Week-end Book Review ~ What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World by Maya Ajmera, Elise Hofer Derstine, and Cynthia Pon

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Maya Ajmera, Elise Hofer Derstine, and Cynthia Pon,
What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World
A Global Fund for Children Book/Charlesbridge, 2012.

Ages: 4-7

Dressing up means something a little different to everyone, but for children dressing up is always important.  It might mean trying on a parent’s clothes in the back of a closet, putting on a costume for a performance or holiday, painting your face, playing pretend, or wearing a team uniform for a big game.  No matter where, dressing up is special, but the details of dressing up differ considerably depending on the traditions of one’s culture.

Though the outfits vary greatly from place to place, the reasons for dressing up unite us all.  This richly photographed book of smiling children from around the world dressing up in every imaginable way will open windows onto other cultures for children everywhere.  Whether vibrant beads on the head, neck, and shoulders of a Kenyan child or identical navy blue baseball caps on a Japanese team, it is clear that children everywhere delight in dressing up, whatever the occasion.  Captions accompanying the photos suggest the different reasons people wear special clothing and where to find people wearing such garments: folk festivals, cultural events, religious rituals and even school.  A world map highlights the countries the photographed children call home, underscoring the point that dressing up is universal.

Children will recognize the familiar in these pages and will also be delighted to see their counterparts in other countries dressed so differently.  The pictures are likely to inspire a sense of wonder that may lead young children to think about what they share and how they differ from people of other cultures.  The authors also make suggestions for learning more about dressing up all over the world such as going to museums, making masks and costumes on your own, and visiting cultural institutions and festivals.

Expressing one’s self and experiencing one’s culture through clothing is an important part of developing self-identity. This makes What We Wear a perfect book to have on the shelves of a pre-school or primary grade library, inspiring kids to see themselves and children everywhere as part of a global community.

Abigail Sawyer
December 2012