In J.D. Jones’ family, nobody gets a haircut until they turn 9, when they receive a home buzz cut. J.D.’s mom has been busy lately, so J.D. is glad for a chance to spend time with her when she cuts his hair before the first day of third grade. He hopes she can manage a basic fade, but when he looks in the mirror to check out his new hairstyle, what he sees is . . . not good.
J.D. is used to his classmates’ teasing over his hand-me-down clothes, but being mocked for his hair is a new low, so he springs into action. He tries his mom’s hair relaxer, which only makes his hair look worse. Next, he uses the family’s clippers, but not before testing them out on his little brother first.
Fortunately, it turns out that J.D. is a haircutting whiz. Not only does he escape punishment for cutting his brother’s hair without permission, but soon everyone is asking J.D. to work his magic on their hair, lining up to pay him for his haircuts. He sets up shop on his back porch and is quickly flush with cash, until the owner of the only barber shop in town tries to shut him down. Desperate, J.D. challenges him to a haircutting competition that will put all of his new skills to the test.
Debut author J. Dillard is a former master barber, and he effortlessly welcomes readers into J.D.’s small hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, where “everyone . . . knows everything about everyone else.” It’s a lively place, where J.D. is surrounded by a close-knit group of family and friends, where money is always a little tight. Like most kids his age, J.D. longs to define himself and to discover where he can excel, and young readers will enjoy watching him gain self-confidence along with his skills as a barber and entrepreneur.
Dillard has a sharp ear for dialogue, and J.D.’s conversational narration paired with the story’s gentle humor and perfectly placed pop culture references will ensure a wide appeal. Akeem S. Roberts’ cartoon-style illustrations of J.D. and his friends are packed with personality and make this a great choice for readers transitioning into chapter books. The first book in a planned series, J.D. and the Great Barber Battle feels like a winner.