________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 9 . . . . January 6, 2006


Hannah and the Seven Dresses.

Marthe Jocelyn.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 1999/2005.
32 pp., pbk., $9.99.
ISBN 0-88776-749-4.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Reesa Cohen.

*** /4


Three dimensional fabric collage really enhances this very simple story, first published in hardcover in 1999. Young, spirited Hannah has a deep attachment to the dresses made by her mother and is posed with the problem of which to choose each day.

She had a closet full of beautiful dresses because her mother liked to sew.

But when Hannah stood in front of her closet, her face got hot. She shivered all over. Her knees went jiggly and her toes curled under.

It was just too hard to pick which dress to wear.



Decisions! Decisions! What's a young girl to do with seven beautiful dresses to wear. She finds a unique and ingenious solution by assigning one of her great seven dresses to each day of the week. Each dress is described in loving detail by Hannah and pictured in a variety of adorable fabrics and designs. The "fashion show" is appealing, and readers see Hannah in many poses as she displays each dress. Hannah is pleased with her decision, and all goes well until her birthday. Once again, she is faced with indecision because none of these dresses seem perfect for her special day. However, her love of her dresses inspires a creative, if uncomfortable solution. To the rescue comes a pair of simple black pants that changes her strong feelings about dresses.

internal art

     Readers will be impressed with Hannah's problem-solving abilities. This naive, amusing story can have great child appeal, although limited to mainly little girls. At times, the description seems a bit overdone with Hannah's trepidation and emotion over making choices and her behavior of "pressing her fists against her eyes until she sees fireworks." But it is really the tactile, delightful artwork of Jocelyn that takes centre stage in this book. The colourful, captivating prints incorporate various textures and patterns, with additional items that decorate each dress like buttons, thread, wool, bric-a-brac, felt and ribbons. Jocelyn's use of vivid wallpaper, and wild carpet designs in the backgrounds adds to the visual fun.

     The overall design of this book is crafted with the same care as each illustration. The front and back flyleafs of bric-a-brac and assorted patterns echo the colourful fabrics used in the story. The text, encased in white, is bordered by a pinking shear effect. An adorable stuffed elephant, dressed in similar fabrics to Hannah, is seen in each illustration.

     There have been a number of successful books published in the last 10 years that have incorporated stitchery, applique and fabric design, books such as Mary Had a Little Lamb by Sally Mavor. This type of artwork can be admired and appreciated by young readers as well as their teachers who could use books like these as a springboard for an art class on the use of fabrics.


Reesa Cohen is an Instructor of Children's Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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