About Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Ann Cole Lowe
As soon as Ann Cole Lowe could walk, her momma and grandma taught her to sew. She worked near her momma in their Alabama family shop in the early 1900s, making glorious dresses for women who went to fancy parties. When Ann was 16, her momma died, and Ann continued sewing dresses. It wasn't easy, especially when she went to design school and had to learn alone, segregated from the rest of the class. But the work she did set her spirit soaring, as evidenced in the clothes she made, including Jackie Kennedy's wedding dress and Olivia de Havilland's dress at the Oscars when she won for Best Actress in To Each His Own. Rarely credited, Ann Cole Lowe became "society's best kept secret." This beautiful picture book shines the spotlight on a little-known visionary who persevered in times of hardship, always doing what she was passionate about: making elegant gowns for the women who loved to wear them.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4 - Virtually unknown to all who admired her work, Ann Cole Lowe was an African American designer of one-of-a-kind dresses that were worn at high society functions in the 1920s through the 1960s. She began sewing as a child under the tutelage of her mother and grandmother, taking over the family business at the age of 16. Lowe moved to New York City and attended a segregated design school, where she was forced to study alone. She was eventually able to save enough money from dress commissions to open her own salon in Manhattan. Here she catered to the elite, creating the dresses for Academy Award winner Olivia de Havilland in 1947 and Jacqueline Bouvier's wedding to John F. Kennedy in 1953. Blumenthal celebrates Lowe's skill and artistic merit-the timelessness of her beautiful, iconic couture gowns. Freeman's gorgeous, colorful illustrations highlight the patterns of the cloth, the tools of the trade, and the emotions of Lowe's struggles and triumphs as a businesswoman. VERDICT A portrait of the determination and elegance of Ann Cole Lowe. Hand to kids who love fashion and history.
-Jessica Cline, New York Public Library
The Horn Book
While the fashion world continues to recognize her work, many do not know the name Ann Cole Lowe. Blumenthal and Freeman have teamed up to place the spotlight on this African American designer. As a young child, Ann learned dressmaking from her mother and grandmother. When her mother died suddenly, sixteen-year-old Ann steadfastly continued the tradition, finishing an order for ball gowns her mother had begun for the Alabama governor's wife. Lowe proved to be an exceptionally talented dressmaker, eventually designing for some of America's most powerful families. With the repeated refrain, "Ann thought about what she could do, not what she couldn't change," Blumenthal encapsulates the designer's resolve. To ensure the line doesn't imply passivity, Blumenthal includes an anecdote about Lowe's insistence on walking through the front door, rather than the workers' entrance, of a Newport mansion to deliver Jacqueline Bouvier's now-famous wedding dress. Freeman has filled the pages with a plethora of vivacious patterns and saturated colors, fitting for a book about a woman so gifted with fabric. The one (intentional) exception is the illustration on the page where the text reads, "But it was 1917, and Ann had to study in a separate classroom, all alone, because she was African American": here the empty white space that surrounds Lowe evokes a palpable sense of isolation. Audiences will take pleasure both in the vibrancy of the dresses and in the dedication of the couture artist who created them. Appended with suggestions for further reading and an author's note.
Society ladies and screen actresses made Ann Cole Lowe's gowns famous, but no one credited their African-American designer.The great-granddaughter of a slave, Ann grew up in Alabama sewing with her mother. When she was just 16, her mother died, but Ann kept on with the work, finishing a gown for the wife of the governor. She was able to attend design school in New York City in 1917, albeit sitting alone in a segregated classroom. As the proprietor of her own business, Ann was in much demand with very wealthy and high-profile women. Olivia de Havilland accepted her 1947 Oscar wearing an Ann Cole Lowe gown. In 1953, a rich socialite named Jaqueline Bouvier married a Massachusetts senator named John F. Kennedy wearing one of Lowe's couture creations. Lowe worked hard and eventually began to receive long-overdue recognition. Freeman's crisply colorful artwork enlivens the clear and accessible narration. The endpapers featuring pictures of Lowe's runway-perfect gowns and fabric swatches in the page design will delight young fashionistas, while the vignette of Ann in a classroom sitting by herself against a solid white background speaks volumes. Kudos to a title that recognizes a previously uncelebrated African-American woman of achievement.
The twin themes of injustice and hard work are woven into Blumenthal's (The Blue House Dog) vivid biography of African-American designer Ann Cole Lowe, who learned to sew at a young age, took over her late mother's business, and went on to design gowns that included dresses for Jacqueline Bouvier and John F. Kennedy's wedding. Accented with buttons and lace, Freeman's (the Nikki and Deja series) illustrations are attentive to the shape and design of the clothing worn and designed by Lowe, and they glow with a honeyed light that underscores the designer's persistence in the face of racial prejudice. Ages 4-8.
Winner of the Missouri Show Me Readers Award 2012-2013
Chosen as a 2011 Honor Book
About The Blue House Dog
All day and night in sun and rain and snow, a stray dog wanders the streets of a neighborhood after its devoted owner has died. No one takes much notice of the thin, unremarkable animal that some people call Bones. No one except the narrator, a young boy, who takes an interest in the dog's well being.
In rich and detailed oil colors, The Blue House Dog captures the heartache of loss and the uncertainty of opening oneself up to the prospects of caring and trusting again. Through the eyes of Cody, the narrator, an adolescent boy, and the brown and blue mismatched eyes of Bones, a suddenly-abandoned dog, Blumenthal creates a poignant and touching tale of heartbreak and redemption. Cody has lost his best friend, Teddy—furry, wet-nosed sharer of secrets and late-night blanket tents. Bones has lost his owner and home and now scurries from shadow to shadow, evading the dog catcher while pawing through garbage for scraps. Though the neighborhood pronounces Bones just a stray—and not a special one at that—Cody begins to think otherwise. Over time, he works at overcoming his sadness upon losing Teddy, and gaining the trust of the equally hurting Bones. Young readers, especially those who have suffered the loss of a pet, will immediately feel for both characters. Blumenthal's prose is soft and lyrical, striking exactly the right mood needed to evoke sympathy and emotion, without being so somber as to create tears or undue worry in very sensitive children. Matched by equally soft, yet evocative pictures that deftly capture the tentative emotions involved, The Blue Hose Dog allows children both young and old to identify with difficult issues such as death, loneliness, uncertainty, risk and even the plight and specter of homelessness without being too heavy or abstruse. It would make an excellent addition to any children's library, perfect for broaching sad topics or just for cuddling together during a rainy day read.
— Deanna D'Antonio
Blumenthal’s dog-and-boy story may be too sad for some, but her lyrical prose and Gustavson’s (Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt!) lush paintings have the impact of a documentary film. The Blue House Dog, a stray German shepherd mix, has been left homeless after his owner dies, while the death of the boy narrator’s old dog has left him bereft. Blumenthal (Charlie Hits It Big) observes the boy as he works to approach and tame the stray, paying close attention to physical sensations (“He lets me run my hand/ lightly over his fur./ It’s the same color as my hair”) and crafting affecting prose-poetic lines (“he scrunched down/ under a building,/ waiting like a soldier/ hiding from the enemy”). Gustavson’s paintings capture the big dog’s skittishness and the boy’s protective instincts. Scenes of autumn leaves and spring flowers reinforce the sense that the intimacy between the two takes months to develop. The emotions are raw and authentic, while the way in which they’re delivered is elegant—a potent combination.
School Library Journal
Barnes & Noble
School Library Journal
by Deborah Blumenthal
"This volume is not so much about Aunt Claire or her hair as it is about the telling details that set each of young Annie's family members apart. Annie longs to know about her ancestors:
'I want to reach into the past and bring them closer to me.'
With the help of her great-aunt, she does just that, sorting through photographs as well as such memorabilia as yellowed letters with faded handwriting and the lace wedding veil worn by her Swedish Great-Grandma Sophie. GrandPre effortlessly breathes life into these snippets of lives well lived. For instance, in a sepia-toned photograph, dashing Great-Grandpa Louis, who bet on horses, looks flirtatiously over at his wife, conveyed in a dreamy, smoky-blue image on the opposite page, who clearly returns his affection:
"Great-Grandma Sadie stayed home/ and sewed tiny silver sequins onto dresses/ and baked twisted breads/ to make back the money/ that Great-Grandpa Louis lost."
Blumenthal (The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum) and GrandPre‚ create an anecdotal album within an album, making bygone times shine brightly for both the heroine and readers. The artist (best known for the cover art and interior spots for the Harry Potter novels) whimsically mingles images of past and present in radiant pastel paintings, which range from comical to affecting.
A family portrait to savor, this may well spark kids' interest in their
own family trees.
by Deborah Blumenthal with illustrations by Doug Chayka.
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A Book of the Month Club Alternate
Three personable stories chronicle the authentically thorny relationship between Sophie and her older sister, Annie. In the first story, Annie’s culinary display falls afoul of Sophie’s determined pickiness; in a second, Sophie’s good intentions aren’t enough to achieve the quiet time Annie requests; finally, Annie makes up for a mean big-sister remark with a surprise pet that she and Sophie can share. These gently shaped slice-of-life stories fairly vibrate with personality and that personality is usually that of forceful little Sophie, whether she’s holding her meat up to the light in wary search of fat and gristle or helpfully leading her toy animals in a very quiet circus while her sister studies. Sprightly natural dialogue captures the true, not always fond, tone of sisterly exchanges, and careful word choice makes the simple sentences a quiet triumph of rhythmic exposition. Mixed-media illustrations rely mostly on strong acrylic pigments, often textured with scrawls of grease pencil; Sophie’s redder-than-red curls draw the eye in most illustrations, but they’re well balanced with a delicious buffet of spicy touches and cool colors, standing out against softly muted backgrounds. The vivid colors and changing layouts, ranging from spot art to vignettes to spreads, provide a rollicking visual cadence, while the sharp lines of faces add emotional punctuation to the scenes. The three-chapter format allows the readaloud pleasure to be drawn out over several sittings, and beginning readers brave enough to tackle occasionally creative font will also enjoy this sisterly literary outing.
Siblings clash, then resolve their issues without parental meddling in these three child-centered episodes. Preschooler Sophie rejects every dish her preteen sister Annie tries to serve for a cooking class, then does her best to give Annie a quiet time (with notable lack of success), and finally receives a low-maintenance “pet” –a seed she dubs “Tiny”—of her very own. Blumenthal drolly captures the sisters’ disparate personalities—and so does Ering, depicting patient (but not unreasonably so) Annie with sensibly neat brown hair and Sophie as an unruly redhead. She’s flopped back in her chair with an expression of comical disgust when Annie proudly uncovers “Ze best blue cheese omelet!,” absorbedly constructing a doomed “very quiet, very tall house” from blocks, and at last, dancing delightedly on her bed when Tiny undergoes an overnight transformation. Here’s a right-on picture of a close, if not always smooth, relationship that will make knowing readers grin.
Kindergarten-Grade 2–The trials, tribulations, and triumphs of
sisterhood are perfectly captured in this trio of tales. In the first,
big sister Annie is applying her newly acquired cooking skills but little
sister Sophie has a set of culinary rules all her own. "The peas
are touching the eggs! Don't let them touch!" A frustrated Annie
uses some ingenuity and a lazy Susan to save the day. In the second vignette,
Annie needs some quiet time and Sophie tries (but fails) to oblige. Both
girls plumb their flexibility, imaginations, and affections when Annie
introduces Sophie to a unique and ultimately satisfying pet in the final
story. The personalities of these sisters shine throughout this well-paced,
lengthy picture book. Sophie is, at times, a tiny termagantbut also an
avid admirer of Annie, who is often exasperated by but truly cares for
her exuberant sibling. Their dialogue realistically veers from gentle
compassion to shouted insults. The pencil, pen, and, acrylic illustrations
are lively and winsome and the cheerful palette reflects the upbeat tone.
Moments of high drama explode across the page and eyebrows speak volumes
in Ering's witty artwork. The dynamics of sibling relationships, both
mundane and meaningful, are expertly captured so expect some heartfelt
sighs from both adult readers and young listeners alike.
ABOUT THE BOOK
All's fair in war and peas...or is it? Meet Sophie and Annie, little sister and big. Read three stories about how they fight and make up becuse Sophie is a picky eater and Annie isn't, Sophie likes to make noise and Annie doesn't, Sophie wants a pet and Annie...well, surprises her. Kids everywhere will recognize their problems and laugh at the solutions in this smart, funny book.
School Library Journal
by Deborah Blumenthal
School Library Journal
"A slice-of-life picture book that acknowledges the intense emotions of a toddler. On the way home from the park, Sophie spots another child eating a chocolate-covered cookie. 'I want a cookie,' she says pointing a stubby finger, 'I want that cookie.'
Despite her mother's calm and logical response, Sophie becomes more and more upset, finally launching into a tantrum that involves kicking, screaming, tears, and a face as 'hot as a pepper.'
The straightfoward and simply worded text uses repetition to express the child's fury, frustration, and helplessness. Both words and pictures capture the sudden and surprising intensity of the tantrum, and the reassuring comfort of recovery."
Copyright Deborah Blumenthal 2011. All Rights Reserved.