Perfect Picture Book Friday – Different Like Coco

I feel there hasn’t been enough Frenchness on this blog of late, compared to last year, and today’s post will start to rectify that.

Different Like Coco

by Elizabeth Matthews

Published by Candlewick Press, 2007

Ages: 7 – 11

Themes: Being different, female independence, biography, class-based society, fashion

Opening/Synopsis: “AT A TIME when France was the centre of all that was wealthy, grandiose and fashionable, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was born poor and skinny.                                                     COCO WAS ALWAYS DIFFERENT.”

Isn’t this a cracking hook? From the streets of poverty, through a barren catholic orphanage to Paris, the hub of world fashion at the beginning of the 20th century, Coco carries herself with confidence, independence and determination. Her cheeky charismatic personality is evident from her early fashionable play, to her making up stories at the confessional, through to her creeping in to the polo matches to make contact with the high society of Gay Paris. Her liaison with a wealthy British aristocrat is her doorway into shop ownership and eventual iconoclastic fame for her unique style. She played to her uniqueness and her strengths and she never let her lowly beginnings determine her future or how she should be treated. Her simple, practical yet chic style was to give her legendary fame by her fifties. One telling sentence towards the end of the book is, “women no longer wanted to dress just like Coco — they wanted to be like Coco.” 

Why I like this book: I struggle with thinking up god titles, and this is an example of a great title which captures the essence of the entire book! Matthews has a light, vibrant confident style, rather like her protagonist Ms Chanel! The characters are almost caricatured and there is humor on every page through expression, interaction and witty asides. A lot of information is imparted but with such fun and gaiety, that even young girls won’t be overwhelmed by the content. I most appreciate though, is this willful independent spirit through two world wars and a time of social upheaval, Coco was a real pioneer not just for women, but for celebrating one’s uniqueness. I think many girls will enjoy this spirited biography. I have to say today’s choice may not appeal to as many boys, but why not? It should inspire anyone to dare to dream!

Activities/Resources: 

This is a great lesson plan on Coco for upper elementary students.

I think this could lead into a discussion with this age group, about how people are often treated with regards to their wealth or status or lack thereof.

Why not have a fashion designing art activity!

A fashion show for boys and girls!

This is part of our ongoing Perfect Picture Book Fridays, where we are creating a pool of suggested books and resources for parents and educators. To find out more do visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and her Perfect Picture Book List.

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32 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday – Different Like Coco

  1. I’m sharing this book with my niece, who got a sewing machine for her birthday. She’s on the upper end of the age range, but what a fun looking book. I love the cover and the title. Wonderful choice. I’m looking foward to more Frenchness.

  2. Thanks for the great review. I can’t wait to read this book!

  3. Joanna, I really like the title of this book too! Gives kids such a great message. I saw the movie about Coco Channel with Shirley MacLaine, and loved her head-strong personality. Sounds like from the moment she was born, she was trying to find her path and leave her mark. Such a great book to share with girls. Yes, we need a French book — actually many more.

  4. I agree Joanna that the first line and title are great! Your review certainly intrigued me. My daughter is certainly unique and loves biographies. I bet she would enjoy this book. Thanks for the suggestion.

  5. Excellent! What a great title to share with the kids at the library this summer. This book will keep ’em captivated form beginning to end. Wonderful addition! Thank you. 🙂 BTW, our daughter is going to France this summer on a homeschool mission trip. We will read this before she leaves.

  6. I love these types of children’s books that retell the life of someone famous. You also hooked me with your last line, “It should inspire anyone to dare to dream!” Great review Joanna!

    • Joanna says:

      Jennifer, I do think this is a book that boys should be able to enjoy too, because of that concept of ‘daring to dream big’.

  7. I’m checking it out for myself even if this book may not appeal to my boys. I get “Fancy Nancy” for the same reason. We have to have some girliness and Frenchness!

  8. This book sounds fascinating! I love that this week we have a book about the stage, and a book about fashion! Your activity ideas are wonderful! And, you’ve brought French to go along with Amy’s Spanish – we’re so multilingual this week 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing this interesting and different title!

  9. Heather says:

    Coco Chanel was a fascinating woman. I remember reading an interview with her years ago and loving her unique “voice”. Great choice and I like the activities!

  10. The cover grabs me! I am putting this on my library list. It looks very interesting. Your review was great.

  11. I’m a bit late to the party, but what a wonderful-sounding book! I had no idea of Coco Chanel’s humble beginnings. This sounds as though it would be fascinating reading for anyone. Thank you, Joanna, for adding this “grace note” to our PPBF.

    (You struggle with titles, too?)

  12. Erik This Kid Reivews Books says:

    I like books like this that talk about believing in yourself . I never heard of Coco Chanel but she sounds like a very interesting person to read about!

  13. Joanna says:

    Erik, she really did become quite a famous lady in the world of fashion.

  14. Sounds like something I’d want to read. I’ll just have a little peek of the copy I get for my niece, who is 8 and loves fashion design. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Joanna says:

    Margaret, I confess I always read the picture books I give as gifts. 🙂

  16. Amy Dixon says:

    This book does look fascinating. I love biographies! Thanks for the recommendation, Joanna!

  17. Joanna says:

    Amy, I really enjoy picture book biographies, too.

  18. Loved this review Joanna, and yes there definately needs to be more frenchness around here…lol. I think that last line should read “Dare to dream and dare to be unique!” I love bios. Thanks.

  19. Thank you so much, Joanna. I knew nothing about Coco Chanel…how amazing that she began poor and alone…and used her abilities, determination and courage to achieve her dreams!
    What a perfect book for young girls (and boys)…this is what can happen if we believe in ourselves. 🙂
    Great activity ideas also…a fashion show…perfect!!!

  20. You are so right lovely Joanna! A Picture book after my own heart indeed. Bookmarking right now to include in my books to borrow from the library. Will give a shout-out to your post once I have the book in my hands. Great review!!!

  21. Pingback: Calvin Can’t Fly by Jennifer Berne & Illustrated by Keith Bendis « Book Reviews by Mrs. LaCaze

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