Mr. Frank by Irene Luxbacher
Groundwood Books 2014; ages 4-7, see activities at bottom of post.
“Mr. Frank was a tailor. He had been measuring, cutting, stitching, sewing, mending and pressing clothes for many years.” He is about to begin an exciting new project that brings all his years of experience into play.
Those years are traced for us beginning with the uniforms he mended as a boy more than sixty years ago. Author/illustrator, Irene Luxbacher uses textiles to great effect in the illustrations.
We see him as a young man creating stylish suits, then shrinking hemlines in the swinging sixties, and as the decades pass, designing dazzling outfits—think bell bottoms and maxi skirts, and patching blue jeans.
Mr. Frank is working on a very special order, one even more special than one fifteen years ago for frilly tutus. The process of filling this exciting order is shared, but we’re left to wonder and anticipate—just what is it? And who is it for? He selects velvety soft fabric and a simple yet elegant design, then sets to work. We know it will be perfect.
Mr. Frank is old when he starts on this perfect outfit. We learn that “after sewing the last stitch, Mr. Frank knew there was nothing else he wanted to do.” It’s time to pack up his shop and retire. The Canadian author/illustrator, Irene Luxbacher, excels at sharing small details that draw us in.
“He would hang up his measuring tape, unplug his iron and put away his pins for the very last time…well, almost.”
The collage-like illustrations show Mr. Frank presenting the finished outfit—a super hero suit! to a young boy. The very last spreads are a long, long clothesline displaying numerous colorful and imaginative outfits of just the right size for this child.
And it will warm your heart to know, we see Mr. Frank seated side by side with this youngster at his work table. Imparting his skills and knowledge we assume.
Irene Luxbacher dedicated this picture book to her family “and especially for my dad. ‘Frank the Tailor’ with love.”
She credits her dad with introducing her to the world of pattern, texture, and color. In a guest post on the publisher’s blog page, the author/illustrator shows us her dad’s workspace and shares her process of producing the book’s pictures:
“I made lots of paintings that resembled the look of woven fabric textures, and of course poured over lots of old photos of my dad over the years, drawing and re-drawing his facial expressions and posture as he aged from a young boy into an elderly man.”
This picture book’s portrayal of Mr. Frank’s aging is masterful. Children not only see a man changing physically, but also adapting his skills to each era. I think we should remind kids of the hours and hours in takes to develop these types of skills. Share the author’s post and talk about the legacy of skills he passed on to her.
If you’re lucky you also possess a family member talented in an art or craft. I always maintain that sewing skills skip a generation. My mother both designed and made my wedding dress…
Mom had sewed her own wedding dress also (take a peek at left), and then, always practical, she subsequently cut it down into a tennis dress!
Me? In Home Economics class I once sewed a nightgown sleeve to the side seam and closed a pillow case on all four sides…
My grandmother Katie knitted up a storm for my son when young. I’m just so thankful I thought to gift my gran with little labels that read “Handcrafted by Katie.” (You could do the same here for a talented someone.)
How about you? Has an older family member passed on an art or craft to you? Knitting? Embroidery? Lacemaking? Woodworking?
Related activities for kids–
Encourage a child to create artwork based on this book and then email it to the author to be included on her website on the “Your Art” page.
Perhaps make a collage of textile pieces or color fabric images with chalk, oil pastels, or crayons
This blogger shares “25 Things to sew in under 10 minutes”—projects for kids from fabric flowers to hand warmers.
Discuss the skills of family members and how long it took them to develop their expertise. Encourage them to write a brief story about a handicraft made by a family member—to preserve that piece of family history.
Print free stickers and activity pages from the author’s website to use as encouragement
Mr. Frank was selected for the Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices of 2015.
Find My Grandfather’s Coat retold by Jim Aylesworth for another tailor’s tale.
Read A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip and Erin Stead.
Review copy and images courtesy of Groundwood Books
Find more Perfect Picture Books on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.