April 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

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redstarWANG, Jen. The Prince and the Dressmaker. illus. by Jen Wang. 288p. First Second. Feb. 2018. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781626723634.

Gr 6 Up –Set in France, this work of historical fiction centers on Frances, a lowly dressmaker in a shop. A wayward teenager commissions Frances to fashion a dress that will make her “look like the devil’s wench.” She complies, and her creation catches the eye of a mysterious wealthy benefactor, for whom she is hired to work exclusively. Her patron is Prince Sebastian, who is mortified by his predilection for occasionally wearing dresses. Frances encourages Sebastian to be himself, and together the two create Lady Crystallia, the most fabulous fashion icon Paris has ever seen. In this well-crafted coming-of-age story, both Frances and Sebastian struggle to understand themselves and to embrace their identities. There’s a hint of romance between Frances and Sebastian, but the emphasis is on their friendship. Wang doesn’t dive deeply into Sebastian’s sexual or gender identity, instead focusing on the message of self-acceptance. As Sebastian puts it, “This is who I am. I’m a prince who likes to wear dresses.” The full-color artwork is gorgeous, featuring a variety of over-the-top dresses that fashionistas will envy. Facial expressions and the overall movement of the art enhance the enticing narrative; fans beginning to age out of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson will find a new favorite in Wang. VERDICT With inviting illustrations and a relatable story line, this tender tale of friendship and identity is sure to delight even readers who aren’t fans of the graphic novel format.–Ellen Conlin, Naperville Public Library, IL

This review was published in the School Library Journal December 2017 issue.

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