her grandmother has told her. While there, she sees two of her cousins waving from the sea. Their canoe is sinking and Bintou has to be quick, but the path to the village is too long. She takes the rough shortcut through the brush and gets many cuts and scraps along the way. Her unselfish decision saves the lives of the two boys and she is granted a reward of her choosing. Of course, she chooses braids!
The next day, as her grandmother works on her hair, she feels the familiar movements that come with making cornrows and Bintou fights the tears that threaten to fall. When her grandmother is finished and Bintou looks in the mirror she sees that she doesn't have the braids she wanted, she has something much better. Her grandmother wrapped beautiful birds in her hair and it is the prettiest hairstyle Bintou has ever seen.
"Bintou's Braids" embraces the idea of having to wait for something special. A child being a child and earning privileges instead of just being given them without effort on their part. It takes us back to a time when life was simpler and children were encouraged to enjoy childhood. The serenity of the illustrations and the calmness of the story will soothe and relax your children as they witness Bintou come to terms with and accept the rules of her people. An excellent lesson in patience lies within the pages of this peaceful book.