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Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

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Morris has a great imagination. He paints amazing pictures and he loves his classroom's dress-up center, especially the tangerine dress. It reminds him of tigers, the sun and his mother's hair.

The other children don't understand--dresses, they say, are for girls. And Morris certainly isn't welcome in the spaceship his classmates are building--astronauts, they say, don't wear dresses.

One day Morris has a tummy ache, and his mother lets him stay home from school. He stays in bed reading about elephants, and her dreams about a space adventure with his cat, Moo. Inspired by his dream, Morris paints a fantastic picture, and everything begins to change when he takes it to school.

32 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2014

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Christine Baldacchino

4 books13 followers

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5 stars
745 (39%)
4 stars
777 (41%)
3 stars
289 (15%)
2 stars
56 (2%)
1 star
21 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 400 reviews
Profile Image for Calista.
3,885 reviews31.2k followers
August 5, 2019
Morris likes to wear the tangerine dress that reminds him of his mother’s hair and a tiger. He has a wonderful imagination. He likes the sound the dress makes, the swish swish. He is made fun of by everyone in his class. He decides that he doesn’t care. He is very brave and some kids do come around.

My nephew has been socialized and he laughed at Morris for wearing a dress. I can remember a time he liked to dress up like his sister and he thought it was funny. By the end of the book he thought this was ok, but weird. He didn’t understand why someone would want to wear a dress and be made fun of. He did say he thought that if you wanted to wear a dress and make friends like Morris did, he thought robots would be better than astronauts to make friends.

The artwork is mostly black and white with only the tangerine color in the book to stand out. Well, there is some blue as well for elephants. The art has a sense of whimsy.

The nephew thought this book was ok. He thought Morris silly, but he liked that he made friends in the end. It was an ok story. He gave this 2 stars. Then he changed it to 3 stars.
Profile Image for Melissa Chung.
904 reviews324 followers
April 24, 2016
I read a ton of picture books to my children. I never add them to my overall book count because they are so easy to read. I also never write a review because again they are children books, but this is important to share.

I read this story about a little boy who loved wearing a tangerine dress from the dress up area at school. I read this book to my two boys 8 and 10. They both had no qualms with the boy wearing a dress and my oldest son commented on the story. I wanted to share his comment with you. "This is a weird story mom. I don't think gender roles need to exist in society. You should be able to wear what you want and do what you want. Gender roles are stupid." I couldn't have said it better myself.

It made me proud of my son to say something so grown up. I got a little choked up at the end of the book and pretended to have a coughing fit so my boys wouldn't hear my voice quiver. We need more of these books to be written.

The book left off on a happy note. The kids realized the boy wasn't weird and if he wanted to wear a dress so be it. They could still have fun with him and that is all that matters.

Profile Image for Cynthia Corral.
396 reviews50 followers
October 12, 2015
I go to the library every week and often just grab a random big stack of books for my three year old granddaughter because we generally like all books. So I didn't realize this was a "message" book until I'd gotten home. I like that it challenges roles and reinforces values that my family has, and the illustrations are simply beautiful. Truly, my favorite part is the illustrations.

I have to take away a star though because I just got bored with it. Too much swish-swishing and click-clicking and not enough substance happening. I liked the concept, but was bored with the execution. My granddaughter hasn't come over to read and give her seal of approval yet, and our opinions don't always agree, so I'll come back later this week with her view.

Edited to add: Okay the granddaughter "read" it with me, and she liked it but did not seem that impressed. I wasn't asked to read it again. She enjoyed listening to it, and we discussed that boys can wear a dress if they want just as she can wear pants or the color blue. What bothered me though as I read it to her was that the boys tell Morris he can't play in their spaceship because "astronauts don't wear dresses". That particular claim isn't even addressed in the book, and I'm sure Sally Ride would have something to say about it. Since my 3 year old granddaughter really didn't care if a boy wanted to wear a dress or not, we instead discussed being an astronaut, and then we pretended to fly in our own rocketship which she piloted - while wearing her Hawaiian dress. Our particular rocketship ride was "to Disneyland!!" because when I suggested a trip to the moon she leaned over and whispered "No Grandma, the moon isn't a trip."

While she enjoyed the book, the fact that she didn't ask me to read it again is a big mark against it, so although I don't think it's a bad book at all (and the illustrations are still fantastic) I have to move the stars down to three.
Profile Image for Rachel Aranda.
881 reviews2,262 followers
June 1, 2022
5 stars

I’m so glad this book exist! Had a hard day so decided to just choose a book at random and the tangerine dress grabbed me just like it did Morris. This book discusses gender roles through clothing in a way kids can understand and it shows how unimportant it is in regards to the person. Ended up checking the book out to read to my goddaughter and want to read it to kids at the library since it is Pride Month (it wasn’t scheduled but hopefully it will be).
Profile Image for Rachel.
2 reviews
March 26, 2015
I don't usually write reviews, but I just have to share how awesome I think that this book is. Even though there's not much demand at my library, I've looked at book lists on gender-bending or nontraditional gender roles for kids. However, I've been generally underwhelmed by the many books that are on those lists because "she's a princess, but she's also smart." I just don't think that there is (or should be) anything particularly novel about that concept.

This book is about a boy who chooses to put on his favorite tangerine dress every day when he gets to school, because it makes him happy. Without being preachy, overly complex or theoretical, this book manages to communicate that Morris' gender expression is okay, and just one part of who he is. If the other children want to go on Morris' awesome pretend space adventures, they better accept the dress. Morris Micklewhite... avoids labels about sexuality and gender that most children probably aren't ready for. When little Becky tells Morris that "boys don't wear dresses," he says, "this boy does." And that's that.

I've had parents request superhero books for their sons and turn down Wonder Woman, and I've heard one friend tell another that he can't read Dork Diaries because "it's for girls." Morris Micklewhite... is so necessary, and such a breath of fresh air.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
21 reviews
January 3, 2015
I read a lot of picture books while shelving at the library but I don't add most of them (since they take me about a minute to read) unless I have something to say about them! One thing I've noticed lately is an increase of children's books dealing with gender issues. This was a sweet book that dealt with bullying and individualism in a positive way, and I'm so glad there are books like this to normalize diversion from traditional gender expectations at such a young age.
Profile Image for Karen Witzler.
477 reviews157 followers
April 4, 2017
Very good look at a sensitive and artistic child who is bullied for not following gender norms. Morris loves the swishy, crinkly tangerine-colored dress in the costume box at school. He wears it every chance he gets and lets the dress fuel all of his imaginative play. A quietly supportive and loving mother is present. Well-written text, very nice illustrations. Pre-K - Grade 2 children's picture book.
Profile Image for Jillian.
2,524 reviews23 followers
May 22, 2016
I liked this book, but I didn't love it.

For one thing, I work with kids in the target age group for this book - and some of the boys will wear dresses during playtime, and another has painted nails, and none of the other kids think anything about it at all. So I'd be very hesitant to read them this book, which explicitly calls out the stuff they think is normal and tells them it's weird before THEN telling them it's okay again.
For another thing, I'm a little worried that there's no communication at all about what's going on at school - no teachers are noticing the bullies? Mom can't tell Morris is faking being sick or, if she does know, doesn't talk to him? Or to a teacher?
And one last nitpicky thing - another girl in his class wants to wear the dress. First she tries to take it away by force (unacceptable), and then "demands it" (also unacceptable, though understandable given her age), and Morris says she can have it "when he's done." But from what we see, he's never done. He even takes the dress home with him...so is he ever actually going to share?

Anyhow, I thought the book as a whole was good. The illustrations are great and vibrant and very immersive. I liked how Morris was able to be multifaceted and not "just" the boy who wears a dress. I liked how his reasoning behind things was very straightforward - he's definitely not "confused" about anything. So it definitely has its ups as well as my nitpicks!
Profile Image for Jen.
244 reviews8 followers
July 4, 2014
Original review at http://www.perogiesandgyoza.com/2014/...

Morris Mickelwhite, son of Moira and roommate of Moo the cat, is a character. He's creative and strong and unique. When he hits a snag he takes a moment out then dusts himself off and comes back up again.

Morris loves to play dress up in a tangerine dress, and I'm sure you can imagine the comments he gets from school mates. These comments about something he love give him a stomachache. Taking time off to regroup with his mother, his cat, and his imagination gives him the confidence to go into school and blaze his own path.

I have read a lot of "issue" books and it just doesn't work if the quality isn't there. In this case the storytelling, the character building, and the artwork are well beyond what you would expect of a normal picture book. Baldacchino uses great use of onomatopoeia to bring interest to younger readers as well as older readers who will enjoy the story and characters.

Morris isn't the only the star character. Malenfant uses the same deft hand for the moving expressions on Morris' face as she does to bring the tangerine dress to life. Make no mistake, this dress will be as fascinating to most readers as to Morris. Malenfant's charcoal, watercolour and pastel illustrations draw your eye to that dress and make you realize just why he has such a yearning for it.

This is more than just an issue book. Yes, it breaks gender stereotypes and gives a great role model for going your own way, but the reason you'll re-read it is because of the stunning artwork and the way the words work perfectly together.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.1k reviews271 followers
February 22, 2014
Morris Micklewhite loves going to school and playing dress up. But when his classmates start teasing and shunning him because he enjoys wearing an orange dress, he stays home from school. After spending time with his nurturing mother and beloved cat, he is inspired to paint and returns to school, once again filled with confidence. If his classmates want to explore the world with him and have cool adventures, it will have to be on his terms, dress and all. I like the message of self-empowerment in this book and Morris's determination to be true to himself. The charcoal, watercolor, and pastel illustrations will bring a smile to the lips of many readers who will recognize just how cruel children can be to anyone different as well as how much courage it takes to be true to oneself.
Profile Image for carrietracy.
1,352 reviews19 followers
February 14, 2015
I theory I love this. It has beautiful illustrations and Morris, the wearer of the tangerine dress emerges at the end, unscathed by bullies. I liked the show of diversity and how Morris's personality and creativity was what won the day in the end.

Here's why I'm holding back additional stars.
1. As another reviewer mentioned, this isn't a great diversity read aloud because if it hasn't occurred to children to bully for this particular behavior, well, it is clearly set off in the book as something other kids view as strange, different and wrong. So while it's great for kids who are going through this, it won't work as well in other contexts.

2. Why in books like this does the kid always end up being friends with the bullies? That's not how it goes. The bullies are bullies. And most of the time, they stay that way. It's the bystanders or other outsiders who would legitimately end up befriending Morris and there would be NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. A class is more than 6 kids. It usually has kids that exclude, kids that are excluded and then a whole bunch in between. I would have rather seen Morris with a group of friends who ignore the bullies with him or stand up to them with him. I am heartily sick of reading books that give kids the idea that bullies can and should be won over into your bosom buddies.

3. Why doesn't he talk to his mom about it? Or why doesn't she talk to him? Just sitting together isn't quite enough parenting in a situation like this.

PSA: Hey kids, ignore your bullies, make friends with people that aren't jerks.
Profile Image for La Coccinelle.
2,245 reviews3,563 followers
September 17, 2020
Kids can be little stinkers. Especially when they're so steeped in gender stereotypes that they make other kids' lives miserable. Gender is kind of weird, if you think about it. Based on the bodies we're born with, society assigns us a set of rules that we're supposed to follow. And if you don't follow them... well, trouble often ensues.

That's the case here for Morris, who absolutely adores the tangerine dress in his classroom's dress-up center. It swishes and crinkles and reminds him of his mom's hair. But the other kids don't get it. The girls make fun of him. The boys refuse to engage with him, afraid they'll end up as girls if they play with a boy in a dress. Morris ends up with a stomachache and stays home from school. But then he paints a picture about a grand adventure and ends up sharing that with the other kids... who come to realize that it doesn't matter what you're wearing, as long as you're having fun.

The message is nice. I like the way that Morris's affection for the dress was tied into his love for other things that the dress reminded him of (his mother, tigers, etc.). The pictures highlight the text well.

Overall, this is a good story that teaches compassion, empathy, and kindness. Oh, and that astronauts can so wear dresses.

Quotable moment:

Profile Image for Mathew.
1,492 reviews170 followers
September 22, 2016
Coming across a book which challenges gender stereotypes is rare these days but finding one which shared a story of a boy breaking free from masculine doctorine is even rarer. Morris is a young boy who, with the full support of his mother, finds great comfort and pleasure in wearing dresses and having his nails painted. In doing so, however, he is segregated by his peers at school and his choices are questioned because he is not fulfilling the expectations which society expects from him.

With this segregation and humiliation comes a sense of great anxiety in Morris which leads him to feeling ill and taking to bed. Yet with mother's tenderness and time, he heals and dreams. The dream is so vibrant (involving spaceships and elephants) that he chooses to try and share it with his classmates through a gorgeous painting. When he begins to build his own spaceship at school and others picture his imagination, they realise that it does not matter what Morris wears, what matters is the creative exploration of the world and their places within it.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,804 reviews2,343 followers
September 22, 2020
Morris has his reasons for loving to dress in the big orange frock, but his classmates don't understand, so of course, they bully him.

I found it a little disturbing how much this poor child is forced to live inside his head instead of interacting with others. It made me too sad. I'm hoping things will turn around for Morris.

On the plus side, I liked Isabelle Malenfant's artwork:


And, you'd better believe if I have to put on a dress for any occasion, it WILL be tangerine!
Profile Image for Brooke.
16 reviews
November 6, 2017
The story of Morris is a very heartwarming tale of a little boy who loves to wear his favorite orange dress. He doesn't see it as him wearing a dress but enjoying something that reminds him of some of his favorite things in life and being in love with the way the dress sounds and feels. Morris is faced with taunting and bullying which he must find a way to overcome. The author does a great job in keeping the story very relatable and reachable to young children. Overall a great read which teaches acceptance and being true to ones self, even in the face of adversity. I would read this story from pre-k-3rd grade.
Profile Image for J. Boo.
708 reviews20 followers
January 12, 2021
Found the storyline insipid, and the children unlikely. Struck me as something that wouldn't be bought for any particular merits of its own, but rather designed for a library or school that needs to fill an LGBT-shaped hole in its shelves.
Profile Image for Kris.
626 reviews38 followers
July 16, 2018
Morris is a young boy in preschool. He likes tigers, and spaceships, and a tangerine dress in the dress-up box. He likes the color because it reminds him of tigers, and he likes the noises it makes when he wears it. The other boys at school make fun of him, because "boys don't wear dresses"; and they won't let him play with them in their spaceship. Morris feels sad and sick to his stomach, but eventually he begins having his own adventures, with tigers and space elephants, and he has so much fun that the other boys want to play with him.
One of the things I liked about this book was that it was all about the kids and their feelings about Morris and the dress. Morris' mother is in the book, but she doesn't push him one way or the other; she just lets him work things out for himself. And there are no teachers or other adults in the book at all. It's just about Morris and the other kids, working through their feelings about the dress and what it says (or doesn't say) about Morris.
Profile Image for Kate.
702 reviews19 followers
December 17, 2015
A truth I learned from this book: it doesn't matter what gender you are or what you're wearing or whether or not anyone thinks what you're wearing matches your gender (whatever that means); if you have a spaceship, and its got elephants on it, and your cat has a space helmet on, then you are winning the imagination game and everyone wants to be friends with you. And if someone still has a problem with your tangerine dress and heels, you just ignore them and continue living in space.
Profile Image for Kasper.
361 reviews15 followers
June 26, 2017
I read this book for a Pride-themed storytime (okay..."inclusivity and celebrating our uniqueness"-themed storytime) and I was worried the parents were going to flip their shit over this selection. None of them did but more importantly, when I finished the book, the preschool-aged boy sitting front and center said, with a huge smile, "I like that book!"
Profile Image for Kimberly.
3,981 reviews83 followers
January 16, 2021
This is a darling book. As the mommy of a four-year-old boy who LOVES putting on pretty dresses and swish-swish-swishing around, I thought this was handled perfectly. I am very lucky in that no one has ever (to my knowledge) said anything negative to my son about his love of pretty dresses, although we did have to reassure him once or twice that *anyone* can dress up as Elsa, because it's just playing pretend, and pretend is for everyone.

I see this book shelved a lot as LGBTQ+, and it always makes me thoughtful. Are we just putting kids like Morris in a different kind of box by labeling them as queer or gender non-conforming? Like...maybe dresses are just really sparkly and fun, and he likes wearing them. Maybe my son just thinks Elsa is a badass because she has super powers, and he wants to emulate her. No one slaps a LGBTQ+ label on a book about a little girl doing traditional boy things. I'm not disagreeing with the notion that this book could be helpful to children who *are* gender non-conforming or queer, I just think it's a bit of a double standard to apply that label to boys who like "girl things" and not girls who like "boy things". I wish it was all just...*kid* things, you know?

Anyway. That is my rumination for today. :) The book is adorable.
October 12, 2015
This book is an immersive read, with a thick plot that really gets you to identify with Morris, no matter your gender expression! By introducing Morris as an individual for several pages before a dress is even mentioned, the author does a great job of giving plenty of room for character development, and really conveying what Morris is feeling, by using real examples that kids can identify with (i.e. when Morris pretends to have a tummy ache to escape the bullies, but "When Morris thought of all the kids in his class and all the mean things they said and did, his tummy ached for real.")
This book addresses a plethora of topics (gender expression, bullying, playing sick, parental support, playing together with classmates, overcoming differences, and more), and this is a book you could use to teach just about any moral lesson in your classroom! With characters of different races and different gender expressions, it is definitely more inclusive than your average run of the mill anti-bullying book, and should have a home in every elementary school library.
November 9, 2017
I loved this book. I love the illustrations and the repetition and similarity of the first few pages and faces. The book reminded me of Billy Elliot and other movies and plays that involve the same kind of story- gay or metrosexual leads, and similar plots like the desire to wear dresses. The other kids in school are so relatable to typical kids in the school districts today- and it's so sad. However, so often there are a few kids who get it and accept others for who and what they are. There is constant alliteration and an experience that involves imagination and make believe. Its simple in words- but complex in meaning, and has a wonderful moral and ending that is simply great. I enjoyed this book!
Profile Image for Miriam.
172 reviews8 followers
March 7, 2014
Oh, do I love this book! It is such a sensible treatment of the subject. Morris loves wearing his tangerine dress and he refuses to knuckle under to peer pressure to abandon his favorite outfit. His parents are honest about the difficulties he may encounter at school, but they don't forbid him to wear the dress and, when he is challenged by classmates who tell him, "Boys don't wear dresses," he simply replies, "This boy does." So there. (I don't have the actual book in front of me, so I may not have quoted accurately.) This is a book we need and a book we've been waiting for. Bravo.
Profile Image for Fats.
277 reviews14 followers
January 4, 2015
Kudos to Christine Baldacchino for being brave, for following her heart, and for exploring a topic that few people dared to talk about. Morris is a preschool boy who loves tangerine dresses because they remind him of his mother's hair, the sun, and the tiger. He also loves to wear shoes that go "click, click, click." This is a book that one might consider controversial, but it's also the kind of book that has so much heart in it. Morris will remind readers about embracing one's identity and having the unshakeable courage of being different. Beautiful illustrations by Isabelle Malenfant.
Profile Image for Sandy Brehl.
Author 8 books131 followers
February 24, 2015

Stereotyping and gender expectations result in bullying and changing a happy, school-loving kid into one with school avoidance and stomach aches.
A strong story that emphasizes the sensory/creative impulses of a very young boy rather than gender identity. When Becky snipped, "Boys don't wear dresses," Morris confidently replies "This boy does."
This will pair well with Fleischman's WESLANDIA for older readers.
Profile Image for Rebekah Potter.
16 reviews1 follower
September 22, 2020
This book taught a good message about how even though you don't fit in you can still be yourself and be happy for being you. It showed readers that despite not wanting to dress like others you can still be yourself and be happy with who you are. I feel like this is something a lot of kids struggle with and eventually give up being themselves just to fit in.
Profile Image for Jen Desmarais.
Author 4 books19 followers
January 20, 2023
Read this to my child and it was very well loved. Highly recommend, especially for boys who like wearing dresses, boys who might tease other boys for wearing dresses, and girls who might tease boys for wearing dresses.
27 reviews
October 17, 2017
Morris has a fab imagination and delight for life. He loves to wear the tangerine orange dress and clickety shoes. He is ostracised by his friends but creates an enviable rocket adventure and proves to be great fun. The boys now take him as he is and he boldly and confidently tells the girls they should do the same. This is a gentle story and very easy to read - feel good.
February 18, 2017
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress
By Christine Baldacchino
Pictures by Isabelle Malenfant

Standing up to bullies can be a very scary and lonely task. This wonderful picture book, written by Christine Baldacchino, will empower and inspire young readers in K-2nd grade to find the courage to stand up to bullies and at the same time learn the importance of loving oneself. Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress received the 2015 Stonewall Honor for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. The French-Canadian illustrator, Isabella Malenfant, uses her charcoal and watercolor drawings to help tell the story of boy who doesn’t let anyone stand in his way of reaching the stars. She has won numerous awards for Children’s Books illustrations. I found this book on American Library Association website: http://www.ala.org/glbtrt/award/stone....

Morris is introduced as a boy who loves many things that kids at his age like including painting, puzzles, school, singing, and dressing up. He especially likes to put on a tangerine dress that reminds him of tigers, the sun, and his mother’s hair. He loves the swish and the crinkle sound of the dress, as well as the clicking sound of his shoes. Not everyone shares Morris’s enthusiasm for dressing up, his friends make fun of him for being a boy who wears a dress and paints his nails. Morris is excluded from sitting with the boys at the snack table and playing an astronaut in their spaceship. Eventually, Morris begins to feel sad and doesn’t want to go to school. His mom lets him stay home with a tummy ache. Morris’s sad feelings are short lived after he has a dream about going on a space safari with his cat Moo, and seeing blue elephants and tangerine-colored tiger. Inspired by his dream, Morris paints a picture of himself in the tangerine dress, sitting on a blue elephant. Morris returns to school with new confidence. He makes his own spaceship and shows his classmates his painting. He invites his classmates on a space safari adventure. His friends soon realize that it doesn’t matter if astronauts wear dresses, the best astronauts know the best adventures.

This book would be a wonderful contribution to any library. Teachers and librarians can use this book to teach about bullying and empowering young children with strategies to help them stand up to bullies. As our society becomes more accepting and understanding of differences, this book would be a great resource to help young children gain empathy, understanding, and acceptance of differences they notice about themselves, their peers, and world around them. As teachers we are responsible for helping create environments in which all children feel accepted, loved, and valued. This book is one of many that would help achieve that goal.
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