November 05, 2014

Mr. Frank

by Irene Luxbacher
Groundwood Books
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
September 2014

Mr. Frank is a tailor, and one who has served many people through many decades by creating a wide variety of clothes, and Mr. Frank, the book, begins with the excitement of receiving a special "order for an outfit that made all the others seem rather dull."(pg. 6) From Mr. Frank's hand to the forehead as he receives the call, the order seems overwhelming. But the elderly tailor takes his time thinking about the fabrics and the design, the style and the fit, as well as comfort and playfulness.  This man is more than a tailor, he is a creator of dreams, albeit one with needle and thread.

And as Mr. Frank makes his decisions, he takes several trips down memory lane, first recalling his mending of uniforms from more than 60 years ago when he was but a child, to the suits he tailored as a young man, and then the wild outfits of the 1960's and 1970's.  As fashions and Mr. Frank's tailoring change with the decades, so too does Mr. Frank, going a little more grey and a little more perplexed by the trends, but always accommodating, and taking on a variety of orders.  But it is evident that Mr. Frank will be closing up shop after today, after he completes this most special of orders.  It will be his pièce de résistance.

Irene Luxbacher was inspired by her own father's tailoring to write Mr. Frank, and the respect and admiration she extends is evident in the depth of her illustrations.  Though there is an understated melancholy about Mr. Frank, as he wraps up his tailoring career with one last special order, Irene Luxbacher emphasizes the textures and colours of a full life of creating fashions for others.  From the patterned wallpaper and rug and the textured fabrics, to the bold patterns of the mod clothes of the 1960's, the details all tell of a richness of a life well lived.  There are collages of photographs with magazine pictures, drawings and pattern pieces that I suspect once graced the walls of the real Mr. Frank's tailor shop, as I believe do the wall photos in the residence to which he delivers this last outfit.  In a lovely homage to her father and to the relationships between the generations, Irene Luxbacher has created her own masterpiece for the ages, one that she and her readers will look upon fondly for many years too.

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