Beauty, Art, Music in Literature Books Early Readers Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Redefining Beauty Through Schiaparelli’s “Bloom”

A picturebook biography of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli.

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2018 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

This book has been in my radar for quite awhile now – mainly because I follow Kyo Maclear’s Facebook page, being a fan of most her books. The minute I saw it available in our library, I immediately reserved it via interlibrary loan as I am more than certain that Bloom fits our current reading theme perfectly.

Bloom: A Story Of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli

Words by Kyo Maclear Pictures by Julie Morstad
Published by Harper Collins (2018)
ISBN: 0062447610 (ISBN13: 9780062447616)
Borrowed through inter-library loan. Book photos taken by me.

Written in the first person, Maclear slips into the skin of Schiaparelli, born on 1890 in Roma, with parents who expressed their disappointment at seeing a girl-child, instead of their expected and anticipated boy. They wanted a male sibling to their beautiful daughter Beatrice, ten years older than Elsa.

From the beginning, I empathized with Elsa who felt unloved and ugly – primarily brought about by her parents’ aloofness, cruelty, and palpable preference towards their more beautiful older daughter. While unconscionable, I am deeply familiar with families who do take pride in the beauty of some of their children, to the exclusion of everyone else who do not fit into the classical mould of vintage beauty.

By the age of seven, I wonder:

What makes something beautiful?

In her efforts to look pretty, Elsa even went as far as plant seeds on her face, just so flowers will bloom and change the way she looked. It is fortunate that Elsa found refuge and affirmation from her Uncle Giovanni who lived in Milan. It didn’t matter to him that she had seven moles on her cheek. Her Uncle made her feel that she could fly.

It was not long when Elsa started reinventing herself, finding beauty in the things around her, transforming even commonplace objects – and herself along with it, as she begins to view the world with an artist’s eye.

It is to Maclear and Morstad’s credit that they were able to capture the essence of Schiaparelli’s life with such accessible and distilled text matched with luminous art. Her struggles were not minimized but not overly-dramatized either. Moreover, the narrative is peppered with actual quotes derived from the very thorough research that both author and illustrator have done.

I free myself from Mamma’s harsh words and Pappa’s judgment.
I free myself to be daring, different, and whole.
I plant a new seed of beauty.

Beauty itself blooms to reveal the irregular, the imperfect, the smart, tough, goofy, surreal, and wild.

It is this redefining the very idea of what constitutes beauty that made Bloom truly work for me. The way that Schiaparelli fearlessly paired together unlikely fabrics, materials, objects – only to find something aesthetically pleasing, or shocking, or strange in the configuration is truly inspiring. Definitely a book that will be a worthy addition to anyone’s library.

For those who want to know more about Schiaparelli’s life, here is a short Youtube video that you can watch. Enjoy!

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

3 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Redefining Beauty Through Schiaparelli’s “Bloom”

  1. I enjoyed this book thoroughly and connected to my sister-in-law who has struggled with the same issues in her family, a favored older sister, though my sister-in-law is by far the most talented. She is an accomplished musician who has done so many “beautiful” things in her life. The book’s words and illustrations are amazing, I agree, Myra. Thanks for reminding me about this lovely book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Round Up of My Literary Journey and My Best in Books Across Quarterly Reading Themes – Gathering Books

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