10,000 Dresses – Perfect Picture Book Friday

tenTitle: 10,000 Dresses

Written by Marcus Ewert

Illustrated by Rex Ray

Published by Seven Stories Press, 2008

Ages: 5-8

Themes: transgender people, self-perception, dresses, relationships,

Opening Lines: 

Every night Bailey dreamed about dresses.

Synopsis: 

Every night Bailey, a little boy, dreams of dresses. Bailey proceeds downstairs to discuss the matter with “her” mother. When Bailey’s mother tells “her” that she can’t wear dresses because she’s a boy. Bailey’s father gives his son/daughter a similar line. The older brother’s take is even harsher,”That’s gross”, and “Get out of here, before I kick you!”  Bailey doubts if she will ever be able to express her true self and her abundant creativity. Bailey’s chance encounter with Laurel, an older girl who is touched and inspired by Bailey’s imagination and courage, develops into a sweet friendship and great creative partnership.

Why I like this book:

There’s a lot of repetition to the tale, which is very effective. Ewert’s choice of the pronoun “she” for this little boy is powerful, but will probably need explanation to younger children. Ray’s cut papers are quite lovely, particularly when you’re looking at something like a dress made of lilies and roses. Ray’s choice to give Bailey only three expressions is interesting and will work for some readers more than others

For some children, boys who like to wear dresses or girls who refuse, this book will speak directly to them. It will also speak to all children who know other kids who are a little bit different from everybody else. It is a challenging and important topic, which has been increasingly in the news as schools discuss bathroom use for transgender children. There are very few picture books that address the topic of transgender children, and I believe this to be a very valuable contribution to this discussion. Ewert has opted for very realistic fiction here, with negative responses from Bailey’s immediate family. These responses will need to be discussed with all young readers. The art work is brilliant in these scenes as Ray has chosen to cut off the parents’ and elder brother’s heads and we see everything from Bailey’s shorter perspective with the focus on her!

Exciting news is that Marcus Ewert is currently working on the sequel, which will be more of a middle reader: BAILEY AND THE VALENTINE CASTLE. Due out sometime next year he hopes!

Activities/Resources:

Discussion/explanation/questions…… this will be a new concept/topic for many/most children to whom this book is read.

If you have boy and girl dolls/stuffed animals with clothes, then maybe a playtime where they can wear clothes not typical to their gender.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

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10 Responses to 10,000 Dresses – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Yay! Marcus’ book is powerful. The design is intriguing too, and I find the art reflects the prickly world any one different can feel. Great choice, Joanna.

  2. Amy D says:

    Wow, talk about a book covering an increasingly relevant topic, and one that I have never seen before. Good for Marcus Ewert for having the courage to take it on. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention, Joanna!

  3. What a powerful story and a great way to introduce the topic. Thank you for sharing this book in PPBF!

  4. I don’t know why, but I am sure I have come across this book before. Possibly a review somewhere. Excellent review Joanna and so pleased you have brought it to PPBF to go on the list. Certainly a topic children may find difficult to understand but which Marcus Ewart has provided the means to do so.

  5. This is such a good book on a topic that needs to be addressed — kids (and others) are becoming more open about being transgender or gender-questioning, and it is so good to have a good book that can add to the discussion in an open and ultimately positive way, as 10,000 Dresses does. Thanks for sharing this, Joanna.

  6. I first learned of this book when I research Marcus Ewert during March Madness. His poems were incredible, so I googled! I’ve yet to read it, so I added it to my list. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Cathy Mealey says:

    Leslea Newman shared this book at NE SCBWI this weekend in her talk on picture books that challenge stereotypes!

  8. Patricia Tilton says:

    I really love this book as it is so powerful. Just think of the kids who are struggling with a gender identity — they have story to relate to! So happy to hear there will be a MG.

  9. Totally agree with what others said about the need for a book like this! This post is one of the many reasons why I’m so thrilled to have found the PPBF series that Susanna has started. It would have taken me forever to find these meaningful gems on my own but now I don’t have to blindly stumble onto them. Thank you, Joanna!

  10. Pingback: Gay Pride Month PB, MG and YA Book Recommendations | Miss Marple's Musings

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