The Doll Shop Downstairs

Jul 22, 2012

This is a super sweet chapter book (I wouldn't venture to say novel) for kids ages 8~11. I would recommend it to girls, mostly, because the only male characters are adults and do not show up much in the story. The main characters are the three children of a Russian immigrant New York doll repair shop owner: Sophie, Anna, and Trudie Breittlemann.

This story is told through the point of view of Anna, the middle child. Sometimes she feels annoyed because her younger sister can still cry for attention and her older sister shines at everything she does, like a star, yet she, the middle child, can't manage to stand out.

Whenever the three girls feel lonely or bored, they would go downstairs from their apartment to the doll shop. There are three dolls on the shelf that the girls frequently take down to play with, and pretend that they are "their" dolls, although they can't afford any and the dolls actually belong to some wealthy people. Whenever life's trials take a turn for better or worse, Bernadette Louise, Anna's doll, always "hears" about it. Because of various reasons, the dolls have stayed on the shelf for a long, long time.

Then World War I breaks out in Europe and suddenly the doll parts, which are bought in Germany, are out of stock. Mama and Papa worry all the time, and the girls secretly whisper about it at night.
"Maybe we could get jobs," I say.
"What kinds of jobs?"
"We could help out some of the ladies Mama sews for. Wash the dishes or run errands. Mrs. Kornblatt has a baby. We could watch her sometimes." I have seen the baby with her white bonnet, white booties and plump, pink cheeks. It would be fun to look after her for a little while.
"Anna, that is not going to help," Sophie says in that I'm-so-much-smarter-than-you tone that always stings. "We need to make some real money, not pocket change."
"It was just an idea," I say, feeling snubbed.
"Well, it's not a very good one, so keep thinking."
Then Anna comes up with the best idea of all: Instead of repairing dolls, how about making them out of inexpensive materials?

Thoughts: I find this and it's sequel, The Cats In the Doll Shop, very similar to the Doll Hospital series, but only because they both are about repairing dolls. In addition, I do find one critic's comments spot-on:

Mix one part Rumer Godden’s The Story of Holly and Ivy and many parts Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family and you create a standout family-and-doll story.
I have not read The Story of Holly and Ivy but I am familiar with Rumer Godden's work as I have read Tottie: The Story of the Dollhouse which is also by the author.


As Simple as it Seems

As Simple as it Seems by Sarah Weeks (2010) 
Length: 181 pages
Genre: Children's Books
Started: 12 July 2012
Finished: 12 July 2012
Where did it come from? The local library
Why do I have it? Read the excerpt in So B. It and wanted to read it for a long time.
Reading Challenges: Dream Big. READ
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One Crazy Summer

I, for one, do not want to rant on and on about how good this book is. All I want is for you to go and...


Then, if you have the patience, come back and enjoy my book review. But maybe you just want to go and read a little bit first. And that's fine with me. (So long as you come back, of course :D )

For this post I have followed the very helpful book guide that you may find here. Whether you are a teacher or a student you may want to check it out.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Length: 215 pages
Genre: Children's Books, Young Adult

Age Level: Grades 4~7.

Started: 15 July 2012
Finished: 16 July 2012
Where did it come from? The local library
Why do I have it? Been wanting to read it for a long time, finally got around to it; it's a Newbery Book
Reading Challenges: Dream Big. READ
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary

Jul 19, 2012

This is a book report about Dear Mr. Henshaw, a book full of Leigh Bott's letters to Mr. Henshaw and pages of Leigh's diary.

Leigh's second-grade teacher read Mr. Boyd Henshaw's Ways to Amuse a Dog to her class. Since then. Leigh's favorite author has been Mr. Henshaw. Leigh loves writing letters to Mr. Henshaw. Once, for an interview project, Leigh sent Mr. Henshaw a list of questions to answer. When he gets the response, though, he is pretty mad, because Mr. Henshaw sent him a list of questions in return. Throughout the years, Mr. Henshaw helped Leigh realize his gift for writing. One day, Leigh submits a story about a ride with his divorced dad in his big hauling truck. In the school's yearbook, Leigh gets a "Honorable Mention" for it. At first, he is mad that he didn't get to place and meet a Famous Author, which was the prize. But then, surprise! The winning poem was actually copied from a book! Leigh gets the 4th place and is also complimented by the Famous Author, who has met Mr. Henshaw personally.

I like how this book is arranged into a Letters section and a Diary section. Sometimes, it changes right from real letters to Mr. Henshaw to pages of Leigh's diary, which is named "Mr. Pretend Henshaw." I like how the author, Beverly Cleary, cleverly manages to include enough information so that this book could easily become a story, not just letters and pages of Leigh's diary. It sounds like a first-person story in the Diary section, but it also tells how Leigh feels: angry, happy, mad, or sad.

I don't like how his parents got divorced. Couldn't they just be living separately, like his father living on the road in his hauling truck while his mother was at home with Leigh?

I suggest that the Famous Author, who was the prize for winning the story competition, should have been Mr. Henshaw. That way, at first, Leigh would be really sad that he didn't win. But then, he'd be very surprised and happy at getting the chance to meet his hero and penpal.

Feed me a comment please!

-- Dana

Great Books: Girls 9-12 category

Jul 8, 2012

YAH! I recently discovered the Scholastic kids' blog Ink Splot 26 and I ADORE it! Ever since I started reading it, I have updated my "Want-to-Reads" book list to over 30 books! I want to inspire some other children to read this blog and discover very interesting books; I know how that feels because I have taken pride in sharing my favorites with my friends. I will try to post often if I find any especially good ones.

The Doll With the Yellow Star

As you may be able to tell, I am currently starting a new "way" to review; let's see how it goes, we'll play it by ear. I did get the inspiration from the blogging site,

I have also started made changes to the blog. Can you figure out what they are?


The Doll with the Yellow Star The Doll with the Yellow Star by Yona Zeldis McDonough (2005)
Length: 96 pages
Genre: Children's Books
Started: 3 July 2012
Finished: 3 July 2012
Where did it come from? The local library
Why do I have it? Thought it looks interesting, browsed the library shelves and found it
Reading Challenges: Dream Big. READ; Barnes and Noble reading challenge; TD Bank Young Savers Challenge
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars