Truthfully, I bought this book more for myself than for my tots, but fortunately, my older daughter who is almost 8 enjoyed it just as much as I did (the suggested target age group is grades 2 – 6). In it, author and illustrator Elizabeth Matthews gives a narrative history of Coco Chanel beginning with her difficult childhood being “poor and skinny.” There’s some murkiness here regarding body image, but it has more to do with changing standards of beauty than any real flaw with the story. At the time, everyone was voluptuous, meaning that being thin was not actually chic. So Coco’s sense of empowerment in her skinny frame could be taken the wrong way but is truly something to admire. This would have been okay, but she then went on to design clothes specifically for thin people, using available jersey that was not flattering on “fatter” women (fabric was scarce during the war).
Overall, though, I found it fascinating that she was so different in a time when conformity was expected and never to be challenged. My daughter was amazed that this was a non-fiction story about a real woman. She kept asking me as we read if everything was true, especially the page where it shows Chanel wearing her drop-waist dark brown dress while all the other women were sporting poufy gowns with corsets. That image really seemed to make her realize that being completely different could be not only acceptable but even “cool.” Between that overarching message and the splash of inspiring Coco quotes coating the last few pages, this is just the kind of book you want your tots to feel inspired by and enjoy over and over again. Available on Amazon for $11.55.