Book Review: The Doll Shop Downstairs

The Doll Shop Downstairs Cover Image

 

The Doll Shop Downstairs is fiction, but it is loosely based on one of my heroines in the Doll Industry; Beatrice Alexander A.K.A. Madame Alexander.

As an adult, I liked The Doll Shop Downstairs, I also think it’s a nice read aloud story for the 5 and 6 year olds.

Beatrice Alexander and her sisters did in fact grow up above their parent’s store, and that store really did do doll repairs. That’s the truth behind the story. Most of the rest of it is fiction. I had fun when I found this book and tried to trace the connections between fact and fiction.

The Madame Alexander Doll company got its start during WWI, when, because of the embargo of German goods, her parent’s business couldn’t get doll repair parts easily. Worried about her parent’s financial hardship, Beatrice came up with some cloth doll designs, recruited her sisters and family to help her make them, and voila, the Madame Alexander Doll Company was born.

Beatrice Alexander

Beatrice Alexander with her dolls (courtesy Alexander Doll Co.

Madame Alexander made beautiful dolls, and started her own company in an age when women entrepreneurs were few and far between. And to be honest with you, it amazes me that almost a 100 years later, Madame Alexander is still in business and thriving. Very, very few companies last that long!

Based on a song: the ‘One Love’ doll

One Love DollFor the past two weeks we’ve been posting on ‘where dolls come from.’
In honor of Valentine’s Day coming up this week I’d like to mention one of my favorite
exceptions: the One Love doll.

 

Most dolls start in a doll manufacturer’s design studio, first as concepts and then drawings and designs.

 

Another common start for a doll’s journey is in the pages of a book… think Winnie the Pooh, Raggedy Ann or Peter Rabbit as examples.

 

But what makes the ‘One Love’ doll so unique, is that as far as I know, she is the only doll whose origins were inspired by the lyrics of a song!

 

The song was ‘One Love’ by Bob Marley. Bob Marley’s daughter then wrote a sweet little children’s book based on her dad’s song, and it was illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

 

And that’s how this adorable little doll came to be. Song lyrics!

 

As you can see, she has a Valentine’s Day red dress decorated with polka dot hearts and  the words One Love. Want to get a ‘One Love’ doll for someone you love? click here to go to her page on our site.

“William’s Doll” Every cliché in a book

William's Doll Cover

“William’s Doll” by Charlotte Zolotow is basically a book of cliches.

But that’s because it was written in 1972. In 1972 they weren’t cliches, they were a new kind of wisdom. Too bad it didn’t take.

The Pattycake Doll Company sells a lot of boy dolls, and dolls for boys. But not as many as we should, considering the population of boys in America. Too many people still believe the cliches:

If you give a boy a doll he’ll be a sissy. If he doesn’t become a sissy, he’ll be called a sissy (bullied).

Dolls are for girls. Not boys. Train sets and basketballs are for boys.

Boys don’t have the urge to protect and nurture.

Almost as much of a cliche in the book is that it’s ‘Fathers’ who don’t want their sons to play with dolls.

That’s still true. There are a lot of guys who worry about that stuff. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of Mommies  who worry about that stuff too.

At the end of the book William’s Dad – outraged that Grandmother has bought William a doll says: “He’s a boy!…He has a basketball and an electric train and a workbench to build things with. Why does he need a doll?”

William’s Grandmother answers with a smile: So that he can practice being a father.”

If you’re reading this blog, the odds are pretty good that I’m preaching to the choir. But the message hasn’t changed.

Should boys be allowed to play with dolls?

Of course!

It’s one way they can learn to become good fathers.

5 ‘In-between’ Uses for Dolls

While preparing my posts ‘5 Traditional uses for dolls,’ and ‘5 Non-traditional uses for dolls,‘ I had set aside a few of my ideas as they were neither ‘traditional’ nor ‘non-traditional’ uses for dolls. They were somewhere in between. Everybody would accept them as traditional, but they were not the first thing that would come to mind as a ‘use’ for dolls.

For your amusement I hereby present my new list of 5 ‘in-between’ uses for dolls:

1: Holiday Decor. Quick – name a famous Christmas character doll!

  • The Grinch?
  • Rudolph?
  • Max the Dog?
  • Cindy Lou-hoo?

And the winner is…. The Nutcracker!

 

Now don’t poo-poo me… by every definition, this is a doll!

2: As cultural and friendship gifts from one nation to another. One example is the Japanese friendship dolls discussed in this post here, but there are many more.

One of the 1927  Japanese Friendship Dolls

One of the 1927 Japanese Friendship Dolls

 

3: As the heroes and heroines in literature, television and movies. Perhaps the most famous dolls in literature are Raggedy Ann and Andy

Classic Raggedy Ann And Raggedy Andy Dolls

Classic Raggedy Ann And Raggedy Andy Dolls

4: Ventriloquist’s Dummy and Puppet shows.

When I was a child in the 50’s Howdy Doody was the number one TV show, and Howdy Doody dolls and puppets were everywhere! Ventriloquist’s Dummies and Puppet Shows are still a staple of children’s entertainment… just think Sesame Street!

Howdy Doody still sold today on Amazon

Howdy Doody still sold today on Amazon

5: Isn’t this nothing more than a big Fashion Doll? The Department Store mannequin?

 

The Lost Doll Part III – Edward Tulane

In my previous posts I talked about one of the very few downsides of being in the doll business… the fact that children love their dolls so passionately, and the sad fact that occasionally they get lost, and that very often we can do nothing to alleviate the child’s pain.

In today’s post, however, I would like to introduce you to our favorite ‘lost doll story:’  the wonderful book written by Kate DiCamillo, with the beautiful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Edward Tulane

the china rabbit doll known as Edward Tulane

If you are not familiar with the story, Edward is a China Rabbit doll, who is accidentally lost at sea, eventually resurfaces, and his many miraculous adventures as he passes from hand to hand over the next twenty years. It is an enchanting story, and one of our favorite ‘Dolls in Literature’ books ever, for the story is told from the point of view of the doll.

Book Review – The Story of Holly and Ivy

The Story of Holly and Ivy book cover

The Story of Holly and Ivy, Written by Rumer Godden, Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

 

I don’t seriously believe that anyone is going to be reading my blog on Christmas Eve, but if you should be reading this post at some point in the future, It is my sincere wish that maybe, just a little bit, you will remember what your Christmas Eve was like. Warm, joyous, anticipatory – you didn’t open your gifts yet did you? Are you hoping for a new doll for Christmas? Are you perhaps giving someone a new doll?

The Story of Holly and Ivy is the perfect Christmas Doll book. It is a story about Christmas Wishes.

Ivy , the little Orphanage Girl wishing for a home for Christmas.

Holly, the last doll left in the Toy Shop at Christmas, wishing for a little girl to love her.

And Mr. & Mrs. Jones, a couple wishing for a child to love on Christmas.

First published in the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1957, Holly and Ivy are just as popular today over 50 years later. The story is heartwarming, the illustrations evocative, the ending is of course perfect and there is a doll as a main character.

The Story of Holly and Ivy is another book that belongs in a doll lover’s library; but it’s also a great children’s book with a timeless quality that has held up well. Your children and grandchildren may not be as big a doll lover as you are, but they will still love this perfect read-aloud book.

Doll Review : ‘The Grinch’ by Manhattan Toy

'The Grinch' doll by Manhattan Toy

‘The Grinch’ doll by Manhattan Toy

With the Holiday doll buying season in full swing, we’re starting to get more of ‘what do you recommend?’ calls* at The Pattycake Doll Company. One of our favorite dolls to recommend is ‘The Grinch.’ Here’s why:

  1. He’s popular… almost every kid over three knows who this guy is, and what he did bad. And kids love ‘bad boys,’ especially when they manage to redeem themselves.
  2. They also love ‘grown-ups,’ who act like kids. They ‘get’ that kind of humor and appreciate it.
  3. Gender neutral. The Grinch can be given to both boys and girls.
  4. Holiday themed… not only do kids love him, but he can be used as seasonal decor in your home or office. (We would suggest that you be careful if you are giving it as a gag gift at the office though; in some circles being called a Grinch is not exactly a positive.)
  5. The doll itself is well made. Colorful, soft plush, 14 inches and cuddly.
  6. We also offer Cindy Lou Who doll and Max the Dog doll. Cindy actually outsells The Grinch doll, but she is not what we would consider gender-neutral, which is why we generally lead with The Grinch character doll

*We can be reached from 9 AM to 9 PM Seven days a week at (646) 481-DOLL.  We spend more time in the warehouse than in the office at this time of the year, so you may have to leave a message.

FTC Disclaimer: We are obligated to disclose the relationship to the supplier or manufacturer for any products we endorse or review. In the case of The Grinch doll, we received no compensation from Manhattan Toy for this review. Our relationship is simply “vendor – reseller.”

Book Review -The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright

The Lonely Doll Book Cover

The cover of the book ‘The Lonely Doll,’ Story and Photographs by Dale Wright

I think that all true doll lovers should have at least one of the ‘Lonely Doll’ books in their collection. Featuring Edith, a doll from author / illustrator Dare Wright’s childhood, and two Teddy Bears as the main characters, The Lonely Doll was special because of the way the author/ illustrator used stage like settings, professional lighting and photography, artistic and carefully posed characterizations and a deceptively simple story line to make each page of this NY Times Bestseller a visual and literary treat.

The Lonely Doll and Little Bear

The Lonely Doll and Little Bear from the page “I Hate Rain”

There is a ton of information about both her books (there are at least ten Lonely Doll books that I’m aware of) and Dare on the internet; we just wanted to give you a good enough idea to pique your interest, so that you can decide for yourself if you interested in either the books, or the author herself.

To summarize the plot, Edith (the doll) is lonely, for she has no one to play with. Every day when she says her prayers she wishes for friends. One day Mr. Bear and Little Bear show up at her house to play. What follows, is a series of ‘play dates,’ each  one set up and meticulously photographed by a world class photographer. Of course there is the happy ending… Edith is never lonely again.

PS: The beloved childhood doll Dare uses throughout the book is a flirty-eyed doll. By carefully reversing the negatives – i.e. ‘printing them backwards,’  – and the clever use of mirrors in some of the illustrations, Dare was able to create the illusion that the doll’s eyes were ‘looking’ in different directions, and therefore give the doll a more lifelike expression.

Book Review: Jonnesty by Winifred Mantle

Book cover for Jonnesty

The cover of Jonnesty by Winifred Mantle

Jonnesty is a 1970’s British children’s book featuring a doll made from an honesty flower by ‘the oldest Smith boy,’ together with Arabella, a paper doll made by his younger sister, and the various adventures the two dolls have over the course of a day.

What I liked about the book is that the doll is made by using an honesty flower seed pod and a lot of imagination! And those are two things that I like to encourage in children… first, ‘that you can make your own dolls,’ and second, ‘that dolls can be made from almost anything!’

Honesty Flower Seed Pod

As children’s literature  it is… let us say… “meh,” just so so. But the illustrations are excellent – black and white line drawings by Barbara Swiderska. The cover illustration above shows both Jonnesty and Arabella.