Tears & Tulle (Gina Bell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Tears & Tulle, written by Gina Bell and illustrated by Elena Mykolaitis, a tale of female empowerment based on Bell’s social media project of the same name.

Once upon a time, a baby girl was born with a rainbow tulle skirt, a symbol of her magic and invisible to all but her. As the baby grew to a girl, then a teen, then a woman, she faced various hardships. Yet whenever she was feeling down, she would take a moment to “Skip! Dance! Swish! Twirl!”, recapturing the magic of the rainbow skirt and how it made her feel.

A message with a lot of heart, but an execution that falls flat. This self-published indie from freshman author Gina Bell is packed with good intentions, and for the first half of the book, those intentions are enough to carry the inconsistent rhyme scheme. However, as the central character abruptly ages up, the story becomes less about empowering young girls (i.e., the typical audience for picture books) and more about the struggles of adulthood, with the addition of a somewhat self-congratulatory tone (a scene of the adult character reading a copy of Tears & Tulle, complete with creator’s credits and paired with a line on using her “wisdom” to help others, is cringey). The “struggles” the adult protagonist faces are somewhat superficial: she beams as two other teen girls whisper behind her, she cozies into a blanket with a mug, she cries while holding a bouquet of blossoming daisies, she giggles over a mountain of laundry. One “struggle”, looking defeated as she sits amongst a pile of tools next to a presumably broken car, is both hard for children to relate to and feels oddly patronizing. The illustrations use a compelling mix of greyscale graphite with pops of rainbow colors, but the female characters are uncomfortably sexualized for a book on female empowerment, all presenting as waif-like, willowy creatures with giant heads and doe-eyes. The length was fine for a storytime, but the inconsistent meter and story made for a lackluster read (though JJ did enjoy the rainbows). While female empowerment will always be a worthy subject for picture book treatment, this one simply misses the mark, and it’s not for us.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

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