Skip to main content

I Had a Favorite Dress, written by Boni Ashburn and illustrated by Julia Denos

It took me a few readings, on my own and at story time, to really appreciate the magnificence of I Had a Favorite Dress, written by Boni Ashburn and perfectly illustrated by Julia Denos, who has a very cool blog called The Cinnamon Rabbit. After all, Simms Taback brought us the excellent Joseph Had a Little Overcoat which won the Caldecott in 2000 in which Joseph's favorite coat dwindles to a mere button and ingenious die-cuts on the brightly illustrated pages show the shrinking of the overcoat (Taback also used this method to great ends in his version of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, a favorite of my son's.) But, as I watched the faces of the little girls at story time as the narrator's favorite dress (which is really cute, by the way. If I was seven or eight I would LOVE a dress like the one Denos designed) morphed over and over, I remembered my favorite dress. When I was six or seven I had a dress that looked a bit like a French painter's smock with a large collar and bow. But, the best thing about it was the fact that it had the 100 Acre Wood printed on it! When it became too short (and believe me, in the 1970s little girls wore their dresses short) my mother told me I could wear it as a SHIRT and the world was beautiful again! The beauty of Taback's overcoat story, which is based on a Yiddish folk song by the same name, is timeless and, although I tend to eschew the more girly things in this world, I Had a Favorite Dress is less about a pouffy, pinky sort of dress and more about creativity, adaptability and the pure joy in owning something that you love that makes you feel good when you wear it. We should all be so lucky!

Julia Denos' illustrations are layered, multimedia delights and range from light and airy watercolors to scribbly, happy bursts of color to paper doll-like cut outs and definitely make this book a keeper (as well as a GREAT birthday gift!) Sometimes I found myself tripping over Ashburn's text as I read I Had a Favorite Dress out loud, but the basic idea of the book, the narrator's love of her dress which she always wears on her favorite day of the week, is delightful. When Mama tells the narrator that her dress is too short, she moans and groans but Mama tells her, "You're overwrought, dear, it's clear. Don't make mountains out of molehills. Make molehills out of mountains."
And, "SNIP, SNIP, sew, sew, new shirt hello!" This new favorite also earns a new favorite day, as does each incarnation of the dress.

Dress becomes shirt, becomes tank top, skirt, scarf, socks and finally a hair bow. When the hair bow is chewed up by the narrator's puppy, she takes the scraps and pastes them onto a self-portrait. Brilliant!

Be sure to visit Jama's Alphabet Soup where you can see pictures of Boni, Boni's little girl and Julia as kids in their favorite (and not favorite) dresses, shirts and shoes. There is also a great interview with Julia Denos at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast conducted while she was in the middle of creating the art for I Had a Favorite Dress. You can also visit Julia's shop where you can buy a print titled Little Dresses!

Denos is also repackaging Hilary McKay's Casson Family series (which everyone falls in love with, including Julia) the first book of which is Saffy's Angel.


Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

The Seeing Stick, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazini

The Seeing Stick is an original Chinese fairy tale written by the prolific (and prolifically award winning) Jane Yolen. First published in 1977 with illustrations by Remy Charlip (author and illustrator of the brilliantly fun picture book Fortunately and friend and muse to Brian Selznick, who asked him to pose as George Méliès while he was working on the Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Seeing Stick was reissued with new illustrations by Daniela J. Terrazini in 2009. I have not seen Charlip's version, but Terrazini's is a beautiful work of art and the book itself is yet another magnificently packaged book published by Running Press, the house that brought us Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling, yet another superbly and uniquely packaged children's book with artwork by Terrazini. Interestingly, both The Wikkeling and The Seeing Stick were designed by Frances J Soo Ping Chow.

The Seeing Stick begins, "Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there l…