An exuberant fictionalized rendering of designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s early life.
Maclear and Morstad (Julia, Child, 2014) again join forces, here exploring what sparked the firecracker of creativity in “Schiap” (pronounced “Skap”), an indomitable little white girl from Rome who went on to become one of the 20th century’s most influential and radical fashion designers. Maclear’s intimate, first-person, present-tense account begins with how the young Schiap internalized her parents’ affection for her beautiful older sister and their palpable disappointment in their less-attractive second child. It centers on an episode made famous in Schiaparelli’s autobiography—namely, when, around age 7, she was inspired to try to make herself more beautiful by planting flower seeds in her “ears, mouth, and nose” that then had to be removed by “two doctors.” Says Schiap: “My plan flops, but a different kind of seed is planted… / …a seed of wild imagination.” Here, as throughout the story, Morstad’s delicate, detailed mixed-media illustrations masterfully expand on the text, showing a full-page close-up of the doe-eyed Schiap’s face dwarfed by a dazzling garland of flowers, some of which are pointedly colored in what the adult Schiaparelli would later re-create as “shocking pink,” which set the 1931 fashion world “spin[ning] with panic and delight.”
Not only a gorgeous portrayal of this 20th-century creative genius, but an empowering tale encouraging readers to “dare to be different.” (author and illustrator’s note, endnotes, bibliography) (Picture book. 4-8)