Rumer Godden again does a wonderful job of capturing the bullying, loneliness and isolation that are often a part of childhood. When Nona moves from India to England to stay with her cousins, she is homesick and withdrawn. Her youngest cousin, Belinda, is completely unsympathetic. When two Japanese dolls arrive for the young girls, Nona feels that they must also be homesick and sets about trying to make things right for them. In the process, she comes out of her shell and ends up getting the whole family, and even some new friends, caught up in her excitement. Only Belinda wants nothing to do with the process and she ends up feeling excluded and lonely herself.
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower are more passive than many of the toys featured this past week, but they do quite a bit of Godden’s signature “wishing” which usually translates to people understanding their desires.
The vocabulary in this is not too difficult, except for some references to Japanese traditions, which are explained in a glossary/notes section at the end. I was actually really excited to see this feature in a fiction book, because for children usually these are only available in non-fiction. I think this book could be read aloud to younger children and should be about on grade-level for an average third grader. As with Four Dolls it will still be engaging for slightly older children provided they have an interest in the material.
Great for: Getting children interested in other cultures. Nona’s love for these dolls has her remember everything she’s ever read about Japan, and then gets her hunting for even more information. Don’t be surprised if your reader is begging for a Japanese dollhouse in the end. The book even comes with plans, so consider yourself warned!
Sex, Nudity, Dating – One naked baby doll.
Profanity – “darned” used once
Death, Violence and Gore – None
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None
Frightening or Intense Things – None