Morris Micklewhite is an imaginative little boy who loves pancakes, painting, singing, and his cat, Moo. His favourite part of school is the dress-up centre – the beautiful tangerine dress he puts on there reminds him of tigers, the sun, and his mother’s hair, but the other children tease him for wearing it. A few days spent at home with his paints, his cat, and his rich imagination restore his confidence. Morris returns to school wearing the dress with pride and finds a clever way to win over the classmates who mocked him.
Debut author Christine Baldacchino’s gentle style is reminiscent of Charlotte Zolotow’s 1972 classic, William’s Doll. Like Zolotow, Baldacchino writes with great tenderness about a little boy facing derision for being himself. There is tremendous beauty in the simplicity of her prose; the effect is soothing and comforting. But the author also succeeds in crafting moments of exhilaration. The fantasy worlds that Morris and his classmates journey to are rich and varied, and give voice to the highly creative imaginations of the very young.
Baldacchino’s narrative leaps to life with the help of veteran illustrator Isabelle Malenfant’s creative, dreamy pictures. The Montreal-based artist’s broad use of colour is a delight for the eyes as readers are treated to one beautiful scene after another.
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress is a wonderfully moving and enriching picture book. Morris is a relatable character whom many readers will find both sympathetic and familiar. The message here – that it is not only okay but important to be yourself, and to support others in doing likewise – is of great significance. Baldacchino and Malenfant are to be commended for producing such a lovely, inspiring book.