March 6 – National Dress Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-along-came-coco-cover

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-along-came-coco-orphanage

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-along-came-coco-boutique

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-along-came-coco-sewing

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanging-on-fashion-word-search-puzzle

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-along-came-coco-cover

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-word-search

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-cover

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-ann-as-child

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-design-school

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-wedding-dress

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-sewing

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-recognized

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tablecloth-dress

 

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

February 16 – International Month of Black Women in the Arts

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-cover

About the Holiday

During this month we recognize the contributions of black women across the fields of literature, fine, performing, culinary, and healing arts. To celebrate, research black women artists and attend exhibits, readings, or other events that showcase these talented women.

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-ann-as-child

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-design-school

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-wedding-dress

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-sewing

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fancy-party-gowns-recognized

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!

International Month of Black Women in the Arts Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tablecloth-dress

 

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

November 27 – Pins And Needles Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-cover

About the Holiday

It’s not often that a whole holiday is dedicated to a theatrical play. Pins and Needles Day dates back to 1937 and commemorates the Broadway musical of the same name that originally ran from 1937 to 1940. The play was produced by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and cast sewing machine operators, cutters, and basters who were just looking for a creative outlet in their free time. The play ran for 1,108 performances and was so successful that the cast members were able to quit their jobs to fully partake in the performance schedule. The pro-Labor play saw a revival in 1978 and continues to be staged. This year the musical ran at the Provincetown Playhouse in New York City, featuring NYU students who were near the ages of the original cast members.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Among the immigrants sailing to New York stands five-foot-tall Clara Lemlich. She may not know it now, but she’s going to change her new city. While her father can’t find work, Clara gets a job in the garment industry, which hires school-age girls to make women’s clothing. Instead of going to school, Clara spends her days hunched over her sewing machine in a dark, smelly factory with many other girls, making clothes as fast as she can.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-clara-comes-to-town

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of HarperCollins

The rules of the factory are severe. For minor mistakes workers can be fined or worse—fired, leaving their families without an income. The doors are locked so the girls can’t leave without being inspected to ensure they haven’t stolen anything. And the workers must toil long into the night. Despite it all Clara is determined to get an education even though it means walking to the library after work and missing sleep to read her lessons. 

At the factory the girls become friends and reveal stories and secrets. The working conditions make Clara angry. She hears that the men at the factory want to form a union. If all the workers team up, they can hold a strike and force the management to treat them better the men say. But they don’t think the girls are tough enough.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-forming-a-union

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Michelle Markel. Courtesy of HarperCollins

Clara knows what the girls are capable of. Every day she talks to her friends and the other women, urging them to fight for their rights—and they do! But it’s not as easy as the men predicted. The bosses don’t want to give in. In fact Clara’s life is in danger! She is beaten and arrested. Despite the intimidation she continues to picket. These small strikes make little difference, however—the bosses just hire new girls and the work continues.

Clara and other union leaders think only a huge strike by all workers in every garment factory in New York will cause the bosses to listen and make changes. At a union meeting workers pack the seats to listen to leaders from across the country. Not one of them recommends such a large strike. Clara can keep silent no more. She moves to the front of the hall and calls out. People lift her to the stage. Shouting “Unity is strength” she rallies the crowd and begins the largest strike of women workers ever in United States history.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-picket-line

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Michelle Markel. Courtesy of HarperCollins

The next morning thousands of women take to the sidewalks, leaving their sewing machines empty and silent. New York is stunned! Newspapers call the strike a “revolt” and the girls an “army.” But this is really an army of children—the girls range in age from only 12 to 25 years old. Clara knows how to lead and motivate the girls. She gives rousing pep talks, sings, and stands up to thugs sent to harass them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-clara-on-picket-line

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of HarperCollins

All winter the girls join the men strikers. They are starving and cold and become the inspiration for newspaper articles and fundraising. Many wealthy women donate to their cause and join them on the picket lines. Finally the bosses relent. They agree to the formation of unions in their factories, to raise salaries, and to shorten the work week. Clara’s influence reaches far beyond New York. Factory workers in Philadelphia and Chicago take heart from her work and improve conditions in their cities. 

The final pages include more information about the garment industry in the early 1900s as well as a bibliography.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 is a wonderful addition to any school, classroom, or home library not only for the biographical facts of Clara Lemlich’s life, but also because her story shows readers that no matter how young or small they are they can right wrongs and make a difference.

Michelle Markel’s Brave Girl is a spirited biography of Clara Lemlich, clearly outlining the life and working conditions of immigrants in the early 1900s—especially certain industries’ use of children to fill low-paying, oppressive jobs. This true-life story of a girl who wouldn’t give up or give in is told with pride and balance, touching on the dangers Clara faced in a sensitive manner appropriate for children. Overall, the idea that one person can make a difference no matter how big or how old shines through, making this not only a tale of the past, but an inspiration for today’s children and the future.

Melissa Sweet cleverly combines watercolor and gouache paintings with colorful fabric, ribbon, sewing pattern paper, and ledger pages to create illustrations fitting to the story. The pictures appear sewn onto the pages with straight, zigzag, and embroidery stitches, and the vibrant colors depict the fiery nature of Clara and all the workers who strove for better lives.

Ages 4 – 9 

Balzer + Bray, Harper Collins, 2013 | ISBN 978-0061804427

To find more books by Michelle Markel plus what’s coming next, visit her website!

Discover more books and fun activities for kids as well as resources for educators by Melissa Sweet on her website!

Vote “yes” to watch this Brave Girl book trailer!

Pins and Needles Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sewing-word-search

Sewing Up Fun! Word Search

 

Sewing is a wonderful hobby and a fun way to make unique decorations for your room, accessories for your outfits, or gifts for friends and family. Like any great activity sewing has a vocabulary of its own. Find the 25 sewing-related words in this printable Sewing Up Fun! Word Search. Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

July 3 – Compliment Your Mirror Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

Image courtesy of National Geographic

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

Image courtesy of National Geographic

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-why'd-they-wear-that

Image courtesy of National Geographic

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mirror-word-search

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.