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The Lowdown on Denim

The Lowdown on Denim

by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Clayton Hanmer (Illustrator)

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How a humble work pant got on everyone's backside and took over the world.

In The Lowdown on Denim, narrators JD and Shred take readers on a trip through the history of jeans, demonstrating that, whatever their style, jeans have always driven and reflected popular culture. They use their interest in denim to escort readers from


How a humble work pant got on everyone's backside and took over the world.

In The Lowdown on Denim, narrators JD and Shred take readers on a trip through the history of jeans, demonstrating that, whatever their style, jeans have always driven and reflected popular culture. They use their interest in denim to escort readers from wartime to the rodeo circuit and from environmental concerns to the rock and roll stage.

When blue jeans were invented in the 1870s, they were utilitarian -- baggy, only a single pocket and held up with suspenders.

In the 1960s, they were bell-bottomed and embroidered, symbolizing the rebellion of the Woodstock era. Punks in the '70s held them together with safety pins, while '80s metal bands wore theirs acid-washed. Then the low-riding style worn by prisoners inspired '90s hip-hop fashion.
Today, denim can be as personalized as an iPod playlist.

With humorous comic-style illustrations throughout, this fun, fascinating social history will make readers think each time they pull on their jeans.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A lighthearted look at the history of everyone's favorite pants couched as a detention report written by a couple of middle-school pranksters. With lively language and amusing anecdotes, Lloyd Kyi (50 Burning Questions, 2010, etc.) turns a product history into an engaging romp through time. From denim's origins as durable material for mid-19th-century work clothes to the celebrity fashions of today, the author traces both our changing clothing needs and outside influences on what we wear. She gives credit not only to Levi Strauss but also to Nevadan Jacob Davis, who came up with the idea of seams reinforced with rivets. Hanmer's cartoons place skateboarding storytellers JD and Shred in historical venues, but with modern reactions. Appropriately, Shred, a girl, wears skirts until the 1950s. Full-page, full-color cartoons begin each chapter. Smaller ones shaded with blues grace every page. Along with informative sidebars (printed on scraps of denim with the familiar brass rivets and orange stitching), they break up the text into accessible chunks. The inviting design begins with the cover illustration of baggy low-riders. Libraries that have already purchased Tony Johnston and Stacy Innerst's Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea (2011) will also want this for older readers and for its more thorough account. Humor and information combine in appealing nonfiction for middle-grade and middle-school readers. (further reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-13)
Booklist Online - Erin Anderson
Not only is this book an intriguing insight into the history of denim, but it just might encourage young people to reconsider the manner in which they think about their world close at hand.
CM Magazine - Gail Hamilton
The 10 chapters of The Lowdown on Denim comprise a thorough, well researched, chronological history of denim jeans.
Resource Links - Lara Chauvin
This cleverly designed book engages the tween to adult market with fun facts, catchy titles, witty responses and action-packed comic strips.
Children's Literature - Alison F. Solove
JD and Shred steal the principal's jeans and fly them from the flag pole. As punishment, he assigns them to write a report on the history of jeans. They discover that Levi Strauss created jeans in the American West during the gold rush. When his patent expired, Henry David Lee began to sell popular work coveralls made from denim. Hollywood portrayals of Western heroes in the thirties made jeans even more popular. World War Two introduced jeans as work pants to women and status symbols to liberated Europeans. Hollywood again made jeans look trendy and youthful throughout the fifties. In the sixties and seventies, teens expressed themselves through the style of their jeans. By the eighties, companies began experimenting with acid washes to produce different colors and fits. In the nineties, saggy jeans came into vogue. Denim in the new millennium reflects new technology and social consciousness. After they present their report, the principal gives JD and Shred a gold star and JD says he looks forward to his next detention assignment. Kyi uses the history of denim to present a fascinating history of Western culture. Through the story of denim, she chronicles the most important political and social trends of the twentieth century. That story by itself holds the audience's interest. JD and Shred appear in comics alongside the well-written text. Although these comics are visually interesting and sometimes humorous, JD and Shred's stereotypical teenage language and behavior borders on condescending to young readers. The book is listed for children nine and up, but some parents might find the narrator's ideas and language objectionable for kids that young. Despite its self-consciously un-scholarly presentation, the book also includes a comprehensive index and bibliography. Overall, it is a very readable social history for teens and pre-teens. Reviewer: Alison F. Solove
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—This is the history of America's (and possibly the world's) favorite fashion choice. The book starts with the origin of denim, Levi Strauss's need for heavier work clothes during the California Gold Rush, and continues to all the ins and outs of how the fabric has developed into today's garments. The story is told in a conversational style and has fascinating and quirky sidebars. The cartoon illustrations, many full page and in color, are great fun though authentic photos are sorely missed. This will be a surefire hit for libraries looking to add attention-grabbing nonfiction to their collections.—Esther Keller, I.S. 278, Marine Park, NY

Product Details

Annick Press, Limited
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Tanya Lloyd Kyi is the author of numerous books for young readers, including 50 Poisonous Questions and 50 Burning Questions. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Clayton Hanmer (aka CTON) is an award-winning illustrator, author, graphic artist and interactive producer. His work has appeared in diverse publications, including the New York Times and National Geographic Kids. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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