BOOKS: 'I Like Old Clothes' details girl's love of clothingIllustrator Patrice Barton provides a rich backdrop for this extended poem. On the opening pages, the girl and her little brother return home from a second hand store, only to be overjoyed to receive one more hand-me-down from a generous neighbor.
By: Jean Patrick, Republic Book Columnist
“I like old clothes… Clothes with a history. Clothes with a mystery. Sweaters and shirts That are brother and sister-y.”
“I Like Old Clothes,” by Mary Ann Hoberman, is a gentle picture book about a young girl’s genuine love of well-worn clothing. Illustrator Patrice Barton provides a rich backdrop for this extended poem. On the opening pages, the girl and her little brother return home from a second hand store, only to be overjoyed to receive one more hand-me-down from a generous neighbor.
Next they try on the clothes. (Her brother puts an undergarment on his head.) But they also add their own inventiveness.
In one scene, the girl alters a too-big yellow dress. In another scene, she and her brother create puppets out of old socks.
Throughout the book, the girl talks to the clothes. “Clothes, I wonder who wore you before you were mine? Was she light-haired or darkhaired, seven or nine?” The whimsy of the text concludes with a look at the future as the girl wonders “whose clothes they’ll be when they’ve finished with me.”
Patrice Barton’s abilities as an illustrator expand during the tea party scene. Besides showing the attendance of stuffed animals (and the sock puppet who eats a cookie), she shows the girl imagining a real party, attended by the original owner of the dress.
Barton uses a combination of colored pencil and mixed media, including repeating motif of buttons.
At first, they are simply the centers of flowers. By the end, they are tabs for the clothesline that holds the girl’s beloved clothing.
Overall, the pages create an illusion of softness. With threadbare cotton, worn denim and textured walls, it’s hard to resist running a finger across the page.
“I Like Old Clothes” was originally published in 1976 with the illustrations of Jacqueline Chwast. If you have a chance, look at www.poetryfoundation.org/fe atures/video/171. You’ll see author Mary Ann Hoberman, hear her lyrical voice and discover the story behind the poem.
“I Like Old Clothes.” By Mary Ann Hoberman. Illustrated by Patrice Barton. Knopf, 32 pp. 2012.