Tuesday 19 March 2019

Dress Like A Girl by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Lorian Tu-Dean, reviewed by Sarah Hammond

This is an empowering picture book about what it means to dress ‘like a girl’. Perhaps this phrase has had negative or limiting connotations in the past, but not in this story: it is a cause for celebration. As a group of six diverse little girls get together for a sleepover, their imaginative play leads them to dress up. What should they wear? Who should they be? 

Toht chooses second person point of view to address the girls and the reader directly. Her tone is playful and humourous. Adopting phrases from the fashion world, she turns these ideas on their head. Something crisp and white for hot summer days? How about an astronaut’s outfit to take you into space?  Bright vivid hues to make a statement? We see the little girls charging around in red firefighter’s and blue police uniforms. Sleek swimwear? “Slip on some flippers. Explore the seafloor.” 

Notably, the advice is positive, offering suggestions of all the things the girls could choose to be, without telling them what they cannot or should not do. The outfits span many occupations — doctors, adventurers, construction workers, artists, sportswomen…  The emphasis is on self-expression and, if after that long list there is still not quite the thing for you, “then design something new!” 

The illustrations by Lorian Tu-Dean are mixed-media, comprising watercolor, gouache, colored pencil and ink. These images show lively, exuberant, resourceful girls on adventure after adventure, accompanied by their expressive dog. The riot of ideas in the illustrations mirror the text well. 

Dress Like a Girl is an engaging story and is also ideal to show girls what they can be in the vein of recent best-selling titles such as Rosie Revere, Engineer! or She Persisted. After all, it is the person underneath that is most important -- the clothes should be tailored to girls’ dreams. 

"What does it mean to dress like a girl? 
Many will tell you in this big wide world
that there are strict rules that must be addressed,
rules you will need when looking your best.
But when you are given these rules to obey,
the secret is heeding them - in your own way."


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