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Thursday, July 28, 2016

This Is My Dollhouse, written and illustrated by Giselle Potter. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2016. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"It feels stuffy in her room,
so we decide to go play on
her swing set instead. I worry
the whole way home that I
can never invite Sophie over.
She would hate my dollhouse.
But Sophie does come over.
I show her everything but my
dollhouse. "What should we
play?" she asks. I stand in
front of a pile of blankets ... "

I have, in my basement, a dollhouse that my brother and sister-in-law won in a raffle many years ago. They gifted it to Erin and she spent many happy hours playing with it. When she moved to Victoria, the dollhouse stayed with me. It is quite large. There will come a time when Sicily and Chelsea will play with it when they are visiting. For now, they are still too young. Matters not, it will be here when they are ready.

So, I feel a special affinity for this book by Giselle Potter about two girls and their very different dollhouses. We meet the narrator first and she tells us all about her house. She built it from a cardboard box; her family includes a grandma mouse, a bear daddy, and three dolls who pose as mommy and twin sisters. She explains how she has made the various accessories so important to her imaginary play. That play is reminiscent of a 'day in the life' as she shows readers what happens for her dollhouse family, from getting dressed in the morning to being tucked into bed at night.

Her friend Sophie has a 'perfect' dollhouse. The family is perfect, and everything matches. There is not much going on in that house, and it is reflected in the girls' play. The narrator offers suggestion for making it more fun. Sophie is not interested.

"Let's make the family go on vacation!" I suggest.
"I don't have an airplane for them, so they can't," Sophie says firmly.
I keep quiet in case she thinks my idea for an airplane is stupid."

Fearing Sophie's disdain when the two visit at the narrator's home, the cardboard house is hidden ... until Sophie finds it and the two thoroughly enjoy an afternoon of creative play, both inside and outside. When it's time for Sophie to leave, she is not ready. They say goodbye promising to play again tomorrow, and perhaps the day after that.

Ms. Potter's signature ink and watercolor artwork is full of warmth and familiarity. It is easy for young readers to become part of the story and consider the wonder for their unique ability to play and invent their own stories. Once done with the reading, remove the cover to see step-by-step instructions for making a dollhouse of your own. Get out the paints, scissors, odds and ends, and you are on your way to a day of building something that will generate endless hours of imaginary play.

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