Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Morning-- Dolls!

McDonough, Yona Zeldis. The Doll Shop Downstairs.
Anna, Sophie and Trudie love living above their father's doll repair shop. While they are too poor to have china dolls of their own, sometimes people leave dolls for a very long time, and the girls get to play with those. The advent of World War I, however, makes it impossible for their father to get the parts he needs from Germany, and the business starts to suffer. The girls have the idea that the family can make dolls, and some that they create that are dressed as nurses get bought by FAO Schwartz. Soon, the family has a small factory going, and the new doll business keeps the family afloat. When the owner of Anna's favorite doll comes back to claim her, Anna is very sad, but the story has a happy ending. The author was inspired by the creators of the Madame Alexander dolls, although this is very loosely based on that.
Strengths: This combines the best elements of Sydney Taylor (All-of-a-Kind Family) with those of Rumer Godden, except the dolls don't speak. My girls were not very interested in dolls, but I loved Betty, my sad, plastic doll who was best friends with Teddy.
Weaknesses: Too young for middle school. It doesn't have the edge that Martin's The Doll People has, and it would be a really hard sell.

Does anyone read Godden anymore? I didn't have many books of my own growing up, but neighbor girls gave me an old copy of The Story of Holly and Ivy (1958)that I still have. I didn't realize that it had been reillustrated in full color in 1985 by Barbara Cooney, but I must say I prefer the original Adrienne Adams' illustrations. Since it is a Christmas story, I loved that it was predominately black and white, with touches of red and green. The color rather ruins that for me!

When looking for this title, I found the news that some of Godden's YA books will be reissued by Virago. I'll be looking forward to seeing these, if only for myself! From the linked site:

"Virago has acqiured 15 titles, including BLACK NARCISSUS, THE RIVER and THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER FIORITA – and four titles for younger readers – LISTEN TO THE NIGHTINGALE, THURSDAY’S CHILDREN (both ballet themed books), THE DARK HORSE and AN EPISODE OF SPARROWS – which will launch Virago Modern Classics Young Adult List.
The deal was done with Anna Davis of Curtis Brown for British Commonwealth Rights , including Canada. Virago will begin publishing in 2013. "


  1. I loved doll stories, which is a bit strange since I never played with dolls. I guess that made it more exotic for me. I'll put this on my list.

  2. I loved both doll shop books--but I think they are really for ages 7-10 (even younger if read aloud!) Definitely too "sweet" for most middle schoolers!