Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was always different. And she vowed to prove that being different was an advantage! Poor, skinny, and orphaned, Coco stubbornly believed that she was as good as the wealthier girls of Paris. Tapping into her creativity and her sewing skills, she began making clothes that suited her (and her pocketbook) — and soon a new generation of independent working women craved her sleek, comfortable, and practical designs. Now an icon of fashion and culture, Coco Chanel continues to inspire young readers, showing just how far a person can come with spunk, determination, and flair. Back matter includes a fashion time line and a bibliography.
From School Library Journal
Grade 2–6—A celebration of the life of a major fashion designer and independent spirit. Chanel was born poor, was scorned, and ultimately succeeded because of her own talents. "Coco couldn't afford to dress like the corseted ladies of high society and she was never going to be shapely. There was no point in trying to be like them. Instead, she tried to be different." Like Kathryn Lasky's Vision of Beauty (Candlewick, 2000), this imaginative tale should be shared with every child who thinks Jane O'Connor's Fancy Nancy (HarperCollins, 2005) is the epitome of high fashion. The story is accompanied, appropriately, by elegant pen-and-ink and watercolor cartoons that capture her struggles as a young woman, as well as her innate sense of style. Viva, Coco.—Kathleen Whalin, York Public Library, ME
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As it turns out, Coco Chanel is a terrific subject for a picture-book biography. A poor, skinny orphan, she brightened her colorless convent childhood by sewing dresses for her dolls. She also dreamed big dreams. Once she was on her own, she turned her tailoring talent into a career as a dress designer. Coco, who was sticklike rather than shapely, designed dresses for figures like hers. Soon, her clothes were being snapped up, and thanks to her enigmatic personality and sense of style, she became a celebrity. Matthews' writing style is right on the mark, as breezy and appealing as Coco herself. Wisely, the author frontloads the book with stories of Coco's disadvantaged youth, which have immediate pull for readers. It's too bad that the pictures don't measure up to the writing. Although often amusing, and occasionally moving, they never capture Coco's elegance. Moreover, all the characters have snoutlike noses that are seriously distracting. Despite that, this rags-to-much-nicer-rags story is well worth reading. Ilene Cooper
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