by Fu Wenzheng
Ash Dresses her Friends is a classic picture book about a quiet but steadfast animal. Like Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, it has a striking cover in red, black and white, with decorative silhouettes of flowers. Where Ferdinand’s peers come to appreciate him for who he is, a pacifist bull, Ash’s peers come to accept her shyness and skill as a tailor.
Ash has a talent for meeting the other animals one-on-one and listening to what they need. The sighing elephant needs a shirt, the timid bear needs a dress to dance in and the zebra needs a splash of colour in his life. Ash energetically sets about using a bolt of “beautiful red patterned material” to fashion exactly what they need, down to the last remnant that she thriftily uses to tuck in a baby snail. Once her burst of productivity is over, the friends drift away and Ash is left looking lonelier than ever.
Slowly, the animals return to show their appreciation. They feel very loved and so does Ash.
Fu Wenzheng is a Chinese artist and academic, whose untranslated book 阿诗有块大花布 was exhibited at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2017 but has now been translated and published by New Frontier as Ash dresses her friends. She is a big name in China, especially in Fujian province, where she and her books were featured for World Book Day, in April 2017.
From a multicultural point of view, it is interesting to see the emergence of the children’s literature scene in such a huge, growing country as China. I look forward to seeing more of the intersection between Australian and Chinese children’s books and publishing.
Reviewed by Zewlan Moor
New Frontier Publishing 2018 34 pp hardback ISBN 978-1-925594-02-7