There are the names (carrot top), the myths (looming extinction), the quirks (more novocaine, please) and the superstitions (fiery tempers).

Mostly, though, there is the inevitable question: So, where did you get that red hair?

"Duh," while biologically logical, isn't necessarily the best answer, because many red-haired kids are born to moms and dads of the blond and brunette persuasion. New parents may be as surprised as anyone to be cradling a copper top.

Ten-year-old Selena Brills has a ready answer: "I got it from my Irish grandma," she says, her shoulders shrugging beneath a glorious mane of auburn hair. She's among seven Minnesota kids featured in "Little Redheads Across America" (, $30), by Nicole Giladi, a California mom caught off guard by the attention her red-haired son received wherever they went.

Giladi began researching redheads and met other parents dealing with the attention and occasional travails visited upon a child whose hair resembles a bonfire. The resulting book is meant to provide red-haired kids with the sense that they're not alone, even though it sometimes feels that way.

Consider: Only 1 to 2 percent of the world's population have red hair. The United States actually has the largest population of redheads, with 6 million to 12 million, or 2 to 6 percent. But that range indicates the nuances within the recessive red-hair gene, from pale strawberry blond to a mahogany auburn like Selena's.

"We get stopped in Target by people asking if I dye her hair," said Selena's mother, Patty Brills, rolling her eyes at the idea of dyeing a fourth-graders' hair. "I mean, really?" Selena's hair was red from the first moment, "a little cinnamony strand that then came in with a vengeance." The Brillses, who live in Blaine, have another daughter, Summer, who is a brunette. The red comes from Grandma Rosella.

Perhaps from having grown used to the stares and comments, Selena is at ease in the spotlight. She won second place in the talent contest at last year's Minnesota State Fair, singing (and yodeling!) to a packed grandstand. She takes lessons in singing, dancing and tennis and would like to be a photographer and dance teacher when she's older "and, of course, also an actress and model." She came to Giladi's attention through her work at a local modeling agency.

Redheads have attracted all sorts of research over time. The most notorious was a 2005 report predicting that redheads could become extinct within the next century. Turns out the study was funded by Procter & Gamble which -- whaddaya know? -- sells red hair dye. Another study, published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, suggested that the gene that results in red hair is linked to making redheads more sensitive to pain, thus requiring about 20 percent more general anesthesia than others.

Of course, another study says that they actually have a higher pain tolerance and are more sensitive to painkillers. Research is continuing, but whichever way the science leads, the fact remains that a person with red hair is not your average human being.

Selena -- with a smile as bright as, well, a copper penny -- wouldn't have it any other way.

Kim Ode • 612-673-7185