Friday, July 15, 2011
Book Review: Your Friend in Fashion, Abby Shapiro, by Amy Axelrod (Holiday House, 2011)
It's 1959, and eleven year old Abby Shapiro knows that dolls are not just for babies. She wants nothing more than one of those brand new Barbie dolls to add to her doll collection and a bra, which her mother insists she doesn't need yet. In order to earn the money for these purchases, she begins to write to glamorous political wife and fashion plate Jackie Kennedy, sending her hand-drawn paper-doll fashion designs, with the goal of becoming her personal fashion designer. The fact that she doesn't hear back from Jackie doesn't stop her from continuing to write, filling in the letters with details from her life along with her ongoing fashion tips.
It's no wonder that Abby is interested in fashion; her family owns the best women's shoe store in town, and she's been designing paper doll outfits since third grade. The novel can be seen as a coming-of-age story in which Abby lives through a challenging year in which her abusive father moves out of the house, her gangster Uncle Max falls in love, and Abby struggles with her relationship with her mother, but the author also weaves in a great deal of humor, some of which may make you laugh out loud.
I was charmed by the heroine of this new novel by debut novelist Amy Axelrod. Abby narrates her own story with age appropriate humor, interspersed with her lengthy letters to Jackie, which are written in script. Abby lives in a traditional Jewish family, and the story is enriched by many Yiddish words and expressions (a glossary and pronunciation guide is provided in the back). The book, appropriately enough, is abundantly illustrated with paper doll fashions which were actually made by the author as a girl. I felt the character of the father was a bit one-dimensional, but all in all, this is a good pick for tween girls who like humorous realism combined with some family drama.