10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert, illustrated by Rex Ray
October 4, 2012
Over a year ago, on my old blog, I posted a series about picture books that deal with bullying in one form or another. Those posts will be appearing on this blog as part of my “Looking Back and Moving Forward” archival re-posts. However, I wanted to focus on one of the books I mention in the series in more detail, looking at more than bullying in my consideration of it.
The topic of this book may make some people uncomfortable. In my own life, I have often noticed that it is the things which make me uncomfortable that indicate areas in which I need to grow. The elements of this book which make one person uncomfortable may be for another person a powerful affirmation of self-worth.
Title: 10,000 Dresses
Author: Marcus Ewert
Illustrator: Rex Ray
Publisher: New York: Seven Stories Press, 2008
Genre: Picture book, fiction
Audience Age: 5 and up
Themes and topics: Gender identity, transgender children, identity, self-esteem, self-worth, artistic expression, believing in oneself, bullying,
Every night, Bailey dreams of beautiful, fanciful dresses, but those dreams result in Bailey being chided and mocked, as the family says, “Boys don’t wear dresses!” Although it is never explicitly stated, Bailey is a transgender child who is physically male, yet deep inside knows she is a girl, not a boy. Bailey finds acceptance when she meets an older girl who loves to sew, and who immediately begins helping Bailey to create the dresses she dreams of.
The negative reaction of Bailey’s family reminds us that not all families are loving and supportive, especially when the child doesn’t measure up to what the family believes to be “right.” As I read this book, I cringed at the family’s reaction, and knew that reaction was heartbreakingly real for so many kids. I rejoiced with Bailey when she experienced acceptance and affirmation from her new friend. Both these reactions would make good talking points with kids.
Children may at first be confused about whether Bailey is a boy or a girl. Questions about this could lead to good discussion of the many ways people differ, and the importance of acceptance no matter what the differences. A question that could also be explored with children (or adults) is why it’s okay for girls to wear jeans or pants and t-shirts, but society says it’s not appropriate for boys to wear dresses.
Rather than sharing lesson plans and activities for this book, I have found several websites that provide resources and support for LGBT or gender-questioning children and youth and their families. TransYouth Family Allies and Gender Spectrum are specifically for the families of transgender children and teens. Safe Schools and Welcoming Schools provide information that speaks specifically to dealing with the bullying of LGBTQ children and young people.
Not only is this book a good one for parents of transgender or gender-questioning children to share with their child, it is also very valuable for raising awareness in other families, and for introducing or explaining gender diversity to children. Marcus Ewert is to be commended for this creative and caring approach as well as for adding to the very few picture books available that deal with gender diversity.
Availability: Readily available in hardcover.