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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad. tundra, Penguin Random House, 2018. $21.00 ages 9 and up

"Ideas are everywhere I look:
among the books in my father's
library, among the trunks of
dresses and objects belonging to
my mother in the attic.

I am an explorer, a circus
performer, and even the night sky.
Dress up. Pretend. Make believe.
The world seems brighter."

What a beautiful tribute to Elsa Schiaparelli this is! Following their first book together, Julia, Child (2014), this talented team now consider the life of the highly influential and original fashion designer who took the world by storm with her imagination and love of color - especially 'shocking pink'.

Born at the very end of the 19th century to parents who favored her older sister, it wasn't long until Elsa was ignoring the doom and gloom of the family home and basking in the outdoor colors of Rome. Her quiet nature, her love of color and her inquisitive mind led her to ask questions of herself, even at a young age.

"Will I ever be as pretty as a peony,
as confident as a daisy?

A seed seller pins a flower to my dress.
It is strange but wonderful.

He has given me AN IDEA."

Few children would ever consider such an idea. "Schiap' immediately went home to plant flower seeds in her ears, mouth and nose! It was not a good plan; but, it led to the discovery of her own 'wild imagination'. A visit to Milan and her uncle Giovanni, also a dreamer, gives Elsa the courage to be herself and use her artist's eye to see her world through a different lens. What is missing in her pursuit of fame in fashion is money.

Dressmaking brings her much joy, and eventually supportive friendships with other artists who are looking for success and fame. At 37, she opens her own shop and the rest is history, told beautifully here.

"I say NO to the expected.

I say YES to my childhood dreams and the
colors that once fed me: scarlet, mauve,
periwinkle, green ...

and PINK!"

Just as Kyo Maclear impresses her audience with a first person voice and the angst that pushes 'Schiap' to find a meaningful life doing what makes her happy and successful, Julie Morstad dazzles with her stunning detailed illustrations, created using liquid watercolor, gouache, and pencil crayons. There are so many spreads that will startle and delight readers, while giving a real sense of this admired designer, her life, her loves, and her superb talent.

Back matter includes notes from both author and illustrator, a list of endnotes, and sources and further reading for those intrigued enough to learn about a true fashion icon.

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