Getting Dressed: Books About Clothes & Clothing
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"All By Myself"
Written by Aliki
Illustrated by Aliki
(Harper Collins, 2000)
A nice, super-well behaved little boy named Peter goes through his daily rituals, waking, dressing, eating, going potty, going to school, etc. all by himself. The theme of independence ("by myself!") could be more strongly stressed in the text, but that's no biggie... What matters is the book's exuberant, celebratory tone, which shows a happy, model child doing various everyday activities... The pictures are nice & easy to follow... And what parents wouldn't wish to have as nice a child as this? Good role modeling and a lot of fun things to point out discuss while reading the book with your child. (B+)

"Hello, Shoes!"
Written by Joan Blos
Illustrated by Ann Boyajian
(Simon & Schuster, 1999)

A nice, simple story of a boy and his grandfather, looking for a pair of missing sandals. After they are found, the happy, excited boy learns how to put on the previously too-difficult shoes, all by himself. I dunno; there wasn't like some big, profound massage to this book, or anything... It just rang true and had a nice, sweet emotional tone. My kid liked it; so did I. (B+)

"Blue Hat, Green Hat"
Written by Sandra Boynton
Illustrated by Sandra Boynton
(Simon & Schuster, 1982)

A goofy get-dressed book starring a spaced-out turkey who gets everything wrong: he steps inside his hat, he puts his shirt on his legs, he wears his socks on his wings and his coat on his beak... And when he finally gets it all right and put all his clothes on correctly...he jumps into a swimming pool! This book gleefully invites kids to yell out, NOOOOOO!! THAT'S NOT RIGHT!! Indeed, each time the turkey puts something on, the page ends with the word "oops!", a hiccuping capstone for a well-constructed text... This book has a good rhythm, and a nice, slapstick sense of humor... A fun read. (B)

"Ella Sarah Gets Dressed"
Written by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
(Harcourt, 2003)

This is one of the best children's books of recent vintage, about a headstrong little girl who wakes up one day with a very specific -- and very distinctive -- outfit in mind: her pink polka-dot pants, a dress with the orange-and-green flowers, purple-and-blue striped socks, yellow shoes and her red hat. Although various family members try to discourage her, Ella Sarah sticks to her guns, and dresses the way she wants to -- just in time for a dress-up party with some visiting friends. I've seen where some parents find this book too negative (ie, Ella throwing a mild fit and then "getting her way..."), but I fall pretty flatly on the side of those who see this book as a celebration of individuality and the creative spirit. Plus the artwork is cool: it won a Caldicott award, and deservedly so. Recommended! (A)

"The Growing Up Feet"
Written by Beverly Cleary
Illustrated by Elena Gomez
(Harper, 1987)

Janet and Jimmy, two five-year old-ish siblings, are crawling the walls at home one day, when their mom decides to take them to the shoe store as a way to keep them occupied. The kids are totally psyched: getting new shoes mean they are getting to be "big kids"! They have a great time, wide-eyed and smiley as the small-town shoe salesman cheerfully ushers the family in, and -- when it turns out the kids don't need new shoes after all -- suggests that instead their mom could get them new rain boots for the crestfallen kids. The twins are still psyched, but when they get home, they realize there are no puddles to stomp around in. Problem solved when Dad gets home: he breaks out the garden hose, washes his car, and creates puddles for the kids to play in. Originally written in the early 1960s, the Janet & Jimmy definitely have an innocent, out-of-the-past, Leave It To Beaver-ish feel to them, but they're still kinda fun... This one is the best of the series, if you ask me. Worth checking out. (B+)

"Lottie's Princess Dress"
Written by Doris Dorrie
Illustrated by Julia Kaergel
(Penguin/Dial, 1999)

A lighthearted take on the whole tough-getting-kids-out-the-door dilemma... It's a school (and work) day and Lottie's harried mother grows increasingly exasperated while trying to hustle the dreamy-headed young'un out to greet the day. She wants Lottie to bundle up against the cold, but the girl insists on wearing her golden princess dress, and in the argument that follows, Mom briefly blows her stack and then apologizes. She eventually gives in and lets Lottie wear her dress-up clothes, and what's more, Lottie convinces Mom to wear her fancy evening dress, too, so that they'll be dressed up together. Lottie keeps insisting that they should dress fancy because it's a "special" day -- and when the do dress up, it becomes a special day, with strangers and teachers and co-workers smiling at a parent who's been drawn into the magical world of playtime. The book is bittersweet, touching both on conflict and playfulness. Since no daddy appears, it can also be taken as a single-parent book. Recommended! (B+)

"Shoe Baby"
Written by Joyce Dunbar
Illustrated by Polly Dunbar
(Candlewick, 2005)

Hmmm. I thought this one was kind of dumb. A baby, sitting in a king-size red shoe, drives it like a car, flies it like a plane, sails it like a boat, and sees all kinds of kooky critters, and even a king and queen... Then it turns out the shoe belongs to Daddy and the baby was mysteriously, magically magically made tiny, and when she steps out of the shoe, she gets normal-sized, which elates her mother, who had thought she was lost. The story (I think) is kind of blah, the rhymes are kind of blah, the artwork is crazy and hectic and difficult to focus on or easily understand. The age level this seems to be aimed at seems unlikely to be able to appreciate the busy, overwrought artwork... But then again, what do I know? My girl asked to have it read four times in a row. But maybe she was just doing that to mess with me. She's been like that lately. (C-)

Written by Emily Jenkins
Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
(Farrar Strauss/Frances Foster Books, 2004)

Jenkins and Bogacki team up for another offbeat story, this time about a young girl named Daffodil who feels oppressed by her mother's insistence that Daffoldil wear yellow dresses whenever they go out to parties. See, Daffodil is one of three identical triplets, and she and her sisters, Violet and Rose, have been color-sorted by their well-intentioned mom, who just wants people to be able to tell the girls apart. In the end, Daffodil rebels, which inspires her sisters to reveal that they, too, hate having to wear the same old dresses all the time. When I first found this book, I was a little concerned that it might overly highlight negative emotions (Daffodil pitches a real fit when she finally stands up for herself...) but my little girl really warmed to the story, and we don't seem to be much more tantrummy now than we were pre-Daffodil... Like Ella Sarah Gets Dressed, this is a good story showing how personal fashion can be be important to little kids (particularly girls) who are trying to establish their own identities and personal boundaries, apart from those imposed by their parents. (Plus, we had a lot of fun making cut-out dresses and paper dolls that looked like Daffodil and her sisters...) (A-)

"Marigold And Grandma On The Town"
Written by Stephanie Calmenson
Illustrated by Mary Chalmers
(Harper Collins, 1994)

A lovely chapter-book about a little girl bunny-rabbit named Marigold who goes out for a shopping trip with her kindly grandmother. They go to a department store together and buy a summer hat, then to the park, then out for a bite to eat, and finally just to have some goofy fun in a photo booth. There's lot of activity, the artwork is nice, the level of the writing isn't completely moronic, and the emotional interplay is fairly nuanced and complex. At the heart of it is an innocent, straightforward portrait of a little girl (about four?) learning how to find her place in the world. She's too shy to tell a saleswoman that her new hat is uncomfortable, and she cries when she thinks her grandmother will be disappointed when she isn't "wonderful" enough to show off to her friends. The grandmother eases Marigold's self-consciousness by assuring her that she'll always be wonderful as far as she's concerned -- but that she still wants her to eat with a fork when she's sitting at the table. We really enjoyed this book and were sad to find that, while Calmenson has written numerous picturebooks, this appears to be the only Marigold book available. Definitely worth checking out.. (A)

"Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear"
Written by Nancy White Carlstrom
Illustrated by Bruce Degen
(Simon & Schuster, 1986)

In general, the Jesse Bear series is a little too syrupy for me, verging on the icky-sweet. The writing can also be a little cluttered or awkward. However, it hits a chord with the little ones, and provides a recurrent character for children who enjoy that sort of thing. The artwork is cheerful and packed with cute details and diversions that are fun to talk about, if slightly cluttered at times. This is the first Jesse Bear book, and focusses on the clothes that Jesse puts on at various times of the day -- PJs, outdoor clothes, There's one confusing part where he says he'll "wear" his highchair during lunch -- the passage doesn't make much sense, though I suppose it's meant to be written off as an imaginative, childish flight, but other than that, this volume is nice enough, in an innocuous kind of way. The writing isn't great, nor are the rhymes, but it's still an enjoyable book. (C+)

"Froggy Gets Dressed"
Written by Jonathan London
Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
(Penguin/Viking, 1992)

The first (?) and one of the best Froggy books. Froggy wants to go out and play in the snow, but everytime he gets out and starts making a snowball, his mom calls him back inside because he's forgotten some article of clothing. When she reminds him he forgot to put his underwear on, he turns more red than green. Interesting detail: when Mom calls out "FRRROOGGYY!!", the letters of his name have the color pattern of whatever article of clothing she wants him to put on. Cute. (B-)

"Mama's Saris"
Written by Pooja Makhijani
Illustrated by Elena Gomez
(Little Brown, 2007)


"New Shoes, Red Shoes"
Written by Susan Rollings
Illustrated by Susan Rollings
(Orchard Books, 2000)

A young girl goes to the shoe store with her mother and picks out a shiny new pair of shoes for a big birthday party she's been invited to. She's all smiles as she goes to the store, picks out the shoes, takes them home, tries them on and wears them to the big bash. The text isn't particularly compelling, but the book is cheerful and giddily exuberant... Nice artwork helps, too; great for toddlers. If getting new shoes is a hot topic around your house, you might really enjoy this one. (B)

"Do You Have A Hat?"
Written by Eileen Spinelli
Illustrated by Geraldo Valerio
(Simon & Schuster, 2004)

A kooky, fun, fast-paced book about hats and various figures in history who wore them. The nonfiction element -- mentioning folks such as Amelia Earhart, Francisco De Goya, Abraham Lincoln, Carmen Miranda, etc. -- is clearly for older kids, but the zippy rhymes and colorful art make this accessible to older children as well. If they know what a hat is, chances are they'll enjoy this book. Plus, what an interesting cast of characters for biography-bound older readers to be steered towards! (B+)

"Suki's Kimono"
Written by Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by Stphane Jorisch
(Kids Can Press, 2003)

A young Japanese-American girl (well, Japanese-Canadian, actually...) wants to go to the first day of school wearing a formal, traditional kimono that her grandmother bought her. Her sisters mock Suki and warn her that the other kids will tease her and think she's weird. Suki wears the kimono anyway, and though a lot of kids do make fun of her, the children in her homeroom class are won over when Suki explains why the kimono means so much to her and shows them a Japanese folk dance that she learned at a summertime cultural festival. This book wears its multi-cultural message on its sleeve, but the obviousness of it doesn't make a dent in the sweet, charming story (which is buoyed by gorgeous, captivating artwork)... All the messages here -- embracing one's cultural roots, willing to not be "cool", and following your own individual interests and a reverence for things that are old or old-fashioned -- all ring true for me. Maybe for you as well? At any rate, Suki can hang out at our house any time... I like that kid! (A)

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