Four Dolls

Long before Toy Story brought the contents of  Andy’s playroom to life, authors have been writing about our dolls and stuffed animals, investing them with feelings and personalities  and sending them on great adventures. This week I’ll continue to bring you books about toys so that you’re well prepared when your little ones can’t get enough of Toy Story 3.

When it comes to writing about dolls, there is one writer who stands out,  Rumer Godden. Her doll characters are not just players acting out parts created by their owners, they have true wishes and desires.  Most importantly (in my opinion of course), she manages to not be creepy. Because dolls come to life could definitely be creepy in the wrong hands.

Four Dolls is a collection of four stories about dolls and the magic we sometimes believe they possess.

In the first, Impunity Jane, a doll wishes for adventure but is cooped up in a doll house by generations of unimaginative dull girls until she is stolen by Gideon.  Gideon suffers some teasing for owning a doll, but in the end, he has all his friends wishing she belonged to them.

In The Fairy Doll the youngest sister, Elizabeth, has no self-esteem and no self-confidence as a result of relentless teasing and exclusion at the hands of her older siblings, her teacher and even unkindness by her parents.  It’s only when her great-grandmother intervenes that Elizabeth starts to be able to do things for herself.

The Story of Holly and Ivy is about a little girl who is an orphan.  While all the other orphans have been sent to spend the Christmas holiday with families in the countryside, no one wants Ivy.  She runs away, convincing herself that she will find herself a grandmother in Aylesbury.  Of course, she does find herself a family and a beautiful Christmas doll, Holly.  It’s a sweet story, but it may make some uncomfortable because of the casual way it treats Ivy’s adoption.  I’d be interested to hear from adoptive parents as to how they view this.  There’s also a question of stranger danger as she chooses her family for herself, this is mitigated somewhat by the fact that she’s in the care of a policeman, but it still worried me a little.

The final story Candy Floss has a little girl learn a lesson when she steals a doll from its rightful owner, Jack, who works as part of a traveling fair.

There are some places where American children may have difficulty with vocabulary as there are British words used.  In, Candy Floss, Godden often explains more difficult words.

Great for: Anyone looking for stories where boys own dolls.  Godden does not ignore the fact that there is some stigma attached to doll ownership by males, but her characters emerge victorious and proud and the dolls in both cases have a decided preference for their true male owners.

This is also great for short attention spans.  The four sections help children who have trouble sustaining interest through longer texts.

I marked this as primary grades, although it is likely that readers would need to be in grade 3 or higher to be able to read it independently.  Its interest level may extend as far as grade 4 or 5 to children particularly invested in the subject matter.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – The first doll really prefers to be naked.  I know! So minor, but we’re talking full disclosure here.
Profanity – None
Death, Violence and Gore – None
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None
Frightening or Intense Things – There is quite a bit of bullying in this book, although the characters do recover from it.

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