CM . . .
. Volume VIII Number 15 . . . . March 29, 2002
In earlier days, when commercialization was not so firmly rooted in the North American psyche and cash flow was constrained, there were many who were forced to make do with limited access to products and materials. Deborah Delaronde explores this idea through the story of a young girl, Flora, who seeks a way to get a new dress so that she may leave her rural, Metis community and go into town with her parents. Having never been to a town, Flora longs to see the people and the activities that take place in one.
Unable to find suitable material for a dress, Flora's grandmother decides to help Flora by making her a dress from old flour sacks. Confident in her grandmother's skills, Flora overcomes her initial surprise and excitedly helps her grandmother create the dress. The story continues with Flora and her grandmother seeking out decorative notions that will complete the garment. Flora's grandmother helps Flora negotiate for lace and ribbon, and, in true childlike fashion, Flora offers items like her lucky stone and clover for trade.
Gary Chartrand's illustrations show the gradual transformation of Flora's dress and her participation in its creation through detailed and carefully painted scenes. Through these depictions, it is readily apparent that neither Flora nor her neighbours are wealthy. Nevertheless, Chartrand conveys a clear message that Flora belongs to a caring community that understands the needs of this child and is willing to share what little is available with her.
About one third of the way through the book, Delaronde begins to use repetition of certain phrases to create an interesting rhythm. It would have been nice to see this technique applied through the entire work to improve its flow and cohesion. The story is really too lengthy for the subject matter and could have been dealt with in a more succinct manner. Flora is almost too young (maybe six or seven) for the audience to which that this work may appeal. In fact, those children who have the attention span to sit through this work are likely to be of the age where they veer from picture books for their own reading.
It is doubtful that many children would willingly select this book because of the extensive text and slow story line. However, the clear and interesting illustrations will appeal to children who have a keen eye for detail. Delaronde does touch upon some very important themes that would be popular in the classroom. Appreciating hand-me-downs and making do with what one can afford are topics that may be eagerly explored and discussed in a group setting.
Recommended with reservations.
Christina Neigel is the Instruction Librarian at the University College of the Cariboo in Kamloops, BC.
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