________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 9 . . . . October 31, 2014


Edie’s Ensembles.

Ashley Spires.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2014.
32 pp., hardcover & ebook, $19.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-490-9 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77049-491-6 (epub).

Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

**½ /4


British Columbia’s Ashley Spires has numerous picture books to her name, books of which she is both author and talented illustrator. In this latest work, all of the characters are tidy anthropomorphized animals going about their school routines. Edie of the title (a deer – I think) is not only obsessed with her wardrobe, which is huge, but with the image she strikes with her various ‘ensembles’. Best friend Andrew, portrayed as a chickadee, is relegated to the role of dresser and cheering section. He is forbidden to participate in any competition as Edie wants her fashion show to be a solo.

internal art     Edie receives compliments at first, but, as days go by, her fellow students are less impressed by her looks.

…at recess no one mentioned her Italian suede shoes. After lunch someone finally said something about her turquoise cashmere sweater…But it was just to tell her there was mustard on it.

     Edie’s attempts to get attention lead her to dress in an increasingly outlandish way. She spends more time and energy each day in getting ready to be seen. (I did like her in an orange dress with fringe like a lampshade, wearing a birdcage on her head. In fact, there is much humourous detail in all of Spires’ depictions of the ensembles, and of the other students’ expressions, alternately mocking and bemused.)

     “And then one morning, when she was running late..” her ensemble of the day, an enormous grey-and-white architecturally-inspired monstrosity embellished with a big red bow and what look like eagle’s wings on her head, gets her stuck in the door into the school. And no one notices that she is missing.

Edie waited…and waited…and waited… But no one came. No one noticed she wasn’t in class. Not even Andrew.

     When she finally extricates herself, leaving the dress still hanging in the doorway, she wanders home disconsolately and looks at herself long and hard in the mirror, with none of her finery on. This scene is followed by a sudden turnaround; when Edie goes to school the next day in what appears to be an ordinary skirt and sweater (described as “one of her most daring outfits”) no one looks at her clothes. But all of a sudden classmates are sharing their snacks and laughing at her jokes.

     The message here is definitely that clothes do not make the man (or fawn). This is an object lesson for children overly concerned about the labels on their clothes and their physical appearance. If only it was as easy as this to engineer a change in behaviour, to become friends with people after alienating them. Although a satisfying ending is much to be desired in a picture book, this resolution is too facile and abrupt.

Recommended with Reservations.

Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, BC.

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

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