I think it would be pretty hard to walk past this pretty book in the library or bookstore and not pick it up. I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn, with perfect illustrations by Julia Denos, is an ode to fashion, creativity, resourcefulness, and style. If you know a little fashionista (or a grown up one for that matter), I think she will fall head over sparkly heels for this gorgeous gem of a picture book.
The main character is a little girl who loves to dress up, and loves her “favoritest” dress, which she wears on Tuesday, her favorite day of the week. But one day, she grows up a little and the dress is too short, so she turns to her crafty Mama who tells her not to make mountains out of molehills, and she snips and sews the dress into a fab new shirt. This pattern continues, with Mama transforming each article of clothing into something new, and equally stylish, until the end of the book, when the little girl makes a piece of art using the few scraps that are left of her beloved dress.
What’s wonderful about the book is that it isn’t simply frilly and fluffy. It’s not just a story about loving clothes, it’s also about how clothes tell stories about who we are in the here and now. It shows readers the beginning of one girl’s journey as she discovers this form of self-expression. It shows how there is joy in making things, and how we can love something enough to find creative ways to use it again and again. You could even say there’s an environmental message here, but it isn’t shoved down your throat. I like picture books about regular daily life and the cool things that can fill our days. It’s a book celebrating all things crafty and D.I.Y. I’d say you couldn’t find a better gift than this and some paper dolls with fashionable outfits.
The highlight of the book has to be Denos’ outstanding illustrations that capture in their whimsical, hand-crafted appearance, all of the creative energy of the narrative. I love the collage elements and the dreamy watercolours and scribbly lines. It all fits together in one of those wonderful, rare, “this is the perfect illustrator for this book” packages. Read more about Denos and her artwork over at 7imp in this wonderful interview.
Here is an adorable video of one of those tiny fashionistas I was talking about, reading the very beginning of the book. It will make you want the book, some pretty bangles, and maybe a little British-accented child of your own:
I Had a Favorite Dress is published by Abrams.