Dear Aunt Debbie,
You know, I can see Eleanor getting into the idea of period costume. We found a colonial outfit last spring in a museum in South Carolina, and she was crazy for it, putting it on and posing every which way. This past year, she's gotten deeply into dressing up. We're currently working on putting together her Halloween costume ("beautiful princess," natch), and she dips regularly into the dress-up bin in her room as well. When I pick her up at preschool, she and her other 3-year-old friends are often wearing bits and pieces of princess, fairy, firefighter, and Peter Pan costumes -- it's kind of fantastic.
One of the books which has helped fuel Eleanor's dress-up recently is a repeat library checkout: Mama's Saris, by Pooja Makhijani, illustrated by Elena Gomez. The narrator is an Indian-American girl, who for her seventh birthday wants nothing more than to wear one of her mother's special saris, which are kept in a suitcase under her parents' bed. The mother at first says no, but as they go through the suitcase, looking at each sari and remembering the special occasion each was worn, she realizes how much the narrator wants to feel grown-up, and ends up letting her wear a sari for her birthday party.
It's a sweet story: the narrator admires her mother, and the saris are presented as glamorous and evocative. The book hints at assimilation: Nanima (grandma) wears a sari every day, while Mom pulls them out only for special occasions: "I think Mama looks so pretty when she wears her saris. They are so different from the gray sweaters and brown pants that she wears to work every day." The writing is a little flat, but perfectly serviceable, and the illustrations are largely set on close-ups of sari patterns, so turning the pages feels like moving from one bolt of gorgeous cloth to the next.
Since reading this book, Eleanor has taken possession of an Indian wrap-around skirt I have, and turned it into her "sari." I love the fact that this word is now in her vocabulary, and that she, like the narrator of the book, deeply wants a real one when she gets a little older.