No, not me. I’m quite capable of dressing myself, thankyouverymuch. Although I often remain in my pajamas. It’s a comfortable life!
I’m talking about the new book by author-illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy, and it’s a dress-up delight for little readers. What child doesn’t love pretend play, imagining themselves as anything they long to be?
Sarah Frances, how did DRESS ME! come to be?
I knew I wanted to do a companion book for PAINT ME! which released last year from Sky Pony Press, and I had written a manuscript for a dress up book a few years ago that never quite worked. My agent and I talked through it, and she suggested I take the dress-up idea and do another “me!” book with that.
So did you play dress up as a child? What was your favorite thing to be? Were any of your childhood choices reflected in the book?
Did I ever!
The best Christmas gift I ever received was from my grandmother when I was about eight-years-old. She gave me an antique trunk full of the most fabulous dress up clothes ever—shoes, gloves, funky hats, bridal veil, aprons. Over the years, I added to the collection with anything I could find. My dad was a doctor and he gave me a real stethoscope as well as a set of his scrubs …so those definitely found their way into my book.
I don’t remember what my favorite thing to be was, but there are lots of pictures of me wearing a mish-mash of gloves, sparkly dress, high heels and a bridal veil with a hat over it. I can only describe the look as “eccentric hippie bag lady”. And no, that look didn’t make it into the book. 🙂
The little girl in the book is having a fabulous time. What do you think her favorite dress up costume was? (Besides the last one, of course, which we can’t give away!)
Since the book was inspired by (and dedicated to) my middle daughter Sallie who’s a dancer, I’m going to have to say the tutu. Who wouldn’t love getting to do lots of fun twirlies?
When did you know you wanted to be an author-illustrator? When did you go from “dressing up” as one to being one?
One of my favorite props to bring to school visits is my paint smock which is one of my husband’s old button-downs that’s now covered in paint. So I still dress the part!
But to answer your question, my background was in fine art, and I spent years showing in galleries and art shows.
But I had always had a secret dream of writing and illustrating children’s books, and over the years, I submitted manuscripts and illustrations to a handful of publishers without any luck. When my youngest daughter was a baby (she’s eleven now), I decided to shift gears and really commit to being a published author/illustrator. I started going to SCBWI conferences and learning everything that I could about the entire process. I sent out manuscripts and got rejected. I revised, revised, revised—both the writing and my illustrations. I sold my first book PUZZLED BY PINK in 2010 (it released in 2012).
The story would not be the same without the cute little doggie sidekick. Is he fashioned after anyone you know?
All of my books feature a pet following the main character throughout the story and getting in on the action. In PAINT ME!, a gray Schnauzer follows the little girl around as she paints everything around her. He is based on the dog I had when I was a little girl. In DRESS ME!, I chose a King Charles Spaniel for no other reason except that I think they are the cutest little dogs (we have one in our neighborhood). The dog we have now is a giant Black Lab named Jake, and while I’d love to feature him in a book, I was afraid he’d overwhelm the little girl in the story–both in size and energy level! Also, after painting a black cat in every spread in my first book PUZZLED BY PINK, I vowed to never feature another solid black animal. It was so hard!
Besides having fun, what’s the message at the heart of “Dress Me!”?
The message at the heart of the story is “be yourself.”
But I also wanted to throw in a (not so subtle) message to young girls that it’s doesn’t always have to be about dressing up in sparkles and high heels. Girls can be anything they want to be whether it’s a monster or a doctor or a teacher, and it has more to do with what you can do than what you look like.
Amen to that!
Thanks, Sarah Frances, for introducing us to your new book. And thank you for offering blog readers a signed copy!
Leave a comment below and tell us your favorite dress-up memory. (One comment per person, please.) A random winner will be selected in a couple weeks. (Which sometimes means more than a couple, LOL.)
You can also learn more about Sarah Frances Hardy, her books and her fine art at www.sfhardy.com.