Mina goes shopping with her mother to buy a special outfit for her birthday. The problem is none of the dresses are quite right. Will she find something she loves for her party the next day?
The storyline for Mina and the Birthday Dress couldn’t be more straightforward. At the outset, we learn that it is Mina’s birthday party the next day, so she heads to the shops with her mother to buy a dress. Both mother and daughter have smiles on their faces as they walk along the street, but this doesn’t last for long. Mina might look like a sweet-natured little girl with her big eyes, pigtails and pointed chin, but she is a challenge when it comes to clothes shopping. First, Mina announces “I want a blue dress.” But when her mother shows her a beautiful blue dress she changes her mind. The same happens with a green dress and a pink dress. Each time, Mina wants a dress in a particular colour, only to reject it when her mother presents it to her. Thankfully, dress number four is perfect!
Additional interest is injected into the story by Mina’s progressively more negative reactions to the dresses she is presented with. When the blue dress arrives, we are told “Mina shakes her head.” In the illustration, she is shown with her eyes closed, mouth slightly downturned, hand raised in a dismissive gesture. When the pink dress is presented, Mina folds her arms and twists her mouth into a lopsided frown. And Mum is not happy either, as she stands with the three discarded dresses around her. I feel for Mum. Some children can be very choosy when it comes to clothing and mine are no exception!
The book design also adds to the story’s appeal. I like the way Mina’s back is to the reader each time her mother presents her with a dress – we don’t find out her reaction until after the page turn. It is an effective way of generating a little suspense.
The illustrations are simple and lively, the focus is on Mina and the dresses for the majority of the story; there is little in the way of backdrop, additional characters or objects. The characters are outlined in black against a plain white background, thick brown shading showing their skin tone. One additional colour is used in each illustration, notably in the range of dresses. A softer wash in the same tone, or block of colour, accompanies the related text. I particularly liked the use of brilliant yellow as the dominant hue at the start and end of the story – these are, after all, the two most positive scenes in the story. I also enjoyed the unexpected burst of colour in the final party illustration. It reinforces the celebratory scene, and I did have a wry smile when I saw Mina’s three girlfriends wearing party dresses in the three colours she had earlier rejected.
This is an uncomplicated and enjoyable book that I am sure many children would love to have as their own. Amazingly, it was created in just one day by a team of creative professionals volunteering with Book Dash in Johannesburg, South Africa. See below for more about this remarkable organisation.
Mina and the Birthday Dress,* by Ndidi Chiazor-Enenmor, designed by Lauren Mitchell, illustrated by Nicci Nathanson (Book Dash, 2017).
*Click on the hyperlink to enjoy this story!
Ndidi Chiazor-Enenmor is a children’s book author. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria.
Nicci Nathanson is a digital illustrator from Johannesburg, South Africa. She has worked on a wide range of illustration projects, including children’s books, educational books and editorial pieces for clients such as Oxford University Press, Pearson Publishers and Lapa Publishers. Prior to becoming an illustrator, she ran a French décor store for five years with her mother and sister.
Lauren Mitchell is an art director, graphic designer, photographer and illustrator based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Book Dash is a South African non-profit organisation that believes every child should own 100 books by the age of five. As many families are unable to afford published books, Book Dash gathers volunteer creative professionals together for Book Dashes, one-day book creation events. Anyone can then read, download, print and distribute the books under a Creative Commons Attribution licence.