The Midnight Dress: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

themidnightdressRose Lovell doesn’t expect much from the small seaside town of Leonora. Then again, the town doesn’t expect much from her either. Rose has seen towns like this before. She’ll likely see even more when her father’s wanderlust kicks in and they drive off in their caravan again.

In all the towns, in all the schools, Rose has never seen anyone quite like Pearl Kelly. Pearl who thinks everyone is nice. Pearl who writes in highlighter and dreams of Russia. Vivacious, popular Pearl who organizes the high school float for the annual Harvest Festival Parade.

Rose never could have guessed in those first moments that she and Pearl would become friends. She couldn’t have known that Pearl would convince Rose–a lonely hailstorm next to Pearl’s sunshine–to make a dress for the Harvest Parade.

Edie Baker, the supposed town witch, is known for her dressmaking as much as her strange, ramshackle house. Together she and Rose piece together a dress of midnight blue and magic as Edie reveals pieces of her own past to Rose while they bend over the stitches together.

By the time the parade draws near they will have created an unforgettable dress. A dress of mystery and beauty, but also one that will become woven into the fabric of a tragedy that will forever mark the town of Leonora and leave both girls changed in The Midnight Dress (2013) by Karen Foxlee.

The Midnight Dress is a haunting blend of mystery and beauty as the events leading to the Harvest Festival and the aftermath of that night unfold simultaneously. Foxlee expertly knits the two stories together in chapters titled for different stitches.

Lyrical dialogue and poetic descriptions lend a timeless air to this story of an unforgettable friendship between two girls who are lonely and yearning for very different things in a small Australian town in 1987.* Moments from the near and distant past blend seamlessly as Edie’s own story is revealed over the sewing of the dress.

There is something half-wild about the characters in The Midnight Dress. That same sense of dangerous allure and an underlying dignity comes through in Foxlee’s writing as she describes the sometimes brutal town politics and the wonders found in the rain forest bordering the town.

The Midnight Dress is a beautiful story of the many forms love can take and the enduring power of positive thoughts. But at the same time it examines unspeakable loss and the fact that tragedies never leave people unmarred–actions, however small or well-meant, have consequences. It’s hard to call this book a happy one, or even an optimistic one. Many of the characters here are broken; many of them will remain that way for a very long while. At the same time, however, this story offers moments of beauty with deceptively ornate and electric writing.

Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year and highly recommended. Just make sure you have a happy book lined up for right after.

*The time period doesn’t matter ostensibly because this book is largely timeless. I just felt very clever for figuring out the year and wanted to share it.

Possible Pairings: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, All Fall Down by Ally Carter, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, Undercover by Beth Kephart, Moonglass by Jessi Kirby, Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Teach Me by R. A. Nelson, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, Consent by Nancy Ohlin, Tamar by Mal Peet, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten, The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Forsythia & Me: A Picture Book (Chick Lit Wednesday!) Review

Forsythia does things that amaze Chester. She has prize-winning purple roses that she can make bloom in winter. She performs in the circus and at the ballet. She has even tamed the animals at the zoo so that they never arrive late for tea. One day when Forsythia wakes up with a cold, Chester discovers he can be amazing too in Forsythia & Me (2011) by Vincent X. Kirsch.

Forsythia  & Me is one of my favorite stories to read aloud at story time. With a great example of positive roles for boys and girls, humor, and fun text and drawings this one is a definite winner.

Kirsch’s illustrations combine delicately detailed line drawings with looser touches of water color paint. The combination creates bold page spreads with characters that stand out in bright, cheerful colors.

Kirsch’s story has the feel of a tall tale as Chester details Forsythia’s many exploits. At least until Forsythia gets sick. Then Chester (and readers) comes full circle, realizing that any number of things can be amazing when it comes to cheering up a friend.

Forsythia & Me brings together a charming story and intricate illustrations to create a delightful book about two equally amazing friends.

Possible Pairings: Boy + Boy by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino, Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship by Edward Hemingway, Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis, Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator by Mo Willems

You can also read my exclusive interview with Vincent X. Kirsch starting October 18, 2012!

“My life is full.”

Talking to a coworker shortly after I finished a story time program:

Coworker: “How was story time.”

Miss Print: “It was great. A kind of hyper little boy came and he kept saying ‘Do this book next.’ and it was the next book. At the end of story time he said all of the stories made him very happy. Which made me very happy. And now we’re best friends.”

Coworker: “You have a lot of best friends.”

Miss Print: “It’s true. My life is full.”