Wot Knot You Got? is the third book by Selina Tusitala Marsh featuring her cartoon alter ego Mophead – a simply drawn character with a wild mop of unrestrained hair. While the first two Mophead books were narrative memoirs, Wot Knot You Got? breaks away from this form and is a wonderful self-help workbook designed to guide young readers into thinking, drawing and writing their way out of their worries.
The book begins when Mophead wakes up one day and feels a knot in her hair, which grows bigger and bigger until it becomes completely overwhelming. But the physical knots aren’t her real problem – they’re a metaphor for the knots inside her.
In that dark, dark place
The knottiest I got
Was the knotty thought
I AM NOT …
… NOT good
… NOT kind
… NOT brave
… NOT right
In a ‘lightbulb’ moment (in this case, a torch), Mophead realises she’s not the only one with knots – children send her questions all the time. So she lays them on the floor and begins writing replies to the children to solve their, and her own, knotty problems. All the questions featured in the book are real – written by children and sent to Selina. And they’re a wonderful insight into the worries of our tamariki. Some are about creativity: ‘What do you do when you’re stuck?’ Some are deep: ‘Am I good?’ Some heartbreaking: ‘How can I make my teenage sister want to play with me again?’ or ‘What if people don’t like me?’
What ensues are Mophead’s delightful musings as she devises creative answers to these questions, through naming the knots, writing, drawing and imaginative brainstorming. The book includes workbook-style pages, inviting readers to follow her example and give it a go, working through their own knots to find unique solutions for their specific situation. Mophead’s replies are always optimistic, empowering, and fun. They exude aroha, joy and an infectious playfulness which draws readers into the workbook. These exercises don’t feel like a chore – they feel like a game of creativity and self-discovery.
As with the previous Mophead books, the artwork is loose, sketchy, and bursting with energy. There’s a feeling of creative mayhem on every page. There are hilarious play-on-words and clever rhymes which are evidence of an author on a creative roll and loving it.
The exhilarating interplay between words and pictures will engage young readers as they scour page after page. The text, some handwritten and some typed, bursts in all directions. It changes colour, growing and shrinking to great effect throughout the book. Other times the words flow and weave around the pictures, guiding the reader around the page and from page to page. The book’s design, inventive and playful throughout, keeps the reader captivated, never knowing what to expect next.
In some books, there is a sense of the author’s presence pervading the page. This is one of those books. One can feel Selina cheering on her young readers. It’s comforting, uplifting and Mophead the character emerges as a wonderful agony aunt for the country’s tamariki.
It would be difficult to read Wot Knot You Got? without a smile on your face. In an age of increasing youth anxiety, that in itself is a kind of therapy. But it goes further than just a fun read. This book gives a genuine opportunity for tamariki to think about their current worries and to discover more about themselves, teaching them that with self-reflection and creative thinking, they have the tools within themselves for self-understanding and self-empowerment.
The third Mophead book is certainly different than its two successful predecessors. It’s a brave new direction for the series, and will bring delight and empowerment to Mophead fans, old and new.
This book is available from BookHub and from bookshops around New Zealand.