Celebrate Pride with Morris Micklewhite

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress is a story about the courage it can take to be yourself, and it is a celebration of the joy that comes from being exactly who you want to be. If you haven’t already shared this picture book with a child in your life, then Pride Month is the perfect time to pick it up.


Reviews

 “Baldacchino treats the tricky and controversial subject of expected gender behaviors and bullying with care and compassion, employing language and tone that avoid histrionics or preaching.” – Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW

 “The message here – that it is not only okay but important to be yourself, and to support others in doing likewise – is of great significance.” – Quill & Quire, STARRED REVIEW

“Baldacchino’s gentle story sensitively depicts gender nonconforming children, offering them reassurance and, one hopes, acceptance by introducing other children to the concept.” – Booklist

Excerpt

Morris likes lots of things about school. He likes to paint. He likes to do puzzles. He likes the apple juice at snack time and singing the loudest during circle time.

Most of all, Morris likes the dress-up center.
And the tangerine dress.
Morris likes the color of the dress.
It reminds him of tigers, the sun and his mother’s hair.

He likes the noises the dress makes — swish, swish, swish when he walks and crinkle, crinkle, crinkle when he sits down. He takes turns wearing all the different shoes but his favorite ones go click, click, click across the floor.

Illustrations

Morris Micklewhite

 

Morris Micklewhite


Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine DressAbout Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

Morris is a little boy who loves using his imagination. He dreams about having space adventures, paints beautiful pictures and sings the loudest during circle time. But most of all, Morris loves his classroom’s dress-up center — he loves wearing the tangerine dress.

But the children in Morris’s class don’t understand. Dresses, they say, are for girls. And Morris certainly isn’t welcome in the spaceship some of his classmates are building. Astronauts, they say, don’t wear dresses.

One day when Morris feels all alone, and sick from the taunts of his classmates, his mother lets him stay home from school. Morris reads about elephants, and puts together a puzzle, and dreams of a fantastic space adventure with his cat, Moo.

Inspired by his dream, Morris paints the incredible scene he saw, and brings it with him to school. He builds his own spaceship, hangs his painting on the front of it and takes two of his classmates on an outer space adventure.

With warm, dreamy illustrations, Isabelle Malenfant perfectly captures Morris’s vulnerability and the vibrancy of his imagination. This is a sweetly told story about the courage and creativity it takes to be different.

International Women’s Day—Guest Post by Christine Baldacchino

I guess it would be odd to start off a piece for International Women’s Day by admitting that I grew up rather distrustful of girls.

I was bullied badly when I was a child, by both boys and girls. But being bullied by the girls felt as though it was edged with betrayal, and that left far deeper cuts. I was a girl, they were girls. Weren’t we all supposed to stick together?

I grew up watching shows like Dallas and Dynasty with my parents in the evening, and soaps like Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless in the afternoon. Women were constantly attacking each other. They were getting pushed into pools or wedding cakes. They were pulling each other’s hair or ripping each other’s clothes. They were slut-shaming each other, humiliating each other, throwing each other under buses. They were rarely fighting for money or power – that was for the men. The women mostly fought over men. The women would only fight for money or power if it involved taking it from other women. The woman almost never got to be the super villain – she had to fight other women to be the super villain’s wife.

I slowly started to become aware of how frequently and enthusiastically the media pitted us against one another. And when I say slowly, I mean at a glacial-like pace, because the whole “survival of the fittest/prettiest/thinnest/best-dressed/most popular” thing was very deeply ingrained. It took years to realize that my mistrust had been entirely misplaced. The “mean girls” were also victims in a way, though blissfully unaware of it. Or maybe they weren’t. Maybe we weren’t giving each other enough credit.

When I was a child being bullied for not being “a real girl”, I rarely took the time to consider what had the girls so adamantly believing I wasn’t normal, and what gave their attacks that extra bite. Once I did take that time, though, it went a long way towards me silently forgiving my childhood tormenters and doing a little healing. When I wrote Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, I wanted to infuse Morris not just with the pride that comes with being yourself, but also with the pride that comes with being enlightened. It’s what saved my life. It’s what gave me hope that if I could figure it out, maybe other girls could, too.

I was afraid of girls once. Maybe the same way some people are still afraid of a boy in a dress.

Fast-forward to today, sitting in front of my laptop at 4:30 a.m. trying to decide which of all the amazing, inspiring women I’ve opened my life up to I should write about for International Women’s Day. I’ve been agonizing over it for two weeks now, but it’s hopeless – I can’t pick just one, and if I were to write about all of them, I’d never get to bed.

I could have bigger problems, right?


Christine Baldacchino is a graphic artist and web designer with a background in early childhood education. Her picture book Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress was the winner of the CBC Bookie Award for Best Picture Book 2015. She lives with her husband in Toronto. She likes cats and the colour orange.

Throwback Thursday: TD Book Award Edition

Fall is always an exciting time for us. It means hot apple cider at our desks, kids heading back to school, and watching some of the books we’ve been working so hard on get released into the wild. And along with all of these wonderful things, fall is also when the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards finalists are announced.

This year we are thrilled that two of our books, Any Questions? and Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, are finalists for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Not only that, but Morris Micklewhite and From There To Here are finalists for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award as well!

You can see the whole list (and it’s a pretty incredible one!) on the Canadian Children’s Book Centre website. We’d like to send out a big congratulations to Marie-Louise Gay, Christine Baldacchino, Isabelle Malenfant, Laurel Croza and Matt James, as well all the other nominees!

All of this excitement reminds us of times when we’ve had the honor of celebrating the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction, the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, and Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People in the past. In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, here’s a round-up of our award-winning books!


 

TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award

The TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award aims to find the two most distinguished Canadian books of the year for children ages 1 through 12 (in English and French.)

One Year in Coal Harbour by Polly Horvath WINNER 2013
WINNER 2013

Shin-chi's Canoe by Nicola I. Campbell & illustrated by Kim Lafave WINNER 2009
WINNER 2009

Odd Man Out by Sarah Ellis WINNER 2007
WINNER 2007

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WINNER 2006

 

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction

Canada’s non-fiction books for young people are internationally renowned for the superb quality of their text, illustration and design. The Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction was established by the Fleck Family Foundation and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre on May 17, 1999 to recognize and raise the profile of these exceptional non-fiction books.

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WINNER 2013

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WINNER 2012

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WINNER 2003

 

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

The Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award honours excellence in the illustrated picture book format for children ages three to eight, written and illustrated by Canadians and first published in Canada.

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WINNER 2011
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WINNER 2008
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WINNER 2006

 

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People

The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People is awarded annually to reward excellence in the writing of an outstanding work of historical fiction for young readers, by a Canadian author.

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WINNER 2006
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WINNER 2005
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WINNER 2004
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WINNER 1993

National Day to End Bullying — Guest post by Christine Baldacchino

Little Christine BaldacchinoWhen I was about four or five, an aunt told me that if I wasn’t careful when I was eating fruit, if I somehow accidentally swallowed a seed, it would grow in the pit of my stomach into a tree. For years I was terrified it would happen — a seed would somehow get past my teeth and I’d swallow it. The tree’s branches would grow every which way for as long as it took to find a source of light, even if that meant shredding me to ribbons from the inside out in the process. And it would be all my fault. I shouldn’t have swallowed that seed. I deserved what I got. So I started tearing into every little piece of fruit that would eventually pass my lips with my fingernails, just to be one hundred percent sure my stomach stayed tree-free.

My experiences being bullied were very similar, and have had similarly lasting effects. The words and actions of bullies have stayed with me. Once the seed was planted in the pit of my stomach, something ugly grew from it. It slowly made its best attempts to destroy me from the inside out, and, like swallowing the apple seed, I thought it was my fault. Maybe it was because I cut my hair too short, or because I wore no-name sneakers and sweatshirts. Maybe I read too many books, or didn’t listen to the right music. Whatever it was, it was my fault. It just had to be. The girls didn’t make fun of everyone at our school, after all.

For years, I was afraid to be me outside of my own bedroom. It was the only place I felt safe. Even then, though, I would lie in bed at night and stare at my bedside clock, counting down the hours until my mum would wake me up for school. My stomach would start to ache as I thought about what I could wear that would allow me to blend in with all the other kids in the hopes that the bullies would give me a day off from their cutting remarks or cruel pranks, not that it ever worked. Sometimes I would pretend I was sick so I could stay home. I got very good at that. Eventually I turned an emotional survival tactic into an art form.

Whenever it came to letting people into my life, I would tear them open and look for seeds before letting them get too close to me. I had grown up with a lot of the girls that bullied me. They weren’t always bullies. I don’t know what changed, what made them suddenly turn on me, but it made me distrustful of anyone who approached me with an offer of real friendship. One day they could turn on me just like the other girls, I thought. Best to keep them at arm’s length.

The universe kept expanding, but my world, my room, stayed the same size. I was safe in there, but I was alone with my thoughts, and they weren’t always altogether pleasant ones

I wish I could tell you what changed. The clouds didn’t break apart one day to reveal clear blue skies behind them. One day I just decided that instead of hiding in my room, I needed to make a picnic of some of my favourite things, pack them up and take them out with me. Just like Morris, I drank my apple juice, did some puzzles, sang a song and put on my tangerine dress. I had put enough effort into trying to make everyone around me happy in the hopes that they’d leave me alone, when I should have been putting that effort into making myself happy. I stopped looking for seeds, and concentrated on enjoying the fruit.

If you’re being bullied, what they say is true — it gets better. It really does. Do what makes you happy. Wear your heart on the sleeve of your favourite tangerine dress and enjoy the fruit. Share it with the people who love you, and never doubt that you are loved.

If you suspect that you might be a bully, I hope you’ll one day open yourself up to the experience of seeing a seed that you’ve planted and nurtured in someone’s heart with kindness bear a sweet fruit that will eventually bear more like it, rather than a barren, thorny plant in the same place a special soul not unlike your own once dwelled.


Learn more about the National Day to End Bullying

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