Title: The Prince and the Dressmaker
Author: Jen Wang
Genre: Graphic Novel, Children's book, LGBTQ
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This has to be the single cutest graphic novel ever!
The Prince and the Dressmaker is about three things in my mind:
1) Jen Wang's has written a story of a young prince and a dressmaker (a gal) who happen upon each other and wait for it.... DON'T fall into romantic love. Yes that's right don't have insta-love, triangles or any other ridiculousness that so many books seem to have these days. Instead they have gorgeous, and comfortable friendship love. Because of this set-up the morale at the end of the story allows this graphic novel to be read by anyone of any age. I can totally see a five-year-old loving this story and thinking it's so fun! I can also imagine some children (male or female) that start asking about wearing clothes like the opposite sex; which is truly why this book is so brilliant.
Anytime a child can look at you and not understand why you have prejudice it means that your prejudice is loosely founded in lies or that your logic makes no actual sense without societal context. It's my absolute favourite thing about kids between 3-6; their inability to understand why we always seem to say one thing and do another. I love those little ones who call out the adults around them for not doing what they say.
2) So, obviously now, one of the best parts of the story is that the prince enjoys wearing women's clothing. Now I don't think most people need to be told that if you are a part of 'formal' royalty (not the kind that are in the gay pride parade, ;) ) that a royal's existence is all about image, formality and traditional. So cross-dressing is/would be generally frowned upon (although I an dying to see Prince Charles in a ball gown). Wang chooses to demonstrate and refute why it shouldn't matter what your wearing. She does this by never asking the question about what makes certain clothing on certain people so incorrect or objectionable. This is a brilliant approach as it leaves the 'learned by society' crap out of the entire discussion.
3) And finally the art is sooo adorable. On every page I just want to pinch or squish the cute cheeks of our dressmaker. I really enjoyed the many moments in which he made such a convincing girl! Half of the girls who read this will possibly wish they had the princes dresses to wear themselves. This may seem insignificant but think on it for a minute; those girls won't be thinking about why the prince is wearing 'girl' clothes; but instead why they want to wearing those pretty dresses.
In case it's not obvious from my three favourite things above let me spell this out; The Prince and the Dressmaker is brilliant because it never asks the question about why the Prince wishes to wear dresses. Wang doesn't allow the prejudices, society influences or dark history to bleed into the story. Instead she simply presents a situation and leaves the reader unable to refute why the Prince shouldn't wear dresses. Not only does this allow the children reading it to just accept it; but it doesn't carry the prejudices forward. Additionally it leaves parents unable to refute that there isn't any really 'good' reason why the Prince can't wear dresses. Because as soon as you get into that thought all you're left with are reasons the story ignores.
Taking a topic that is controversial or difficult and turning it into a story that children can love and connect with is so important. It leaves them to decide what they think. I for one think can't wait for Jen Wang's next book on a seemingly difficult topic so that I can also see a way to take the noise out of a topic the way she so brilliantly does here.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.