Sarah May & the New Red Dress

Andrea Spalding, Author, Janet Wilson, Illustrator
Andrea Spalding, Author, Janet Wilson, Illustrator Orca Book Publishers $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-55143-117-8
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
""I wasn't always Grandma, you know, bespectacled and stiff-kneed."" So begins an elderly woman's reminiscence of a small but seminal childhood episode. When Sarah May needs a new dress, her parents speak in practical terms. It must be economical and sturdy; but Sarah whispers her secret desire to the ever-present West Wind: ""Please, let it be a red dress."" Sadly, the dresses hanging in Mr. Corbett's general store are too expensive, and the girl patiently and uncomplainingly settles for a home-made creation in ""dismal blue."" A rain storm helps transform the dress into the garment of the girl's hopes, streaking the blue dye enough that her mother can dye the gown red (why the parents didn't buy red cloth in the first place goes unexplained). Spalding's (Finders Keepers) personification of the wind puffs up the text: ""I could hear the wind laughing in the bell tower.... `Watch this,' chuckled the West Wind, and it began to blow."" Wilson (Selina and Bear Paw Quilt) extends the conceit by giving the wind a palpable presence in her watercolors (e.g., its ""face"" peeks from the clouds); she also sweetens the story by making the ""dark"" and ""dismal"" blue a chipper, bird-feather hue. All in all, this overearnest story may appeal more to nostalgic grandparents than to kids. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)
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