April 03, 2014

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

by Christine Baldacchino
Illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
For release May 2014

It's not surprising that Morris Micklewhite loves the colour tangerine.  It reminds him of his mother's beautiful long hair, the brilliance of the sun, and the richness of a tiger's coat.  And, with the soul of an artist, he is drawn to painting, puzzles, singing, and imaginative play.  When he finds a tangerine dress in the dress-up center at school, Morris puts together an experience for all his creative senses.  A dress of warm tangerine, of swishes and crinkles, that he pairs with different shoes, but especially the ones that click, click, click.  But not everyone appreciates Morris' selection and, though he tries to ignore his peers' words, he is troubled by what he hears and how both the girls and boys exclude him.

Predictably, Morris wants to stay home.  Pretending he has a stomachache, Morris is hopeful of missing school, the place he likes to do so many things.  But,
"When he thought of all the kids in his class
and all the means things they did and said,
his tummy ached for real." (pg. 14)
Delighted to have the time to hang out with the cat, Moo, and read about elephants, Morris starts to feel better, even finding a way ultimately be accepted by the other children and still be true to himself.

Christine Baldacchino strikes the right tone for recognizing how one's differences may be appreciated or not.  She could have played up the gender issue, what boys do and what girls do, but it's much more about just being different and still being true to yourself.  Being different can be such a hardship for many children.  Without recognizing that we are all different, and should be proudly so, many of us just want to fit in, and fitting in often takes the path of conformity.  Morris Micklewhite is no different than other children but he finds a way to embrace his individuality and creativity and share it with others successfully.  There's a lovely fluidity to Isabelle Malenfant's illustrations, undoubtedly due to her responsive use of charcoal, watercolour and pastels, which has already garnered her the 2013 Christie Harris Illustrated Children's Literature Prize.  With a very simple message dressed in hues of tangerine and the clap, clap, clap of applause, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress will serve to help those whose imaginations may be haltered or those who cannot accept anything beyond life's typical scenarios. 


A book trailer uploaded recently by the House of Anansi is available on YouTube and at our book trailers' site here.

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