September 23 – It’s National Sewing Month

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About the Holiday

Sewing is one of the most popular hobbies around and has historically been one of the most important industries in this country and around the world. National Sewing Month was established in 1982 to encourage people to learn more about this craft and to try their hand at picking up a needle or sitting down at a sewing machine. To celebrate read up on the history of sewing and the textile industry and consider taking a sewing class or learning on your own. Sewing can be a fun and rewarding activity for adults and children. Who knows? It may even become a career that can send you to the Oscars, as you’ll see in today’s book!

Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head

Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey | Illustrated by Diana Toledano

 

As a child, living in a dry, barren mining town, Edith felt like she didn’t belong. She dreamed of living “in a place full of people and sounds and dazzling lights.” She liked hosting pretend tea parties with colorful china and sweet treats for her stuffed animals and imaginary guests. She also dressed up her pet cat, dog, rabbit, horned toad, and two mules in scarves, clothes, and fancy hats that she made just for them.

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

“Edith’s greatest treasure was her bag of fabric scraps,” which she added to by going door to door collecting cloth whenever she and her family visited Searchlight, Nevada, a few miles away. With these scraps she made furniture, rugs, and tablecloths for her dollhouse and clothes for her little dolls. But her favorite thing to do was make costumes for her two friends, who liked to perform and make up plays for their families and friends. Edith preferred staying behind the curtain, self-conscious about her straight hair and gasses.

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Every night, Edith wished on the stars that she could move away and transform her life. Her chance came when her mother enrolled her in high school in Los Angeles. Here, Edith set about trying to figure out what kind of career she would pursue. She tried piano and gymnastics, but finally found her passion at the movie theater. Watching actors on the screen, Edith was able to escape “feeling shy at school.”

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

While Edith initially chose to become a teacher, after a few years “the allure of movies drew her back.” Without any formal art training, she found “a job as a sketch artist in a costume department of a movie studio.” When her boss discovered her lack of training, instead of firing her, he began teaching her how to draw costumes himself.

It took time and many rejections of her designs until Edith was finally entrusted with making costumes. But these weren’t for actors. “Instead, she dressed up animals. They were not easy clients.” But Edith was determined and soon she had a shot at dressing dancers as candy, but her designs, while creative, melted, cracked, and . . . flopped. But Edith got another chance.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dressing-up-the-stars-animals

Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

She worked hard for many years, gained experience, and was finally asked to “design costumes for famous movie stars.” Edith came to work on hundreds of movies, transforming actors into their characters and becoming famous herself. Then one night at the Oscars, Edith sat listening to the presenter announce the name of the winner for Best Costume Design. She was thrilled to hear her name, and “she climbed the stairs to the stage to accept her award” wearing a gown she’d designed herself.

Back matter includes an extended biography of Edith’s life, teaching, and work in Hollywood and includes photographs of Edith at work at her easel and dressing Dorothy Lamour in 1938 as well as a sketch for a costume worn by Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Jeanne Walker Harvey’s biography of Edith Head highlights this famous behind-the-scenes creator’s early life and dreams, her perseverance, and the self-confidence that spurred her on despite setbacks. Young readers will be interested to see how Edith’s childhood love for imaginary play, creating clothes for her pets and toys, and collecting cloth ultimately led to her career as a movie costume designer even though she pursued other jobs before recognizing her true passion. As she becomes involved in the movie industry, Edith’s receptiveness to learning and to learning from her mistakes provides a valuable lesson for all children. 

Diana Toledano’s charming illustrations show Edith at her creative and courageous best as she holds a tea party for her toys, dresses her bevy of unusual pets, and strikes out into the desert to play. Depictions of the small town of Searchlight, Nevada, Edith’s enchanting dollhouse, and a Los Angeles street orient readers to the time period, while the ornate movie theater and black-and-white film Edith watches show how the movies offered Edith escape from her shyness. Toledano’s textured images follow Edith as she practices, fails, practices some more, and finally achieves her goals. The final illustrations showing Edith at the Academy Awards ceremony, walking the red carpet and winning an Oscar shows kids that dreams really can come true.

An inspirational biography of a woman who broke barriers in Hollywood, Dressing Up the Stars will appeal to kids who are interested in the movies and all creative endeavors and encourage them to pursue their true passions.

Ages 3 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534451056

Discover more about Jeanne Walker Harvey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Diana Toledana, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Sewing Month Activity

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Dressing Up the Stars Activity Kit

 

With this Dressing Up the Stars Activity Kit, kids can create their own costumes for Edith’s pets, a paper doll, and a character dressed as candy! They can even write the acceptance speech they’d give if they won an Oscar for their work on a movie!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dressing-up-the-stars-cover

You can find Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 14 – Live Creative Day

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About the Holiday

National Live Creative Day was established to encourage people to embrace their innovative side. There are so many ways to be creative from the arts to science to sports to how you express yourself. Kids seem to know this inherently as they go about exploring and interacting with all the new things they see, hear, and do every day. Introducing kids to all kinds of hobbies, subjects, and professions expands their definition of creativity and their outlook on the future. Encouraging them to use their particular talents, helps them build confidence and find their place in the world. Reading today’s book with them is a great way to start! To celebrate today, take time to share your talents with others. You may be surprised at how creative you really are!

Thanks go to Beach Lane Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Annette Feels Free with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid

Written by Katie Mazeika

 

It was early 1900 and teenage Annette Kellerman was making a splash at Australia’s Melbourne Aquarium. She “was a real-life mermaid swimming and dancing with the fish…” to entertain visitors. The newspapers wrote about her, and people flocked to watch. Annette had always loved the freedom she felt while dancing, but when she was six, her legs became too weak for her to dance or to run or even to walk without braces. Sitting at home, Annette was no longer the happy little girl she had been.

Then one day, her father took Annette to swim in Lavender Bay. “She laughed and danced in the waves, kicking her legs. Splash, splash!” Annette swam so much that “she became the strongest swimmer in New South Wales” and no longer needed her leg braces. In addition to performing, Annette raced and soon she had broken all of Australia’s long-distance swimming records. She then moved to London and thrilled audiences there.

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Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Annette and her father then traveled throughout Europe and America, where Annette performed her water dancing and raced against other swimmers—men included—and won. But there was one thing that was holding her back from even greater success—her swim costume. “Because she was a woman, she still had to perform and compete in a full skirt and pantaloons.” Why, she thought, did she have to wear something different and so cumbersome?

Annette decided to sew her own swim costume. Her new one-piece suit with short legs was so liberating. She felt as she had as a girl first learning to swim and dance in Lavender Bay. But not everyone saw her swimsuit in the same light. When she wore it to the beach in Boston, the crowd was shocked, and she was even arrested for “not wearing enough clothing!” Arguing her case in front of a judge, Annette showed the court the difference in men’s and women’s swimwear and stated that she should have the same freedom as men. The judge agreed, but with a caveat: she had to remain covered up all the way to the water’s edge. Her new swimwear became a hit with other women, who even called it the Annette Kellerman.

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Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Annette’s career continued to take her all over the world and even made her a movie star! She trained other women in “ornamental swimming”, which later became known as “synchronized swimming.” Now called “artistic swimming”, Annette Kellerman’s revolutionary style is a recognized sport at the Summer Olympics.

Back Matter includes an expanded biography of Annette Kellerman, complete with photographs, and an Author’s Note about Katie Mazeika’s own experiences with a physical disability and how these life-changing occurrences shape who someone is and the careers they pursue.

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Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

A comprehensive and compelling biography of a woman who broke barriers while advocating for women and changing fashion mores forever, Annette Feels Free is historical storytelling at its best. Katie Mazeika clearly links Annette’s early disability, her perseverance, and her recovery to her recognition of her unique talent. Mazeika’s conversational narrative draws readers into Annette’s emotions and passion for swimming. Historical points of interest—women’s swim costumes, hot cocoa sipped mid-swim across the English Channel, Annette’s success in court, and her continued influence on swimming, for example—will amaze children and spark a desire to investigate more about Annette Kellerman and her times.

Mazeika’s full-bleed illustrations in this slightly oversized book lend grandeur to the pages, bringing readers into the aquarium’s fish tank to watch spectators’ reactions as Annette becomes “the original mermaid”; depicting her early love of dancing and distress at her braced legs; and falling with her as she thrills London audiences with graceful dives. Children will be particularly fascinated by images of Annette swimming, diving, and dancing in the proscribed swimming costume for women that included a cap and dress trimmed in lace, pantaloons, tights, and ballet-flat type shoes tied to her ankles. Her self-confidence and indomitable spirit grace each spread and are sure to inspire readers. 

For young readers, Annette Kellerman’s long, prolific, and creative career has the power to inspire their own creative endeavors. Annette Feels Free offers multilevel opportunities for lessons in history, the arts, and even math and science (how much did that swim costume weigh, anyway?). The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1665903431

Katherine Mazeika is an author and illustrator with a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design. When she isn’t in the studio, she likes to spend time at the theater, in her garden, or getting lost in a good book. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids (Lillian and Jack), and two dogs.

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To learn more, and download a free curriculum guide, visit her website at katiemazeika.com. You can connect with Katie on Facebook: Katie Mazeika Illustration | Instagram: @kdmazart | Twitter: @kdmaz

Live Creative Day Activity

 

Video of Annette Kellerman’s “Ornamental Swimming”

 

Watch Annette Kellerman swim her water ballet in this rare footage from MermaidFX.

Million Dollar Mermaid Movie Scene

 

Now watch a thrilling scene from the movie Million Dollar Mermaid, the 1952 biopic about Annette Kellerman’s life starring Esther Williams, whose career was inspired by Kellerman.

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You can find Annette Feels Free at these booksellers at

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 9 – It’s International Clothesline Week

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About the Holiday

International Clothesline Week was established by Gary Drisdelle to encourage people to hang their laundry on outdoor clotheslines or indoor drying racks as a way to engage in and think about more sustainable living. Hanging up laundry has many benefits for you and the environment, from saving on electricity to providing natural exercise to cutting down on ironing. And that fresh, sun-dried smell can’t be beat. This week-long holiday also gives you a chance to appreciate that hamper or basket full of laundry sitting in your house right now. If you think laundry is drudgery now, wait until you learn how our long-ago ancestors handled it in today’s book!

A Brief History of Underpants

Written by Christine Van Zandt | Illustrated by Harry Briggs

 

Have you ever wondered, while you’re pulling on your underwear, where and how this whole tradition started? Well, you’re about to find out in four fun chapters that iron out the facts—no ifs, ands, or… well, you know! Chapter 1: Crusty Old Buns takes readers back in time when our earlies ancestors “needed protection from spiky plants, curious bugs, and the weather.” We come from some pretty smart stock, it seems, as these prehistoric people made undergarments from “natural plant and animal materials.” How do we know? Archaeologists have dug up the evidence and continue to find more examples all the time. You’ll also find out how early ancestors of the Inuit kept their buns warm and how the first Europeans protected themselves too.

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Image copyright Harry Briggs, 2021, text copyright Christine Van Zandt, 2021. Courtesy of becker&mayer! kids, Quarto Knows.

In Chapter 2: Underpants around the World, readers travel to ancient Egypt to learn about the schenti—a kind of wrap-around loincloth. While the common folks’ schenti was made from rough fabric, pharaohs’ fannies were graced by more gentile cloth. “King Tut’s royal rear was covered with a fancy, silky” schenti, and “because this famous Egyptian pharaoh believed in life after death, he was buried with 145 pairs of underpants.” After all, who “wants to be stuck doing laundry in the afterlife?”

Between 1000 and 1500 warriors in Mongolia and Knights in Europe discovered that the right kind of underwear offered protection from pointy arrows and long, bouncy horse rides. And what about women during this time? European women kept their bottoms bare under their long skirts, but they did have to contend with washing everyone else’s “once or twice a year on Wash Day.” Washing—clothes and people—was inconvenient to say the least in those days, but a good soak in “ashes mixed with pee helped remove stains, brighten colors, and degrease spots” and a vigorous scrubbing on rocks in the river did the rest.

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Image copyright Harry Briggs, 2021, text copyright Christine Van Zandt, 2021. Courtesy of becker&mayer! kids, Quarto Knows.

In Central and South America, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, a person’s social standing was instantly recognizable by the style, material, color and adornments of their loincloth. And in India, Mahatma Gandhi used his dhoti as a powerful symbol in the country’s fight for independence from Britain in the early to mid-1900s.

Chapter 3: Cheeky Inventions takes kids on a fast-paced, surprising history of innovations large and small that revolutionized the making and wearing of undies—and perhaps most importantly the time spent in the bathroom. Chapter 4: Tushes Today Worldwide reveals a few ways people have fun celebrating and strutting their underwear, and if you’ve ever wondered how the astronauts in the International Space Station handle the whole underwear thing, you’ll find the answers here.

So, that takes us up to current times, but we’re not done yet! Kids learn how to make and wear a Japanese fundoshi, worn by Samurai warriors, they’ll find a couple of jokes to share, and there’s a list of books for further reading.

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Image copyright Harry Briggs, 2021, text copyright Christine Van Zandt, 2021. Courtesy of becker&mayer! kids, Quarto Knows.

Full of puns and cheeky asides, Christine Van Zandt’s A Brief History of Underpants uncovers fascinating facts about these garments we take for granted while also revealing tidbits of historical, cultural, and societal traditions from earliest times to the present. Van Zandt’s breezy writing, punctuated by lots of “ewww”-inspiring descriptions, will keep kids laughing and learning and even the most reluctant reader riveted to the pages.

Harry Briggs’ silly cartoon illustrations will have kids laughing out loud as a self-assured King Tut struts across the desert past a pyramid of undies while a less-fortunate Egyptian whips up a vat of red dye made of “sheep poop and rotten olive oil;” Genghis Khan safely pulls a poisoned arrow from his silk under-armor; and downtrodden women gather at the riverbank on the annual Washing Day. A naked caribou, flaming underwear, and a pair of underpants that stretches to fit eleven people are just a few of the funny images that will keep kids turning the pages. Readers will have fun turning the wheel on the front cover to give the kid a revolving evolution of underwear.

Witty, intriguing, and informative, A Brief History of Underpants will captivate any child and makes a unique addition to history or social studies lessons for teachers and homeschoolers.

Ages 4 – 8

becker&mayer! kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-0760370605

Discover more about Christine Van Zandt and her books on her website.

To learn more about Harry Briggs, his books, and his art, visit his website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-brief-history-of-underpants-cover

You can find A Brief History of Underpants at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

July 2 – I Forgot Day

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About the Holiday

Does summer make you feel forgetful? The hot, hazy weather and more relaxed schedule can loosen up that school-time vigilance and well… make you forget things. But that’s okay! I Forgot Day was established to give people an opportunity to make up for lapses in memory. If you’ve forgotten a special event, birthday, or anniversary, it’s not too late to apologize and let the person know you haven’t forgotten them—just that particular date. Of course, there are also things that may have slipped your mind that bear remembering or lessons from the past that should not entirely be forgotten. Today’s holiday is a good time to embrace those memories—just like today’s book shows!

You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer!

Written by Shana Corey | Illustrated by Chesley McLaren

“Amelia Bloomer was not a proper lady.” But that was all right with her because she “thought proper ladies were silly.” Amelia found it silly that proper ladies couldn’t vote and were not supposed to work. In response, she protested as a suffragette and began her own newspaper called The Lily which only published news about women. Amelia hired other women to work there.

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Image copyright Chesley McLaren, 2000, text copyright Shana Corey, 2000. Courtesy of Scholastic.

But to Amelia, the silliest thing of all was women’s long dresses. They “were so heavy, wearing them was like carting around a dozen bricks.” She thought women looked like “walking broomsticks. They acted like broomsticks too because their skirts swept up all the mud and trash from the street.” And the corsets they wore choked off their breathing and made them faint. To keep those long skirts standing out, they also wore wire frames that got squashed and squeezed in doorway after doorway. “Even little girls had to wear proper dresses. So they couldn’t run and jump and play.”

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Image copyright Chesley McLaren, 2000, text copyright Shana Corey, 2000. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Amelia Bloomer was determined to do something about it. Then one day, Amelia’s friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton came to visit and brought her cousin Libby. “Libby looked remarkable” because “she was not wearing a dress!” Libby thought proper dresses were silly too. Libby’s dress was shorter and not so poofy, and underneath Libby was wearing a kind of pants. Amelia immediately sewed herself such an outfit.

When people saw Amelia in her new outfit, they gasped. “‘You forgot your skirt, Amelia Bloomer!’ called a little boy.” But Amelia didn’t listen to them. She felt so free that she “ran and jumped and twirled.” She wanted all women to know about these wonderful clothes, so she wrote about them in The Lily. Women all over the country loved them and wanted to know where they could get them.

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Image copyright Chesley McLaren, 2000, text copyright Shana Corey, 2000. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Amelia was flooded with letters from women asking for the pattern so they could make an outfit for themselves and for advice on how to accessorize. “Some people called the new style of clothes the American Costume. Most people just called them Bloomers.” Of course, there were many proper gentlemen who disliked the bloomers. Some thought they would just “lead to more rights for women.”

After some time, bloomers went out of style. “Proper ladies and gentlemen everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.” They were sure women’s clothing would go back to “normal,” and that everyone would forget about Amelia Bloomer and her improper ideas. “Well… what do you think?”

An Authors Note filling in details of Amelia Bloomer’s life, the restrictive clothing women wore, and the early women’s rights movement follows the text.

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Image copyright Chesley McLaren, 2000, text copyright Shana Corey, 2000. Courtesy of Scholastic.

These days it does seem ridiculous that women once had to live in such restrictive, and even dangerous, clothing. Although children may see pictures of Victorian dress, they might not be able to fully appreciate all that was going on under those voluminous skirts. It’s with a sly wink to those times and people’s attitudes that Shana Corey presents her biography of Amelia Bloomer. Through her light touch, Corey highlights not only the early women’s rights movement but nudges children to keep vigilant to see that freedom and rights continue to come to all.

Chesley McLaren’s bright, delicate illustrations bring a Victorian vibe while reveling in fresh colors and offbeat perspectives. Kids may grow wide-eyed to see a woman holding onto a bedpost as her corset is drawn tight and other women fainting as a result of this necessary item. McLaren also exposes the “dirty” truth as a woman’s hem sweeps along apple cores, bones, bottles, and paper as she walks. An image of a hoop framework festooned with bricks, gives kids an idea of how much these dresses weighed. Proper ladies and gentlemen in their stuffy clothes may point, stare, and harrumph at Amelia in her comfortable bloomers, but Amelia gets the last laugh as she floats, twirls, and moves freely in her trendsetting pants. The influence Amelia Bloomer had on future fashions and the rights of women is delightfully shown in postcard-type snapshots of styles from the 1920s,1960s, 1980s, and in a two-page spread of a park today.

Awarded many accolades as one of the best books of 2000, You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! can be found at public libraries and from used booksellers. The book makes for an entertaining yet educational way for kids to learn about history.

Ages 4 – 8

Scholastic, Inc, 2000 | ISBN 978-0439078191

Discover more about Shana Corey and her books on her website

To learn more about Chesley McLaren, her books, and her art, visit her website.

I Forgot Day Activity

CPB - Sunglasses Matching Puzzle

Whose Sunglasses? Matching Puzzle

Four kids have forgotten their sunglasses! Can you follow the paths to match each child with the right pair in this printable puzzle?

Whose Sunglasses? Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-forgot-your-skirt-amelia-bloomer-cover

You can find You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 6 – National Dress Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted by Ashley Lauren in 2016, the day encourages people to relive and celebrate their best dress memories. It’s also a day to honor those designers who design the styles that create a splash, feel comfortable, and make a statement. To celebrate today, get together with friends and talk about your favorite dress memories then go shopping and get ready to make some more!

Abrams sent me a copy of Along Came Coco to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Abrams in a giveaway of the book. Details are below.

Along Came Coco: A Story about Coco Chanel

By Eva Byrne

 

Coco Chanel, born in 1883, grew up in an orphanage, “a strict convent tucked away in the French countryside.” While the girls wore identical uniforms and followed the nuns’ rules, Coco always found a way to be herself: when she learned how to sew, she used her creativity to make dolls for her friends, and each night as she brushed her curly hair the required one-hundred times, she vowed that when she grew up she’d cut her hair short.

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Copyright Eva Byrne, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Sometimes Coco was allowed to visit her grandparents in Moulins and her Aunt Louise in Varennes. During these trips she saw fashionable ladies strolling through the city and watched her aunt transform simple hats into fabulous creations. Coco wanted to make hats too. As soon as she was grown, she said au revoir to the convent and opened a hat shop. Then she began making clothing inspired by the sights all around her. She especially liked the “stripy tops of the local fisherman” and “sewed her own version.”

In 1914, Coco opened in the beachside town of Deauville. The summer was hot, and Coco created a stylish and cooler bathing suit so women could enjoy the shore. “She was one of the first designers who knew exactly what women wanted.”

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Copyright Eva Byrne, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Soon she had a waiting list of women who wanted to wear her designs. She converted men’s fashions into stylish clothes for women and was the first to add pockets to women’s outfits. Her clothing was so popular that she was able to buy an entire building in Paris to sell her dresses, hats, and jewelry. She enjoyed the theater and opera, and one night as she was getting ready to go out, a gas lamp exploded. Her dress was ruined and her hair was burned. Coco was not about to miss the opera, so she cut her long hair short and discovered that it framed her face in a most delightful way.

But what would she wear? She cut and sewed a new evening gown that broke all the rules—it had no corset. “And with every stitch, Coco changed the way women dressed forever.” Her dress was black, simple, and elegant, without all the frills and poofs of the dresses of the time. “Coco dreamed that all women should have a black dress.” And thus the “little black dress was born” and women’s fashions and lifestyle changed forever.

An Author’s Note and more information on Coco Chanel, her life, and work follow the text.

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Copyright Eva Byrne, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Eva Byrne weaves a fascinating biography of Coco Chanel that reveals the early influences and experiences that informed her creativity. Byrne infuses her text with Coco’s precocious spirit through examples of her dreams of the future, good-natured “rule breaking,” and fashion innovations. Coco’s natural talent, modern vision, and confidence to buck the system are all evident in Byrne’s engaging storytelling that will have kids marveling over women’s fashions of the time and appreciating Coco’s contributions not only to women’s clothing choices but to the way they lived. The story of how the first little black dress came to be will amaze both children and adults.

From the beginning of the book, where a pair of hands stitch the name Coco onto the title page, to the end, where Coco, needle and thread in hand, winks at the reader, Byrne treats kids to beautiful illustrations of Coco, her surroundings, and her fashions. Her fresh, vivid watercolors are light and airy as they take readers down French boulevards and to the beach. Readers will love lingering over the pages to study the styles of the time and how Coco’s designs stood out as revolutionary. Removing the gilded casewrap reveals a stunning canal-side landscape and the inspiration for Chanel’s famous striped look.

A superb book for kids who love fashion and fashion students as well as readers interested in history, the arts, biographies, and a well-told story, Along Came Coco makes an excellent gift and exciting addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419734250

To learn more about Eva Byrne and see a gallery of her artwork, visit her website.

Along Came Coco Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Abrams Books for Young Readers in giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Along Came Coco: A Story about Coco Chanel, by Eva Byrne

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from March 6 through March 12 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 13.

Prizing provided by Abrams.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts. 

National Dress Day Activity

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Hanging on Fashion Word Search Puzzle

 

Fashion design has its own special vocabulary. Can you find the twenty fashion-related words in this printable puzzle?

Hanging on Fashion Word Search Puzzle | Hanging on Fashion Word Search Solution

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You can find Along Came Coco at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

July 3 – Compliment Your Mirror Day

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About the Holiday

Take a peek in the mirror and who do you see? That’s right—a fantastic person with inner and outer beauty! Today is dedicated to recognizing and appreciating that person in the mirror! 

Why’d They Wear That? Fashion as the Mirror of History

By Sarah Albee

 

Whether you’re a fashionista or an “any ol’ thing will do” kind of person, there’s no denying that clothes make a statement. Sarah Albee’s fascinating look at human wraps spans history from 10,000 BC to the modern era. Along the way she exposes both historical facts as well as the often repugnant, laughable, and can’t-look-away fashion fads and disasters that have brought us to “wear” we are today.

In Chapter 1: That’s a Wrap, Albee reveals facts about the first needles and thread, silk production, the Mayan tradition of forced elongation of skulls (this was considered attractive, denoted social status, and was intimidating), the first pants, warrior wear, and much more.

Chapter 2: Keeping the Faith exposes the influence religion had on clothing in the Middle Ages. White or russet colored robes were worn by men traveling on pilgrimages while penitents could wear a hair shirt made of itchy, bristly horsehair as punishment. Medieval armor, Samurai dress, why modern men’s loafers are decorated with little holes, and more are also discussed here as is the job of Wool Fuller – in which the Fuller soaked wool in urine to degrease it and improve its texture.

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Image courtesy of National Geographic, 2015

Chapter 3: Going Global covers the Age of Exploration, which changed fashion as explorers from Europe came in contact with Native peoples in the New World. Red dye, rubber shoes, and the leather Moccasins were all adopted by Europeans. And if you think the search for remedies for wrinkles and other vestiges of older age is a modern pursuit, you’ll learn about Ponce de Leon and his quest for the fountain of youth.

Chapter 4: Ruff & Ready takes a look at the Renaissance. You may have seen fur stoles with the head of the animal still attached and wondered, Why? This fashion statement goes back to “Flea Furs” which were dead, stuffed animals that people draped over their shoulders in the belief that the fleas that were munching on their skin would transfer to the animal instead. Unfortunately, people discovered that fleas prefer warm bodies. Another curious fad was the ruff collar. While people may have thought they looked swell, these collars hindered physical movement and even led to the invention of the long-handled spoon because people could not get food to their mouths any other way. One “benefit” perhaps: when the first American settlers ran out of all other food options, they ate their collars, which were stiffened with wheat paste. And there’s so much more!

In Chapter 5: Lighten Up! readers will discover facts about the dour dress of the Puritans and the ostentatious dress of the French court. The tradition of men’s wigs is explained, and today’s face-painting has nothing on the unusual solution for facial blemishes—black velvet, leather, or silk patches in various shapes.

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Image courtesy of National Geographic, 2015

Revolutionary Times take center stage in Chapter 6: Hats (and Heads) Off. During this time clothes began to fit the task. There were clothing items to protect (walking canes became popular as a way to ward off marauding wild dogs), uniforms to highlight the good looks of running footmen, elaborate costumes for Venetian parties, and homespun clothes that became a sign of protest from the American colonists. And if you think “bumpits” and hair extensions are new, women trying to keep up with Marie-Antoinette wore their hair (real and artificial) “cemented upward over wire armatures into two-foot (0.6-m)-high coiffures that made the wearer stand 7 ½ feet tall!”

Chapters 7 through 9 bring readers into the modern age, taking them from a time when children were dressed as young adults and boys wore elaborate gowns until the age of 7 to the textile innovations of the Industrial Revolution and the popularity of bustles that put fanny packs to shame to the fads of the 1960s and today.

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Image courtesy of National Geographic, 2015

Albee’s Why’d They Wear That? is much more than a book about fashion. It’s a humorous, fabulously entertaining way to learn about so many aspects of history, from social revolution to inventions to cultural differences. Enlightening side bars, especially the fascinating “Tough Job” entries, and full-color illustrations, paintings, and photographs depicting every concept make Why’d They Wear That? an essential book for school libraries as well as for home bookshelves. Readers of all ages will want to dip into it again and again…and will “Oh!” “Ah!” and “Ewww!” over every page.

Ages 7 and up (children on the younger end of the range will enjoy the facts and pictures during a read-along session)

National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1426319198

Learn more about Sarah Albee and her books on her website!

Watch the trailer for Why’d They Wear That? Fashion never looked so…good? unsettling? hilarious? You decide!

Compliment Your Mirror Day Activity

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Mirror, Mirror, What Shall I Wear?

 

In this magic mirror word search are 20 fashion-related terms from history. Find them all! Here’s the printable Mirror, Mirror, What Shall I Wear puzzle and the Solution.

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Why’d They Wear That? Fashion as the Mirror of History can be found at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

November 25 – Shopping Reminder Day

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About the Holiday

Of course there are reminders everywhere we look that it’s time to do that kind of shopping. But today’s holiday encourages people to count the days until their gift-giving day or days and plan accordingly. Today is also Small Business Saturday, so if you’re out there doing some shopping, consider spending some of that holiday budget at your local shops. Festive events and parties are also often on the calendar during this month and are just perfect for the beautiful creations found in today’s book!

Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

Written by Deborah Blumenthal | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

 

From the time that Ann Cole Lowe was old enough to thread a needle, she loved to sew. While her momma and grandma worked at their sewing machines, making dresses for the socialites of Alabama, Ann sat nearby turning “the wisps of cloth” that fell to the floor into “flowers as bright as roses in the garden.” Even at a young age Ann understood that “doing what you love could set your spirit soaring.”

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

When Ann was only sixteen years old, her momma died. Not only did her mother’s death leave Ann bereft, it left her in charge of the business, and many women were waiting for gowns, most importantly the Alabama governor’s wife. “Ann thought about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.” She sat down and finished the dresses. “Then she stood up and ran the business.”

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

In 1916 a woman in Florida hired her to sew dresses. She also sent Ann to design school in New York. Because she was African American, however, Ann was required to study in a separate classroom by herself. Ann was not deterred. She continued to make unique gowns and dresses, and her client list grew. Finally, Ann had saved enough money to open a salon of her own in Manhattan. Sometimes she didn’t have enough money to pay all the bills, but she persisted. Her life was about “what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.”

One day Ann received an order for a wedding dress from a woman who was marrying a United States senator. The woman’s name was Jacqueline Bouvier and the man was John F. Kennedy, a future president of the U.S. Ann bought 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta and designed a beautiful dress with a bouffant skirt and pleated bands decorated with tiny wax flowers. She also made the dresses for Jacqueline’s attendants.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Then ten days before the wedding, Ann walked into her workroom and discovered that a water pipe had burst, flooding the dresses, material, everything. Ten of the sixteen gowns Ann had sewn were destroyed. “Ann though about what she could do, not what she couldn’t change.” She ordered new fabric, hired more seamstresses, and went to work. On this job she lost money instead of making it, but none of that mattered. In eight days all of the dresses were ready.

When Ann delivered the gowns to the mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, the butler who answered the door told her workers needed to use the back entrance. Ann replied that “if she had to enter through the back door, the bride and bridesmaids wouldn’t be wearing her dresses for the wedding.” The front door swung open. On the day of the wedding—September 12, 1953—the whole world “Oohed” and “Aahed” over Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s gorgeous gown and her bridesmaids’ dresses, but not many people thought about or knew the name of the woman who had created them. “Why? Because Ann Cole Lowe was African American. And life wasn’t fair.”

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Ann continued to design and sew party dresses and evening gowns for the women of high society. She “didn’t make fine clothes to get rich or famous,” however, but, as she once said, “‘To prove that a Negro can become a major dress designer.’” In 1961 Ann finally gained public recognition for her work when she was named “Official Couturiere” in honor of the 33 ball gowns she created for an elegant ball in Omaha, Nebraska. She proudly accepted her award as the fashion world applauded.

An Author’s Note explaining more about Ann Cole Lowe’s life and work follows the text.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

With straightforward storytelling adorned with lyrical passages, Deborah Blumenthal reveals Ann Cole Lowe’s lifelong love of fashion design, her struggles, and her ultimate acclaim. Lowe’s natural talent, single focus, self-confidence, courage, and persistence come through as she overcomes obstacles and prejudice to become the first African American couture designer. Children interested in fashion and history will find much to spark their curiosity and desire to know more about the woman and her times. Blumenthal’s repetition of Lowe’s philosophy to think about what she could do instead of what she couldn’t change will inspire readers to push past difficulties and find solutions.

Laura Freeman’s full-bleed illustrations are as bold and vivacious as Ann Cole Lowe herself. Beginning with the endpapers, which are scattered with drawings of Lowe’s one-of-a-kind gowns, Freeman takes readers on a tour of the workrooms and salons stocked with the fabrics that gave form to Lowe’s creativity. While the backgrounds are typically brilliantly colored and patterned, twice Freeman places Lowe on a completely white page—after her mother has recently died and she is left alone to finish dresses and when she is segregated from the other students in design school. These pages make a moving and effective statement. Children fascinated by fashion will love seeing the beautifully depicted gowns, and may be stirred to create styles of their own.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1499802399

To learn more about Deborah Blumenthal and her books for children, young adults, and adults, visit her website!

Discover a gallery of illustration work by Laura Freeman on her website!

Shopping Reminder Day Activity

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Create Your Own Party Dress 

 

With this easy craft you can make a  fun sheath dress for playing dress-up. It’s also a great party activity! All you need is a plastic or paper party table cloth, Sharpies, and your imagination!

Supplies

  • 1 plastic party tablecloth (1 cloth will most likely make 4 dresses)
  • Sharpies or other permanent markers
  • Ribbon, scarf, crepe paper garland, or other material for a belt
  • Scissor
  • Newspaper, old sheeting or other material to protect the floor

Directions

  1. With the table cloth folded along one edge, cut a rectangle the appropriate size for the child
  2. In the middle of the folded edge cut a V-shaped or rounded opening for the child’s head. Begin with a small opening and enlarge it as needed
  3. Lay the dress on newspaper or other material to protect the floor
  4. Draw and color shapes, lines, figures, or other designs on the dress
  5. Slip on over a shirt and pants or leggings
  6.  Add a belt with a ribbon, scarf, piece of crepe paper garland, or other material

Picture Book Review