Francesca Lia Block,
House of Dolls
(Harper, 2010)

Utterly charming.

That's the best phrase to describe Francesca Lia Block's latest release, the short book House of Dolls, lovingly illustrated by Barbara McClintock.

Madison Blackberry is not a happy child. Her life in an upscale New York apartment might seem idyllic, but her mother and father are remote and even her grandmother seems to care more about the antique dollhouse and its contents than about Madison herself.

So Madison vents her frustration on the inhabitants of the dollhouse: three mismatched dolls of varying origins, a boy's action figure and a stuffed bear. For the dolls, who live a small and simple but happy life completely outside Madison's knowledge, that means things are going to change.

This modern fairytale might seem intended for young readers, but that's only true at its most basic level. There are layers here, with messages of hope and longing, neglect and reconciliation, misfortune and redemption, that will elude young readers but will still resonate with adults.

At 61 pages, this book isn't a big investment in time, but it's an investment worth making. The payoff is rich.

review by
Tom Knapp

17 July 2010

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