Restyling & Recyling: I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn
I HAD A FAVORITE DRESS THAT WAS MY FAVORITEST DRESS EVER.
I WORE IT ON TUESDAY, WHICH WAS MY FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR.
That dress is a dream, the color of peach ice cream, with a striped bodice and graceful long sleeves and a fluffy skirt like a tutu. Our girl twirls through her Tuesdays in her favorite dress.
But tempus fugit, and then one Tuesday she realizes that the dress has just become too short. Even mama says so. But Mama is a proactive optimist. Muttering something about making mountains out of molehills, she knows just how to recycle that outgrown dress and give it a new life.
SNIP, SNIP, SEW, SEW!
NEW SHIRT, "HELLO!"
Our girl welcomes Wednesday as her new favorite day, when she first wears her new shirt, her new favorite shirt, to school.
But little girls grow and soon the sleeves are too short and too tight. Mama snips and sews some more and turns the shirt into a tank top, just in time for warm weather temperatures, and it's the choice of the day for summer Thursdays.
But, "no tank tops" is the rule at school, and Mama avoids a back-to-school tempest when, snip, snip, sew, sew, she turns the frilly bottom of the outgrown top into a trendy tutu-type skirt, the new favorite skirt for Fridays. Then, in manner of fashion, Maggie Dean, the class style queen, declares skirts are out. Ever-creative, Mama crafts the fluffy skirt into a tasselled, trendy scarf, and when that scarf gets caught in a door, she snips and sews the remnants into ruffled socks---and when one sock is lost, the remaining one is once more refurbished by the resourceful seamstress:
IT'S VERY CLEAR THERE'S NOT MUCH LEFT OF YOUR DEAR DEPARTED DRESS!
SNIP, SNIP! SEW, SEW! PRETTY HAIRBOW, HELLO!
The favorite dress finds immortality as a hair accessory, until, alas, a puppy chews it to fragments. Couture catastrophe?
No, our girl has by now learned a trick or two from Mama, and she knows how to turn her own mountains into molehills. She recycles the remains of her beloved dress into a collage portrait of--herself, wearing that memorable dress.
Boni Ashburn's I Had a Favorite Dress (Abrams, 2011) has earned rousing reviews for its clever story line, its catchy internal rhymes, its design in which various fonts and layouts turn the text into an integral part of the art, and Julia Denos' delicately colored illustrations themselves. "Denos's multimedia illustrations, a combination of collages, watercolors, and graphite and colored pencil artwork, reinforce the narrator's vibrant personality and the amazing transformations of the dress while capturing the action and emotion of the story," says School Library Journal.
But these professional reviewers seem to have short literary memories, missing the real tour de force here on author Ashborn's part. Her story is itself a makeover of the jolly, die-cut retelling of the old Yiddish folksong brought to us in the Caldecott-winning Sims Taback's Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, which was itself a refurbishing of the earlier and equally delightful version of this famous story, aptly titled Something From Nothing , by Phoebe Gilman. Beneath their differing artistic media trappings and settings, three authors have taken the same story fabric and crafted three wonderful restylings of the same theme, that through art it is possible to fashion enduring memories for the future--a picture, a song, or the very story itself! These are great stories to put together for those compare-and-contrast literary lessons, but also for the deep-rooted life lessons that they pass on to young readers.