Wednesday, May 6, 2009

10,000 Dresses

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?"

Bailey grinned.

"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!


Sarah Laurenson said...

That sounds awesome. And whether or not a child is transgendered, I think putting limitations on what activity a child can be involved with is detrimental period.

jlr said...

I just bought a copy of this book, and I love it. It introduces the idea of gender identity, without being heavy-handed. It's age-appropriate, and the artwork is excellent.

I just read it to a 4 year old friend of mine. He has two moms, and a FTM housemate, and he liked the book. One of his moms read it to him and he immediately asked me to read it to him again. However, he asked that this time (the 2nd time he ever heard it) we skip the parts where Bailey talks with her parents and brother, and just read the parts about the dresses and where she meets Laurel, the big girl. He kept saying he didn't understand why they kept saying she was a boy.

I hope other kids have the chance to read this book and benefit from it, even if their families don't look quite like Tim's.

I recommend this book, and can't wait to see what comes next in this genre.

Marcus Ewert said...

Hey Lee & friends-
this is Marcus Ewert-
author of 10K Dresses-
thanks for all the great feedback!
jlr, thanks from the report 'from the trenches'- as it were- I'm always interested to hear how kids themselves respond-
I know as an adult I can forget that kids don't just go for the books that to our eyes seem like a perfect match for them- queer-friendly or gender-fluid or whatever-
we're all gorgeously complex little packages, with multiple likes an dislikes...
anyway- thanks again, y'all for the nice words about my book!
& Lee, your review of the book was *exquisite* - both Bailey & I thank you so much!

10k kisses,
Marcus + Bailey