Twentieth-century Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli was known to rival Coco Chanel with her surrealist, boundary-pushing styles. But the fashion rebel’s foray into the industry was predicated on deep-seated feelings of childhood inferiority that ended up serving as the source for her creativity and influence.
Schiaparelli’s story is the basis for a new biographical picture book by kidlit superstars Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad, due in winter 2018 from Penguin Random House’s Tundra Books imprint.
Toronto-based Maclear and Vancouver-based Morstad decided while promoting their previous collaboration, 2014’s well-received Julia, Child (a fictionalization of the eponoymous renowned chef’s childhood), that they’d be interested in doing another project together.
“I love being on Julie’s visual planet – who doesn’t? That’s why I knew I wanted to work together again,” Maclear says. “She mentioned she’d love to do a book about Schiaparelli, and the idea instantly intrigued me. … I can’t think of a better medium for introducing stories of artists like Schiap who jump fences and enlarge our ways of seeing the world. I discovered she spent her childhood feeling horribly ugly and being told she would never be as pretty as her sister. That she went from that painful beginning to become a leader in a fashion world built on traditional notions of femininity and beauty staggers me. I realized that underneath the fashion story, her story was also about something else.”
Bloom, the first in a two-book deal, focuses on Schiaparelli’s youth, and examines how beauty can be found in unexpected places. A yet-unnamed follow-up, also in the vein of picture-book biography of a strong female luminary, will appear a year later.
Maclear’s agent, Jackie Kaiser at Westwood Creative Artists, and Morstad’s agent, Emily van Beek at Folio Literary Management, struck a six-figure deal with Jill Davis at Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins U.S. for world rights (excluding Canadian rights) to both books. Tara Walker, Tundra’s editorial director and the acquiring editor for Julia, Child, obtained Canadian rights for what was initially a single title pitch.
“I was immediately taken by Kyo’s lyrical text, and Julie’s sample of a blossom unfurling from Elsa’s Schiaparelli’s head struck me with its surreal beauty,” Walker says. “I can’t think of a better, more magical duo to bring the story of such a visionary artist to life – Kyo and Julie have such a complementary sensibility.”