CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 23. . . February 24, 2017
A fashion disaster has struck! In a tragic accident with a glass of juice, celebrity singer Rhinoana’s “one-of-a-kind haute couture cotton-candy dress” has disintegrated. Now she has nothing to wear for her photo shoot for Cover magazine’s Hollywood issue. Panda Summers, editor-in-chief, dispatches fashion assistant Mitford to LA to find a solution, which the level-headed giraffe does with inimitable style. Soon Mitford is solving one celebrity clothing crisis after another and escorting his boss on the red carpet at the Zoowards.
A sequel to Mitford at the Fashion Zoo, this affectionate parody via animal characters takes on not only the fashion industry but its intersection with Hollywood celebrities. Although young readers may not catch all the references (celebrities mentioned include Rhinoana (Rhianna), Meryl Sheep (Meryl Streep), and Bee Yonsay (Beyoncé), they will be delighted with Mitford’s solutions which are both imaginative and absurd. Teachers and parents reading this book should be prepared with washable paint ready for newly enthusiastic artists-fashionistas.
The character development in Mitford at the Hollywood Zoo is slightly thinner than Mitford at the Fashion Zoo and the language more restrained in terms of ALL CAPS use and other quirks of the fashion vernacular. Readers will recognize, however, Mitford’s signature sniff, sniff and hipster glasses, greetings exchanged through air kiss, kisses, and an antepenultimate fold-out page, all the better to show the glamour of the crowded and spreading red carpet at the Zoowards.
The illustrations make effective use of white space and consist primarily of loosely connected pen lines, with important persons and details filled in, often outside the lines, with bold colours in marker or paint. The drawings are almost impressionistic, with the real body lines shown through the colours. The illustrations are exuberant and almost child-like; the images succeed not because they are technically perfect but because they convey the energy and feeling of the scene with flair. Mitford at the Hollywood Zoo would be a good book to show to young doodlers who are frustrated with their drawing abilities.
The illustration style and the narrative subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) emphasize the precarious nature of fashion and celebrity; the fashion solutions provided are not necessarily what the reader will consider beautiful. It is the agreement and strength of personality of certain key players, including Panda Summers, who decide what is in and what is out; their decisions, however arbitrary they seem, are accepted and admired, and the whole precipitous edifice survives another day. However, even a surface-level reading of the story provides plenty of amusement at the mad-cap schemes cooked up. Mitford remains endearingly awkward and Panda admirably self-assured to the end – when, of course, Mitford receives that well-earned promotion.
Janet Eastwood is a graduate of UBC’s Master of Arts in Children’s Literature Program and now works as an editor.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.