By Marcus Ewert, illustrations by Rex Ray
Each night, Bailey dreams of dresses.
Elaborate fantasy dresses, each one different, each one just waiting to be tried on.
But when she tells her Mom:
"Bailey, what are you talking about? You're a boy. Boys don't wear dresses!"
"But... I don't feel like a boy." Bailey said.
"Well, you are one, Bailey, and that's that! Now go away... and don't mention dresses again!"
After her family shoots down her dreams three times, Bailey runs to the end of the block, and at a house with a big, blue porch she meets an older girl, Laurel, who is sitting there with needles and thread and old sheets.
"What are you doing?" Bailey asked.
"Making dresses," said the big girl. "But it's really hard. Mine all come out looking the same!"
"Maybe I can help," said Bailey.
Bailey and Laurel work as a team and create two beautiful dresses made of mirrors, one for each of them.
Laurel tells Bailey that she's the coolest girl she's ever met.
"Hey, do you think you can dream up any MORE dresses?"
"I think I can dream up 10,000!"
This simple picture book melts my heart. The child, born a boy, who is sure she is a girl. The family that can't hear her, that can't be there for her to follow her dreams. How Bailey ultimately finds someone out there who does help her follow her dreams. How she finds, in Laurel, true family.
By tackling gender identity with a transgender child main character, "10,000 Dresses" is brave and ground-breaking and so well done.
The upbeat and funky illustrations hit the right tone as well. While Bailey's facial expressions throughout might have expressed more range, it's clearly an artistic choice and puts our focus as readers more on the fantasy of the dresses and the story itself.
"10,000 Dresses" is truly a picture book I wish had been read to me when I was a little kid. It would have opened my mind up to more possibilities - and for kids, for all of us, that's a wonderful thing.
ps- add your review of "10,000 Dresses" in comments!