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HOUSE OF DOLLS by Francesca Lia Block


by Francesca Lia Block & illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: June 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-113094-6
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Madison Blackberry is bored, despite the beguiling charms of her dollhouse, complete with its sentient inhabitants Rockstar (a mousy doll, ironically named), Wildflower (a celluloid doll whose boyfriend Guy is a “dark-skinned plastic doll in army fatigues”) and the lavender-eyed, dress-designing fairy Miss Selene. The dolls’ cozy family life is essentially a deliciously described dress-up tea party, and Madison—largely ignored by preoccupied parents—is jealous. “The combination of boredom and jealousy is a dangerous thing,” and Madison maliciously takes away what her dolls love best, including Guy, whom she “sends off to war.” Themes of war, loss, loneliness and love deepen the story’s more fanciful aspects, accentuated by McClintock’s delicately etched pen-and-ink illustrations of luxurious interiors and frilly gowns. Love redeems all when Madison gets some long-overdue attention from her grandmother and finds it in her heart to make peace with the dolls. Experiencing Block’s atypical storybook is like peering into an ornate sugar egg and seeing tiny sad people and soldiers inside instead of pink frosted bunnies. An emotionally resonant surprise. (Doll fantasy. 8-12)