The Power of Style by Christian Allaire

Cover image for The Power of Style.

The Power of Style by Christian Allaire (9781773214900)

This nonfiction book explores the importance of fashion as a way to pay homage to heritage, culture and identity. The book looks at the work of designers who are incorporating their own Indigenous heritage into their work, such as ribbon work. The book moves on to hair styles and the importance of embracing natural hair, keeping long hair as a connection to culture, and the art of braiding. Cosplay comes next focusing on size acceptance within the cosplay community and the people who are forcing more inclusivity. Modest fashion and hijabs and head scarves are explored next with a focus on style and individuality. Then the book moves on to talk about high heels for men and the importance of standing tall for LGBTQIA+ rights. The final section is about makeup, both as a way to express yourself and as a way to see yourself included as modern makeup embraces more skin tones.

Each turn of the page in this book shows people of color, different cultures and religions, various gender and sexual identities, a wide range of sizes, and it embraces all of them as valid and beautiful. Written by an Ojibwe author who is the Fashion and Style Writer for Vogue, this book represents so many movements in the fashion world to be seen and accepted. Allaire’s writing is friendly and fresh, inviting readers to explore the pages, showing what allyship looks like, and giving real space to these new ideas and designs.

The book is full of photographs, making it a visual delight to read. Allaire has clearly carefully selected the photographs to show the fashion and also the figures who make the fashion come alive. They are bright, beautiful and truly speak to the diversity he is highlighting.

A gorgeous and enticing book about fashion that will broaden definitions and embraces inclusion. Appropriate for ages 12-16.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Annick Press.

3 Artistic New Books for Children

The Amazing Collection of Joey Cornell by Candace Fleming

The Amazing Collection of Joey Cornell by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Gerard Dubois (9780399552380)

When Joey Cornell was a child, he collected all sorts of things that interested him. Both of his parents helped find small treasures for his collection. Year after year, his collection grew and grew as he added to it. There were bright colored feathers, butterfly wings, doll heads, leaves, a safe, and much more. After the death of his father, when he was thirteen, Joey began to spend even more time with his collection and began to put the objects together into new combinations. He showed his family the art he had created and continued to collect and create new magical art. Joseph Cornell became a famous artist known for his objects placed in small wooden boxes. The final pages of the book show some of the boxes and the incredible combinations he found of disparate objects that seem to belong together and tell a complete story.

Fleming writes this book with a focus on Cornell’s childhood and the collection he created even then. Her writing invites young collectors to explore and find their own voices. Dubois’ illustrations show the growing collection and young readers can see objects stay year after year and then appear in Cornell’s pieces. There is a strong sense of continuity in the book, a stretch of time held together by the collection and by Cornell himself. This is an entrancing and fascinating look at the childhood of a famous artist. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from copy provided by Random House Children’s Books.)

Bloom A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear

Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad (9780062447616)

Raised as an unwanted second daughter who was considered ugly due to the moles on her face, Elsa grew up attracted to the bright colors of the slower market in Rome. Her imagination soars as she dreams of the stars, tries to fly and finds ideas in books and objects in the attic. Elsa become an artist and soon is designing dresses for herself, her husband, friends and her daughter. After years of work, Elsa has joined a group of artists and starts to design modern clothes that take Paris by storm. Elsa finds her own style, freedom from the harshness of her parents’ criticism and brings everyone else along on her journey to bloom.

Maclear has created a picture book biography that shows how a harsh upbringing can be overcome with imagination and hard work. The author’s note at the end of the book offers more insight into Schiaparelli’s designs that could not be shared in the short format of a picture book. It is very impressive therefore how much they did manage to share in the book itself, the illustrations and text applauding Schiaparelli’s life and her accomplishments. The illustrations move from Schiaparelli as a little girl to her designs and the incredible pink that she made famous (that is also the color of the end papers.)

This is a bright and well-designed look at Schiaparelli’s life and her designs. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)

World Make Way edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins

World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (9781419728457)

This collection of children’s poetry was inspired by a Leonardo da Vinci quote: “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art were paired with poets who wrote poems inspired by those paintings. The result is spectacular, a book that shows each poem along with the art that is tied to it. The poems reflect the paintings in unique and interesting ways, showing readers details, emotions and the feel of each one. The book ends with information on each of the poets and each of the artists. A book that invites young readers to look closely at art and see it from their own point of view. Appropriate for ages 8-12. (Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams.)

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (9781626723634)

Released February 13, 2018.

While Prince Sebastian’s parents are busily searching for a bride from him, he is hiding a secret from everyone. He hires a dressmaker, Frances, to make his wardrobe for him, including dresses that are stunning creations. They allow him to become Lady Crystallia, who soon becomes a Paris fashion icon herself. As Frances gains fame as the Crystallia’s dressmaker, Sebastian’s secret becomes much harder to hide and soon the two have to choose between keeping the secret and allowing Frances to follow her dreams.

This graphic novel by Wang, who did In Real Life with Cory Doctorow, has created a graphic novel that embraces people exploring their gender identity while also incorporating a beautiful romantic nature to the entire book. Throughout there is a feeling of connection between Frances and Sebastian, one that goes beyond fashion. The fashion adds a layer of self expression for both of them, of triumph and discovery as well.

Wang’s art captures Paris at the dawn of the modern age. Filled with gowns, horse-drawn carriages and grandeur. It also has a humor in it, one that allows readers to chuckle at absurd situations and one that creates truly human characters for readers to connect with deeply.

Beautiful, layered and modern, this graphic novel embraces gender identity and gorgeous dresses. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.

Review: Spots in a Box by Helen Ward

Spots in a Box by Helen Ward

Spots in a Box by Helen Ward

A guinea fowl is worried about his lack of plumage design, so he sends off for spots in the mail. They come wrapped in brown paper and string, something that always makes a package more intriguing. But inside, they are not the spots he expected. They are too big for his taste. Luckily though, more spots arrive. Some are too small, others too sparkly. Still others glow in the dark! But eventually after looking at lots of different options, our protagonist picks out some spots that are just perfect and they may not be what you may have expected. Yet they are just right for him.

Ward has written a winning book. Written in rhyme that is never forced but feel very natural, this book is a pleasure to share aloud. The real focus here are the illustrations and those are what make the book so interesting. A large part of the joy here is the silliness of a bird shopping for spots. That is made all the more fascinating because our guinea fowl hero is drawn very lifelike and reacts like a bird would. It is a delightful mix of reality and the rather farcical humor of shopping for dots and spots.

This book is about design and personal style without it being about pink things and tulle. So it’s a very refreshing addition to book shelves where children who have different tastes will find themselves imagining what spots would suit them in life. The design of the book itself is lovely with nods to leopard print and playful die cut pieces at times.

Very young readers will find lots to love here with pages that sparkly and some that have raised spots. It’s also a great book to inspire drawing or discussions of style. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Geek Girl by Holly Smale

geek girl

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Released January 27, 2015.

This British import is hilarious, geeky and great fun.  Harriet Manners knows that she is not a popular person.  She shares too many factoids about things, she doesn’t care about fashion to the point that she took wood shop to avoid going to a fashion event, and she even has a list of the people who hate her.  So when Nat, her best friend, demands that she come along to the fashion event, Harriet knows that she has to.  Nat has dreamed her entire life of being a model, something that Harriet doesn’t even start to understand.  She’d much rather be a paleontologist and spend her time watching nature documentaries.  But everything goes wrong and it is Harriet who is discovered at the fashion show, and now Harriet starts a series of lies and cover ups to keep both her best friend and her step mother from knowing anything about her being discovered.  Modeling is hard when you’ve never walked in heels before, when you don’t know the rules and when you are sitting next to the most gorgeous boy you have ever seen.

Smale has managed to give us a perfect mashup of geek and Next Top Model in this novel.  Harriet is an unforgettable heroine, someone who is awkward in the extreme, entirely herself, and uncertain about who she wants to be.  She is bullied by a classmate even as she is being discovered as a model.  Even as she wants modeling to transform her into someone else, Harriet manages to be a voice for teens who are different, fascinated by facts, think in charts and graphs, and who are different from the rest.

Smale is also deeply funny.  Harriet has wonderful asides that reference geeky movies and books.  Her father and step mother have the most marvelous arguments, ones that read like a real argument when things stop making sense and have plenty of zinging comments.  Best of all, the arguments don’t end their relationship but somehow form a basis for it.  The writing throughout is clever and witty, making it a book that is impossible to put down.

The first book in a trilogy, this book came out in the UK in 2013 and was nominated and won several awards.  It certainly lives up to the hype with its wit, strong heroine and inherent joy.  Appropriate for ages 13-15.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Harper Teen and Edelweiss.

Review: Mo’s Mustache by Ben Clanton

mos mustache

Mo’s Mustache by Ben Clanton

Mo just got a brand new mustache in the mail!  But when he shows it to all of his friends, they all get their own mustaches and soon it isn’t special anymore.  So Mo decides to wear a striped scarf instead and leave his mustache off.  Then all of his friends get scarves too.  Mo loses it and shouts at his friends, demanding to know why they are copying him.  Everybody explains to him that he has a great sense of style, so they like to imitate him.  Mo had never thought of it like that.  So he sets up a fashion show where everyone can show off their own sense of style.  And you will never guess what Mo wears to the party!

Clanton’s writing is brisk and brightly funny.  He uses dialogue from the various monsters to tell much of the story and each one has an impressively different voice and tone from the others.  It all makes this book a treat to share aloud.  It is also a book that celebrates being yourself and having your own personal style. 

The art is modern and zany.  Mo himself has a star on the end of his tail, other monsters are furry, still others are tiny with just one eye.  They are all clearly individuals from the start and so it is a treat to see how they all use the new accessory in their own unique way. 

Clever, smart and full of zest, this book will have you picking out your favorite mustache and scarf too.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.