Can Zoey dazzle at the school dance AND as a guest judge on her favorite reality show? Includes “Sew Zoey” blog posts and fashion illustrations!
Zoey’s school is having a dance, and everyone is talking about whom to ask (and what to wear!). Zoey gets to work sewing special dresses for her friends Kate and Priti, and the girls make a pact to ask their crushes. Things seem all zipped up…until Zoey gets a phone call from her favorite reality show, Fashion Showdown! The producer is a fan of the Sew Zoey blog and wants Zoey to be a guest judge on an upcoming episode. It’s shaping up to be a fashion fairy tale, but then reality hits: the reality TV show taping is on the same day as the school dance! What will Zoey choose, the dance or the dream?
Lights, Camera, Fashion - - - - Chapter 1 - - - - To Thine Own Self Be . . . Blue?
When I thought seventh grade would be so much better than sixth grade, I forgot that CERTAIN PEOPLE—mainly one certain person—would still think their job is to make life at Mapleton Prep difficult. Everyone always says you just have to ignore those people, but it’s not easy, because they’re in school every day. When I feel blue about it, Dad says I should follow Shakespeare’s advice and “Above all, to thine own self be true,” which is a fancy way of telling me to be myself and stop caring so much what everyone else thinks. It’s easy for him to say—he’s not in middle school.
Speaking of being true to yourself, Aunt Lulu took me to see a Frida Kahlo exhibit at the art museum over the weekend. Frida’s life was so sad, but her art . . . WOW! It jumped off the walls and hit you in the face, as if it was saying, “This is me. Deal with it!” For a person who was often in pain, her paintings were bursting with energy.
Anyway, what I loved the most was that her self-portraits showed off her style: She mixed and matched bright colors, paired embroidered square tunics with lace-trimmed skirts, and wore flowers or ribbons in her hair (which kind of made it look like she was wearing a crown, at least to me.) I loved it all and would give just about anything to go shopping in her closet. And I totally want to wear flowers in my hair from now on. I did a sketch of a few outfits inspired by Frida’s wardrobe with a silk flower, lace, and tons of embroidery. Maybe it seems like too much, but if I make it, I’ll just wear it with confidence like Frida did.
I also want to go to Mexico someday to visit Frida Kahlo’s house, La Casa Azul. There are so many places I want to go! But the only place I can go right now is to bed. Dad just shouted, “Lights out!” since it’s a school night. Feeling less blue already! Thanks for listening.
“I think you’re going to love this one,” Ms. Brown said, winking at Zoey Webber as she handed her a copy of what the class was going to read next. Zoey turned the book over. When she saw the title, The Misfits, her heart sank. English was her favorite class and her teacher, Ms. Brown, seemed to really understand her. Did Ms. Brown think she was a misfit? Not that she wanted to be just like everyone else, but . . . “misfit” implied there was something wrong with her, like she was an odd piece in a puzzle that would otherwise fit together perfectly.
Zoey turned to the description on the back of the book. “Sticks and stones may break our bones but names will break our spirit.” The synopsis said that the kids in the story wanted to be seen for who they really were inside, instead of “as the one-word jokes their classmates have tried to reduce them to.”
Okay, maybe it’s worth a try, she thought.
Just then the PA system hissed to life. “Good morning, Mapleton Prep students. This is Ms. Austen,” the principal said through the loudspeaker. “I have a special announcement. We are having our first dance of the year in a few weeks! This time it’s going to be a Sadie Hawkins dance.”
From the murmurs of “What’s that?” and “Sadie who?” Zoey could tell she wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what that meant, but Ms. Austen continued.
“A Sadie Hawkins dance is also called a Vice Versa dance, because instead of the boys asking the girls to the dance, it’s vice versa. Ladies, this is your chance to do the asking, and, gentlemen, you can sit back, relax, and wait for your invitations. Tickets go on sale tomorrow.”
The class erupted as soon as the announcement ended. Zoey wished she could talk to her friend Kate Mackey, but Kate was at a dentist appointment.
“Why do we have to wait for the girls to ask us?” Joe Latrone complained. “That’s not fair!”
“Do we have to ask a boy?” Shannon Chang spoke up. “Can we just wait for them to ask us?”
“You don’t have to ask a boy,” Ms. Brown told her. “You can go with a group of friends. And, Joe, why is it any more fair for a girl to wait for you to ask her?”
“I don’t know.” Joe shrugged. “ ‘That’s how it happens.”
“Yeah,” Rob Palmer said. “It’s how it’s always been.”
“Well, this time it’ll happen differently,” Ms. Brown said. “If we always stuck to the status quo, we’d still have slavery and women wouldn’t have the vote. Sometimes change is good.”
Ms. Brown started class, but as soon as they broke into their small-group discussions, talk turned to the dance and what to wear. Ivy Wallace was in the group next to Zoey’s. Zoey heard her boasting that she had the perfect dress. Zoey wondered what that looked like.
Suddenly, Ivy turned around and said, “I bet you’re going to turn up in one of those stupid craft projects from your blog. That’ll attract a lot of dates!”
Zoey lifted her chin and tried to ignore Ivy and the giggles she heard from the other kids in Ivy’s group, but Ivy’s remark still hurt her just as much. She tried to remind herself of all the great comments she got about her designs from her blog readers.
“I’ll go with Zoey.”
It was Gabe Monaco, the guy who sat in front of her. Zoey didn’t even know him that well. He was always nice to her, but it wasn’t like they were friends or anything. And she didn’t have a crush on him, the way she did on . . . someone else.
Zoey smiled. “Thanks. That’s really nice of you.”
“I mean it,” he said.
“I know,” Zoey said, but that just made her more confused. Was he just being nice because Ivy was being mean, or was he asking her? Wasn’t this supposed to be a Vice Versa dance? She just smiled back at Gabe, unsure of what to say or do. Zoey never felt more saved by the bell than when it rang and she could escape to her next class.
When Zoey and her best friends, Kate Mackey, Priti Holbrooke, and Libby Flynn, met for lunch, the Sadie Hawkins dance was the number-one topic of conversation.
“Okay, we’ve got two important things to figure out,” Priti announced. “Who to ask and what to wear.”
“I have no idea who to ask,” Libby said. “I don’t have a crush on anyone.”
“Not even the teensiest little hint of a crush?” Zoey asked.
“Nope,” Libby said. “Not even a smidgen.”
“Neither do I,” Kate confessed. “I was thinking maybe I could ask someone from the soccer team. Or the swim team. You know, like, a guy friend.”
“None of you have crushes?” Priti asked, amazed. “I have one, and I’m definitely asking him.”
“Who?” Libby asked. “Spill!”
“Felix Egerton. He’s in my social studies class, and he’s soooo cute!”
“I know Felix,” Kate said. “He’s on the soccer team.”
“Tell me everything!” Priti demanded. “What’s he like?”
“Um . . . I guess he’s nice. I don’t really know him that well,” Kate said. “Just from practice. We don’t hang out or anything.”
“Has he ever mentioned my name?” Priti asked.
Kate picked at her sandwich crust. “No, but . . . it’s not like we talk that much, so I wouldn’t take it as a sign of anything.”
“What about you, Zoey?” Libby asked. “Do you have a wild crush you’re dying to ask?”
“Well, I still kind of like, you know . . .” She paused, afraid to tell anyone, but these were her best friends, after all. “Here goes . . . I was thinking of asking . . . Lorenzo Romy.”
“He’s cute!” Priti said. “You should go for it!”
“I want to, but just the thought of going up and asking him makes me want to throw up,” Zoey confessed. “And that wouldn’t make him want to go with me, would it?”
“Um, no!” Libby giggled. “That would be a deal breaker.”
“Let’s talk about something more fun, like what we’re going to wear,” Zoey said, because thinking about asking Lorenzo was making her queasy.
“I don’t have a date, but I have a dress,” Libby said. “I’m going to wear that awesometastic pink ruffled birthday-cake dress Zoey made me.”
It gave Zoey the warm fuzzies knowing Libby loved the dress she made so much that she wanted to wear it to the dance.
“At least you don’t think my designs are ‘stupid craft projects.’ ” She sighed.
Her friends all stared at her like she had suddenly dyed her hair magenta.
Chloe Taylor learned to sew when she was a little girl. She loved watching her Grandmother Louise turn a scrap of blue fabric into a simple-but-fabulous dress, nightgown, or even a bathing suit in an instant. It was magical! Now that she’s grown up, she still loves fashion: It’s like art that you can wear. Chloe has written more than thirty books for children and lives, writes, and window shops in New York City.
Nancy Zhang is an illustrator and an art and fashion lover with a passion for all beautiful things. She has published her work in the art books L’Oiseau Rouge and Street Impressions and in various fashion magazines and on websites. Visit her at Nancy-Zhang.com. She lives in Berlin, Germany.
"Most novels about fashion end up being more about little divas than about the clothing; this is an exception. This story celebrates the rewards of personal creativity and risks of self-expression. . . . This book will appeal to a middle-grade crowd that isn’t into vampires and dystopias, as well as to those who create art with their hands."
– Kirkus Reviews
"An aspiring fashion designer is the affable heroine of this first book in the Sew Zoey series. . . . In a smoothly written story of overcoming challenges with ingenuity and style, Taylor shows a knack for characterization and dialogue, and her detailed descriptions of Zoey’s designs will entice young fashionistas."
– Publishers Weekly
"Zoey Webber is a funky fashionista stuck in a gray-polyester-uniform world. The first book in a delightful new series, this will appeal to any girl finding her own style. Zoey is a bubbly and vivacious character who doesn’t let insecurities take command."
"The characters are enjoyable and well developed, and the plot is humorous and entertaining. The black-and-white drawings that open each chapter add a bit of fashion flair. With a touching ending that will leave readers with a warm, fuzzy feeling, this novel will appeal to young fashionistas."
– School Library Journal
"[Zoey's] upbeat personality and determination to be herself and pursue her dreams—with the support of friends and family—is refreshing."