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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Paper Dolls, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. Macmillan Children's Books, Harper. 2012. $19.99 ages 2 and up

"They were Ticky and Tacky
and Jackie the Backie
and Jim with two noses
and Jo with the bow.
And they danced
and they jumped
and they sang.
And they met a dinosaur
who clawed and roared,
and said, "I'm going to get you!"

How can you help but smile at the inventive play of a child? Take a mom who wants to make her daughter happy, a little girl with a vivid imagination, a set of named paper dolls and add a series of adventures. It's the making of another wonderful story from Julia Donaldson. Her book The Gruffalo remains one of my favorites and has certainly been a readaloud hit for many years. I love it as much today as the first time I read it to a group of kindergartners. Were I in a kindergarten class at the moment, I am sure I would have another hit on my hands.

For the little girl and her paper doll friends life is a series of grand adventures. She plays with them everywhere she goes, and despite numerous threats they manage to hold on to one another from place to place throughout the house and garden. Their spirited shared song keeps them out of trouble and always self-assured. They have no worries, until a boy and his scissors appear and cut them into tiny pieces. Fear not! That is not the end of them:

"And all the pieces joined together,
and the paper dolls flew...
...into the little girl's memory
where they found white mice and fireworks,
and a starfish soap,
and a kind granny,
and the butterfly hairslide,
and more and more lovely things each day
and each year."

Ah, memories. They bring such joy and hopefully lead to sharing them with others. In this case, the little girl grows up to become a mother who makes paper dolls for her own little girl. Perfect!

Rebecca Cobb creates lovely drawings that match the tone of this story. There is joy and exuberance for the little one and her dolls as they play together. She makes use of white space, and varying perspectives to allow us a peek at the imaginative play, always making sure that we know what the real story is.

The repetitive refrain of the song sung as they make their escapes will soon become a favorite; parents and teachers are sure to hear it repeated endlessly. That just adds to the fun. As we meet 'Poppy and Pinkie and Binky the Blinkie, and Fred with one eyebrow and Flo with the bow, we know we are off on continued adventures and no one could be happier!

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