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Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

Title: Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

Author: Christine Baldacchino

Illustrator: Isabelle Malenfant

Age Group: 3-6

Synopsis: Morris enjoys dressing up at school in the fun tangerine dress and the clickity-clackity heels but it causes problems when the other kids use this to exclude and tease of him.

The Lowdown:

It’s amazing how early kids pick up on social cues. When I picked Bug up from school the other day he was so excited to show me the kettle cars they can drive around the back garden. There’s a whole fleet of them but within the orange, black, blue and green sits a pink and white car. Bug tugged my hand,whispered, and pointed explaining that the pink was his favorite but he didn’t drive it because it was a girl car. I’m not sure how well I succeeded in the following discussion but it’s just an example of the gender stereotypes that already invade our little one’s lives. I want Bug to be open to things, to drive the pink car, if that’s what he wants, or carry his Elsa doll around with him wherever he likes. I know it’ll be an uphill battle

Morris seems like every other kid in the beginning of this story. He loves pancake Sundays, his cat named Moo, painting, apple juice, singing loudly, and school. But he loves the dress-up area at school the most because of the tangerine dress. It’s the same color as tigers and his mother’s hair and it makes the most amazing noises when it moves. When he wears the clickity-clackity heels with it, it becomes sensory perfection. But the dress causes issues for Morris. The other boys refuse to let him in their spaceship unless he takes it off, one of the girls tries to pull it off him, he gets teased, and excluded so much to the point that he feels sick. It’s only after a weekend of recovery, love, and support that Morris feels confident enough to return to school. When he’s again excluded for wearing the dress Morris shrugs his shoulders and says he’ll play his own game, accompanied by a painting of a space safari he made at home. Soon the other boys are curious and decide that dresses aren’t such big deals. And when he’s told that boys don’t wear dresses by a girl in class he responds that this boy does.

The illustrations that accompany this story are seemingly dream like. The background and subsequent side characters are somewhat muted but what really seems to shine is the tangerine dress and any other vibrantly orange item. His mother’s hair, the tiger, Moo, they all glow like beacons drawing the eye and making it easy for kids to focus on the things that are important in Morris’ life. The dress itself takes on a whispy sort of quality that only adds to its allure. Additionally the strong lines of the other illustrations provide a fabulous contrast.

This story embodies how I want Bug to feel about himself. Confident even in the face of adversity. It also embodies how I want him to behave if someone is different than him. Seeing them for who they are, versus their exterior or style of dress. It’s a hard rule to follow. My husband asked how I would feel if he started wearing dresses and I couldn’t honestly answer because I’ve never been in that situation. But I have to hope that I would support someone I loved no matter what they chose to wear. And I think that’s the important message here. It doesn’t matter what we wear but how we act that is important. This story delivers this message perfectly and allows for children to see options that include standing up for yourself without loosing who you are or what makes you happy.

Story Tips:

  1. Discuss how the other children are acting towards Morris and ask what your child might do in that same situation. This is an important first step against bullying.

I need more!

This is the only book I could find by Christine Baldacchino. If you can wrangle up more information about her and any upcoming books, please let me know.

I haven’t seen any other of Isabelle Malenfant’s illustrations but really like the look of her Once Upon a Balloon. For more information about her check out her website at: http://isabellemalenfant.ca/livres.html

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