Thursday, August 16, 2012

I Had a Favorite Dress, by Boni Ashburn (ages 4-8)

The end of summer is here; every time turn around, the kids I see have grown again -- sprouting up, up, up! So once again, we go through our closets trying to put away clothes they've grown out of and save them for someone else. But what do you do about that favorite dress or shirt? Can you really give it away? I Had a Favorite Dress captures this feeling with perfect zip and zing!
I Had a Favorite Dress
by Boni Ashburn
pictures by Julia Denos
NY: Abrams, 2011
ages 4-8
available from your local library and on Amazon
A young girl starts the story declaring, "I had a favorite dress that was my favoritest dress ever." Can you relate to that? I so remember those days when my daughters would ONLY wear dresses, and our friend across the street would only wear orange. Preschoolers are particular!
But what happens when this little girl grows and realizes that she is now too big for her favorite dress? Her mama tells her not to worry, "Don't make mountains out of molehills. Make molehills out of mountains." So together, they come up with a way to turn the favorite dress into a brand new shirt! But then the sleeves become too tight, and once again they need to create something new - a tank top! At each turn, mother and daughter work together to come up with creative solutions: a skirt, a scarf, socks and a hair bow.
I adore the artwork and the spirit of this story. My youngest said to me, "It's so creative!" She was full of smiles as she realized the pattern in the story and started predicting what the little girl would make next out of her favorite dress. And then toward the end, she loved how she couldn't quite predict what she'd make next. After we read it, she wanted to go back and count all the things the little girl made out of her original dress. I also think my daughter could relate to the little girl feeling sad about growing out of clothes - growing up isn't all easy, as kids definitely know.

Boni Ashburn's rhythm and internal rhyming make this an excellent read aloud - the language is delightful. The repetition really leads to kids being able to predict what will happen next. The story structure around the days of the week is also perfect for preschoolers and kindergartners who are mastering that progression of time. And yet, older children will smile reading this, remembering back to the clothes they loved, loved, loved wearing when they were younger.

It would be fun to ask kids to compare this to Simms Taback's Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. Both show how you can think of creative solutions to problems. The Kirkus Review suggests that both are based on the Jewish folktale, "The Tailor".

I smiled inwardly with the way that Julia Denos drew the young girl and her mother with medium-toned skin - not clearly one race, but perhaps Latina or African American. It isn't an overt statement, but a lovely reflection of my students today.

I Had a Favorite Dress was chosen as a finalist for the 2011 Cybils Fiction Picture Book Award. I especially enjoyed Jen Robinson's review.  The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Abrams Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. So glad you enjoyed this one! I've given it several times as a gift this year. Thanks for linking to my review ;-) Finding this book was one of the joys of last year's Cybils process.

  2. Don't ignore Something From Nothing, by Phoebe Gilman, another version of of Joseph's Little Overcoat. What a great group of stories to share and compare. Thanks!

  3. Nice to find a review here. I bought this a couple of weeks ago for my daughter, she really liked the story. Any other books from the author you would suggest?