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Review of The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker
by Jen Wang; illus. by the author
Middle School, High School    First Second/Roaring Brook    282 pp.
2/18    978-1-250-15985-4    $24.99
Paper ed.  978-1-62672-363-4    $16.99

With a setting and palette reminiscent of Disney’s Cinderella and a setup involving a royal ball, this graphic novel has all the trappings of a rags-to-riches romance. And it is one — in a joyfully subversive and inclusive way. Seamstress Frances causes an uproar when she designs an unconventional gown for an unconventional young lady to wear to Prince Sebastian’s birthday ball. Just as Frances is about to be fired from the dressmaker’s shop, she receives an offer of a position as personal clothier to a mysterious client. The client is soon revealed to be Prince Sebastian himself; as he explains, some days he feels comfortable identifying as male, but other days he feels like a princess. Frances designs the haute-est of ladies’ haute couture for Sebastian to wear as his alter ego, socialite Lady Crystallia. As the teens struggle to keep Sebastian’s secret, resist the stifling expectations of those around them, and sort out their feelings for each other, tensions escalate between them and between Sebastian and the king. Happily, a dazzling climactic catwalk scene provides opportunities for reconciliation and for the characters’ talents — and true colors — to shine. Wang’s illustrations balance the finery of the clothing and settings with her relatable, endearing protagonists. Dynamic panel shapes and sizes accentuate the emotions of each scene, whether poignant or triumphant. An author’s note explains Wang’s process and provides glimpses of the conceptual sketches.

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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