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Hannah and the Seven Dresses


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About the Author

Marthe Jocelyn is a talented and versatile author, and artist. She has written two novels for middle readers, The Invisible Day and The Invisible Harry, and a novel for young adults, Earthly Astonishments. She also wrote and illustrated Hannah and the Seven Dresses and Hannah's Collections. Marthe Jocelyn and her family divide their time between New York City and Stratford, Ontario.


Jocelyn's (The Invisible Day) slim story serves primarily as a vehicle to display her simple yet cheerful cloth collage art in a medley of palettes and patterns. Hannah, with her closet full of dresses handmade by her mother, breaks out in a sweat when she has to decide which to wear: "Her face got hot. She shivered all over. Her knees went jiggly and her toes curled under." She decides to assign a specific day of the week to each dress, then models them, one at a time; Jocelyn coordinates wall and floor coverings with each outfit. But readers never see where she goes or what she does in her dresses. At the climax, Hannah's shivers and jiggly knees return when she must choose a dress for her birthday party. When putting all the dresses on at once doesn't work, she finally decides to don pants instead. "And from that minute until now, Hannah has never worn a dress again." With these words, Jocelyn's rather flat tale ends on a puzzling note: The book won't hold much appeal for youngsters who have no interest in wearing dresses, and its conclusion will disappoint those who do. This volume might be all dressed up with nowhere to go. Ages 3-7. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

PreS-K-To overcome her difficulty in choosing which of her seven beautiful dresses to wear on a given day, Hannah decides to put on the same dress every Monday, another every Tuesday, etc. When her birthday comes, however, none of them seem quite special enough so she dons them all. Finding it impossible to enjoy her own party in so many layers of clothing, she puts on pants...and never wears a dress again. This book is a mixed effort at best. It might work, in a limited way, as a concept book identifying colors and days of the week. The fabric collages are attractive, and the little toy elephant that is dressed like Hannah is appealing. However, the slight story becomes strained when it veers from the constraints of a straightforward concept book. Hannah's behavior verges on OCD when she must make a decision about what to wear: "...her face got hot. She shivered all over. Her knees went jiggly and her toes curled under." She also has a disconcerting habit of pressing her fists against her eyes until she sees fireworks. Although clothing might be an emotional issue for some children, it seems superficial here. Even though the book has a pleasant decorative verve, it is an unflattering portrait of excess in the '90s. Maybe Hannah would benefit from a reality check and a copy of Eleanor Estes's classic The Hundred Dresses (Harcourt, 1944).-Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Greenwich, CT Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"Hannah and the Seven Dresses is an amusing, colorful book with a simple and satisfying story...[it] could easily become a four- or five-year-old's favorite book."
-Quill & Quire

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