Matthews, Elizabeth 1978-

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Matthews, Elizabeth 1978-

Personal

Born 1978; children: Gabe. Education: Rhode Island School of Design, degree.

Addresses

Home—Cumberland, RI.

Career

Writer and illustrator. Designer of greeting cards.

Writings

SELF-ILLUSTRATED

Precious Treasure: The Story of Patrick, foreword by Kimberly Hahn, Emmaus Road (Steubenville, OH), 2002.

Different like Coco, Candlewick (Cambridge, MA), 2007.

Sidelights

Elizabeth Matthews got her start as an illustrator by designing greeting cards. She attended the Rhode Island School of Design, a school well known for producing picture-book talent, and with Different like Coco, she proved that the school's reputation is well founded. In her engaging illustrated biography for young children, Matthews introduces famous early twentieth-century French fashion designer Coco Chanel and her rags-to-riches story.

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was born and, left parentless at age twelve, she learned to sew at an orphanage. Because she was unable to afford the expensive clothing of society ladies, Coco designed a whole new line of fashion, getting rid of corsets and full skirts and instead tailoring her clothing to women with thin builds. "Matthews' writing style is right on the mark, as breezy and appealing as Coco herself," wrote Ilene Cooper in Booklist. Lauren Adams, writing for Horn Book, commented that the author/illustrator's "amusing pen-and-ink drawings capture Coco's bearing and style," and Kathleen Whalin recommended Different like Coco to School Library Journal readers on the strength of Matthews' "elegant pen-and-ink and watercolor cartoons." A Kirkus Reviews contributor predicted that "young readers will love the sweep and detail of the images."

Noting that Chanel's story is more complicated than the "necessarily simplified version" presented in Matthews' biography, New York Times Book Review contributor Krystyna Poray Goddu felt that, "While appealing, Different like Coco is misleading in its lighthearted portrayal of a figure who was every bit as sharp, arrogant and lonely as she was defiant and glamorous." According to the critic, Matthews focuses on a simple moral of embracing differences rather than explaining the dramatic impact Chanel made on women's fashion. A Publishers Weekly critic felt, however, that while Matthews "saves some of the juiciest tidbits" for the timeline that appends her story, Different like Coco provides young readers with a "snapshot of European history through one extraordinary woman's life."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 1, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of Different like Coco, p. 83.

Horn Book, March-April, 2007, Lauren Adams, review of Different like Coco, p. 214.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2007, review of Different like Coco, p. 77.

New York Times Book Review, June 3, 2007, Krystyna Poray Goddu, review of Different like Coco, p. 35.

People, December 24, 2007, review of Different like Coco, p. 55.

Publishers Weekly, March 12, 2007, review of Different like Coco, p. 57.

School Library Journal, March, 2007, Kathleen Whalin, review of Different like Coco, p. 180.

ONLINE

One Minute Book Reviews Web site,http://oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com/ (October 21, 2007), Janice Harayda, review of Different like Coco.