In Hébert’s illustrated debut children’s book, a cloth doll with a special gold monocle, watch, and bustle gets lost and goes on adventures.
Elsie’s mother made a doll named Maesee Peek from scraps of tapestry and lace, giving her a Victorian bustle and big purple hair. (She got her name because Elsie kept asking, “May I see? Just a peek” during the doll’s construction.) Elsie’s father added some important touches, including a gold monocle so that Maesee “will always see where to go,” and a gold watch on a chain so she’ll “always know when it is time to come home.” Elsie adores Maesee and is never without her—until the day she accidentally leaves the doll behind after an outdoor picnic. Maesee tumbles onto the muddy bank of a pond lined with cattails, and after several twists and turns, she gets loaded onto a ship filled with art and precious objects and sent across the sea. A storm arises and the ship’s contents go overboard, but luckily, Elsie’s clever mother crafted Maesee’s bustle from Elsie’s worn-out flotation device, and the doll floats long enough to be picked up by a sea gull and then found by two little girls vacationing in an Irish castle. Hébert offers an appealing heroine and dramatic plot twists and vividly renders such moments as when the container ship full of artwork gets subsumed into the ocean. Especially pleasing is the narrator, who respects children’s intelligence; for example, when seawater drifts into her monocle, Maesee thinks they’re “Sneaky little creatures coming here to hide before the menu recommends a delicious assortment of zooplankton.” Historical information enriches the story, as when the leprechaun-ish concierge comments on Irish lace: “The patterns were carefully guarded secrets passed along only to the daughters of the original women artists who created them. We are extremely proud of the collection.” Lemaire’s illustrations ably capture the book’s magical, one-of-a-kind spirit.
An absolute delight, featuring a quirky, resourceful doll heroine.