Book Review: Lily Max – Slope, Style, Fashion, by Jane Bloomfield

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_lily_max_slope_style_fashionThis is the second in Jane Bloomfield’s Lily Max series, published by Luncheon Sausage Books, and as you would suspect, it is all about fashion, baby. Every budding fashionista needs these books.

Lily Max lives a slightly surreal life in an unnamed town quite like Queenstown, with her clothes designer / seamstress mum, her snow sculptor dad, her bothersome (but getting easier to get along with) sister Angelica, her 3-year-old brother Rocco, and their cat Dottie. The book opens on a snow day, with pancakes and snow sculpting and the small matter of a slightly over-decorated school issue ski suit. Lily Max is getting ready for the first of six weeks of school ski days; she can’t ski even a little, her best friend Greer is still in LA, and she has nothing to wear.

Before they get on the bus to the skifield, Lily Max’s teacher Mr Younger gives her a flier advertising a Charity Ski Fashion Show. Then, when they get there, Lily Max’s ski instructor is super-hot Swiss guy Fabien, who seems to be related to her friend Jonathon, and swears that nobody fails his classes. So we are set for the plot: learning to ski, and pulling together a fashion extravaganza. While solving the mystery of her Gran’s ski career coming to an end thanks to a certain Edgar from Switzerland.

The best thing in the book for me is Bloomfield’s description of what it is like to be a beginner skier – and what it is like to start getting the hang of it, when you suddenly start flying and realise that this what snow is for. Her writing literally made me dream of skiing, I woke up as the weightlessness of zooming down the mountain made me lose my balance in bed. “I push down on one leg then the next. Left. Right. Left. Right. Down we go. Wheee! The wind whistles around my Vuarnet sunglasses and into my eyes. Tears stream down my face but i am not crying. I’m so happy! I’m skiing! Finally!”

I was a little disappointed that the book had such a similar plot angle to the previous one; putting Lily Max outside of her fashion comfort zone – away from her arch-enemy Violet, for one – may have developed her pretty cool character even further. Mimi was a welcome new character though, with her awesome national costume and her very useful mum (who sews Korean wedding dresses for a living!) But you know what, kids who enjoyed the first book will love this*, and the attention to fashion detail is superb. “The flared legs of my deep-yellow ski pants fit snugly over my black punk-effect ski boots. I just added two brass buttons on each boot; they shine bright. Mini medallions of hope and determination.”

Recommended to boys and girls of fashion, and those who just love a touch of the outrageous – pop this in their Christmas stocking and they’ll love you for it.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

Lily Max: Slope, Style, Fashion
by Jane Bloomfield, illustrations by Guy Fisher
Published by Luncheon Sausage Books
ISBN 9780908689934

*When I was the age that these books are written for, I was utterly obsessed with the The Gymnasts series by Elizabeth Levy, not to mention Babysitter’s Club. The Gymnasts series in particular always angled towards the big ‘meet’, with arch-enemies galore. They were the same every time, and I used to read them consecutively once a year between the ages of 7-9. Jane Bloomfield knows her audience (and it’s kids like I was).

Book Review: The Pink Suit, by Nicole Mary Kelby

cv_the_pink_suit

This book is available in bookstores nationwide.

The front cover of this book has a photo of Jackie Kennedy wearing a pink suit being welcomed by a crowd of people along with her husband, the much loved President of the United States Jack F. Kennedy. This is a time I remember, even though I was a child. The First Lady, Jackie Kennedy was seen as glamorous with her clothes, hairstyle and accessories copied all over the world. President and Mrs Kennedy were seen as American Royalty.

This novel, The Pink Suit, is fiction, but is based on the true story behind Jacqueline Kennedy’s iconic pink suit. Chez Ninon is a New York boutique owned by two women known as Miss Sophie and Miss Nona or “The Ladies”. Kate is a seamstress working behind the scenes mainly doing the finishing work on garments for the “who’s who” of New York society. “The Ladies” travelled to Paris to attend fashion shows, then sketching the outfits they’d seen before coming home. The designs were then turned into garments – “knock-offs” was not a bad word in this era with often money changing hands for the “right” to use designs. The rich and famous often didn’t want the price tag of Parisian designs – it wouldn’t look patriotic in these hard financial times. The First Lady was no exception, with outrage at the rumours rife about the cost of the First Lady’s clothes. Chez Ninon was commissioned to make many of The First Lady’s outfits for state visits, overseas and formal occasions at the White House.

While Kate had never met the First Lady, she had all her measurements and knew all her imperfections, including a sway back. The meticulous detail that went into the designs and especially the finishing had to be exact. The one thing that the First Lady and Kate had in common was their Irish ancestry with both having roots in rural Ireland.

The material for The Pink Suit was meticulously cut out, pinned, tacked, with many hours of work going into this glorious garment. 22 November 1963 will forever stay in the minds of people all over the world – Jack Kennedy, the President of the United States was assassinated. The world was in mourning. The First Lady’s pink suit was covered in blood and the world was in shock. She had gone from wife to widow in a matter of seconds.
While this is fiction, parts of this book are based on fact. Kate did exist, as did “The Ladies”, but what is fact and what is fiction, I’m not sure.

I found this book a fascinating read. I was 11 years old when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, so remember the shock and disbelief watching the television coverage of this event. The Pink Suit was immortalised forever!

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

The Pink Suit
by Nicole Mary Kelby
Published by Virago
ISBN 9781844089734