Children’s Book Wardrobe Envy

This article on Jezebel detailing the many movie and television outfits that the author of the piece wished that she had hanging in her own closet got me laughing—and thinking about what characters from the world of children’s books have wardrobes I’d personally yearn for. It turns out, depressingly, that there are a good number of picture book characters who dress much better than I do.

Pretty much everything in Olivia’s closet is a thing of beauty but this, her signature look, is still her best. That splashy red! The sailor collar! Those stripey tights! The whole ensemble says, “I am playful, but underestimate me at your peril.” And who wouldn’t want a dress that said all that without you having to say a word?

Like me as a child, Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeline has to wear a uniform at school. Uniforms are meant, of course, to level the playing field–where everyone looks the same and can be treated like equals. Of course, as anyone who’s been forced to wear a uniform knows, there are many ways to make even an ensemble worn by the masses your own. This can be achieved through accessories, or simply the right attitude. Take that yellow hat and coat, a red neckerchief, and a whole lot of sass, and you have Madeline. Sure the tiger at zoo was intimidated. Wouldn’t you be?

While his cousin Peter went for a more classic look (though he was a tad too apt to wreck it when he’d assembled one), Benjamin Bunny had a jauntier style while it lasted. He knew how to rock a pair of clogs…and a tam-o-shanter, too. And in the words of ZZ Top, “Every girl crazy bout a sharp dressed man.” Or, in this case, bunny.

Kevin Henkes’ Lilly was a master of disguise, but also master at turning out a smart look. With her kickin’ red cowgirl boots, purple plastic purse, snazzy dotted dress, tail bow, cape, and hello, a CROWN, she is the undisputed queen of her world. I wish I had this dress and one tenth of her confidence when she wears it.

Does anyone exude hipster cool like Wilma does in the Where’s Waldo books? She’s never given the center stage treatment she deserves, but we all know that Wilma rocks the stripes and cap in a way that Waldo only dreams that he could. She wears practical shoes. She’s rocking the stripes in every wrong way. And like the honey badger, Wilma doesn”t care. Plus, she could single-handedly bring back the mullet. Not that this would be a good thing. I’m just saying Wilma could do it.

The Little Prince may not have figured out how to have a healthy relationship with the flora on his small planet, but he knew how to put an outfit together. From this bow-tied outfit, to his jaunty scarf, to starry shoulder epaulets the narrators draws on him in his final portrait, his outfits are indeed fit for a royalty.

Literary Hunger

The Telegraph’s imagining of what Alice’s tea party might have looked like.

After seeing a link in PW Daily to this wonderful slideshow of the ten best literary meals on The Telegraph, I started thinking of literary grub myself. It’s not that I disagree with The Telegraph’s choices. (Okay, maybe I do. Thin gruel? Really?). It’s just that I’ve been known to cook, and eat, based solely on the literary merit of a particular food or drink. Heck, I’ve been known to take entire vacations on literary merit alone.

So here’s a small sampling of some of the foods and drinks that books have inspired me to try.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneButterbeer: I tried this for the first time ever a couple of weeks ago, thanks to a good friend and fellow Harry Potter enthusiast, and admit that it was kind of a thrill. Very, very sweet. But still kind of a thrill. Now, would I also want to try Chocolate Frogs? Why yes, I would. Every Flavor Beans, however…not so much. I like to think I’m an adventurous eater, but yet still am not eager to sample anything that claims it tastes like earwax.

 

Anne of Green GablesRaspberry cordial and/or red currant wine: When Anne Shirley inadvertently gets her bosom friend Diana Barry drunk on red currant wine (all the while innocently thinking it’s raspberry cordial), I admit that my interest was piqued. I wanted to try both. And many years ago, on a pilgrimage to Prince Edward Island, I tried raspberry cordial. Only very recently, I had some red currant wine. The verdict? Like Diana, I’ll go with the wine, thanks.

 

The Secret Garden

Porridge: On our honeymoon in Scotland, I determined that if porridge is good enough for Mary Lennox, it was good enough for me. I’ll never want a bowl of regular old oatmeal. Hearty enough to support one in traversing across moors with boys who talk to animals—or at least my husband, who only talks to our guinea pig—it’s tasty as all get-out as well.

 

The Tale of Peter RabbitChamomile tea: Inspired by Peter Rabbit’s post-McGregor stomach ache, I sought out this soothing herbal tea. Turns out that drinking a hot beverage made from steeping tiny flowers is not the wisest idea for someone with allergy issues. As soon as my throat began to swell shut, I knew that relying of naughty rabbits for inspiration as to what to eat or drink was a terrible, terrible mistake.

 

The waters at Bath: Here’s a tip that no one in Jane Austen’s Persuasion ever tells you: if it smells like sulfur it will, in fact, taste like sulfur. And while I don’t regret trying taking the waters (in Bath and in Cheltenham—I am a sucker for 19th century spa towns), I can’t say I felt anything but mildly ill after having done so. But when you’re in the Pump Room pretending to be Anne Elliot, who really cares?

 

Despite the occasional miss (or, you know, inability to breathe), I’m always up for trying something new. Got some literary food obsessions? Do share!

Happy Birthday, Beatrix Potter!

Today is Beatrix Potter’s birthday, and that means it’s time to break out her books and celebrate—at least in my world! Beatrix Potter has long (and I do mean long) held a special place in my heart.

Strangely enough, this place was not reserved when I was four or five. My love for her came just a hair later, in second or third grade I think, when I read a short biography of her in my reading textbook at school. I was fascinated. I was hooked. But up until then, I only knew The Tale of Peter Rabbit. And I wanted more.

Enter my mother, the person who single-handedly fed my obsession with literature as a child and encouraged my love of reading at every possible turn. She bought me copies of Beatrix’s little gems of books. Single copies, small collections of them—one by one, they made their way into my collection. Then came the tiny porcelain figurines of Peter and Benjamin Bunny, Hunca Munca rocking her babies in a tiny, stolen cradle, and musical Mr. Jeremy Fisher who held his fishing rod in front of an open book and played “Getting to Know You” in perfect music box notes.

I loved her artwork, and loved that such dainty little watercolors could dare to exist side-by-side with such stories of mayhem. My favorite was always The Tale of Two Bad Mice, but right behind that were Peter and Benjamin, Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddleduck, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle and Squirrel Nutkin. To this day, the literary pilgrimage I’d most like to take is to Beatrix Potter’s house in the Lakes District.

Throughout my entire life I’ve had literally obsessions large and small, but Beatrix Potter was my first and my most enduring. Which means that today, I’ll read through her books again, perhaps with a cup of tea in hand, and enjoy all the goodness (and madness) of them.

Happy birthday, Beatrix Potter!

The Tale of Peter Rabbit