Frances is a tailor in a dressmaker’s shop, but she dreams of more. She wants to design her own dresses one day, and become famous. They’re in Paris after all, and anything can happen. Through a series of (un)fortunate events, she ends up at the royal palace, making clothes for the royal family! She works closest with Prince Sebastian, who is guarding a secret. Frances makes dresses for him, because he loves to dress in them and go out at night as the Lady Crystallia, the famed beauty and fashion icon. Sebastian is less interested in the hunt for a bride and more interested in helping Frances with her designs. Frances is fond of Sebastian, but keeping his secret means keeping herself a secret, too. She’ll never be able to make a name for herself, because if she does, Sebastian’s secret will be revealed. Will she find contentment in anonymity, or will she find a way to reach her dreams without revealing Sebastian’s secret?

After all the publisher’s glowing reviews, I found this one less charming than it was made out to be. Everything happened too neatly, and the happy ending was less than believable. It is for middle-grade readers though, who will absolutely adore it. It’s easy to read, with wider spaces between panels and easily digestible chapters. The art is also easy to move through: the characters are rounded, the backgrounds uncluttered, and emphasis is on expression and, of course, movement of dresses. I can definitely see how it can be used to explain to kids the idea of gender-fluidity – Sebastian is male, yet is interested in feminine things, and young readers may see this quality in themselves or their friends. As a jumping point for this discussion, it’s wonderful; on it’s own literary quality, I was left wanting.

– Kathleen

Wang, Jen. The Prince and the Dressmaker. 2018.

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