by Jen Wang
9781626723634, $16.99, paperback, First Second Books, Pub. Date: February 2018
Publisher Description: Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:
Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!
Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.
WildlyRead Review: *Caution – spoilers!* Absolutely charming. I loved the bright, colorful, and detailed illustrations. The story moved at a fast pace, but in a way that made sense. It was pared down to its essence – a prince who likes to wear dresses hires a seamstress who keeps his secret and deigns him beautiful dresses to wear as Madame Crystallia, until the seamstress realizes she must step out from the prince’s shadow to fully realize her fashion designer potential. While I found the ending to be highly improbable, I liked it for its hope and resolution. This story wasn’t about being true to life; it was about one boy and one girl discovering who they wanted to be in life and working to meet expectations or exceed them in their own way. I loved that though the prince is found out, his parents eventually focus on their love for him, and even the king shows his support in the most regal and unexpected way. Gone, I hope, are the days in which characters that have any gender or sexuality difference are portrayed as alone, depressed, and on the edge of suicide for their actions. This wonderful celebration of individuality is a book everyone needs to read, if only to be reminded that personal preference does not make someone a bad person, nor is it the end of the world to live up to your own unique personality.
Also, I loved that First Second Books sent out a guide for how to talk about the book when they sent review copies to bookstores. It answered questions about whether Sebastian is gay (no), transgender (no), what words to use instead of “crossdresser” or “drag queen” (gender creative, gender non-conforming, gender expansive), and gave a great one-sentence description: “The Prince and the Dressmaker is a story about a prince who sometimes wears dresses and an ambitious seamstress hired to be the royal dressmaker, who knows (and keeps) his secret.”