A companion piece to Parenteau’s Ship of Dolls (2014), this historical novel explores the 1926 Dolls of Friendship international project, a gesture for peace between the U.S. and Japan, from the point of view of a girl growing up in Japan.
Eleven-year-old Chiyo can’t resist sneaking into Masako’s marriage meeting to see her sister’s future husband, Yamada Nori, for herself. Caught red-handed, she is sent to a girls’ school far away in Tsuchiura. According to Yamada Nori, she will learn proper behavior and put her “hill country wildness behind her.” If Chiyo does well and learns to model herself after Miyamoto Hoshi, a general’s daughter, she can return home for Masako’s wedding. Soon opportunity knocks. Together with her friend, Nakata Hana, and five others, Chiyo is selected to sing “The Welcome Song” during the ceremony in Tokyo to welcome the dolls from America. To everyone’s surprise, Chiyo becomes connected to one doll, Emily Grace, setting off a pathway to self-discovery. Chiyo’s struggle to live up to societal and gender-based expectations while also following her heart feels genuine and cheer-worthy. She questions the norm while respecting tradition, no matter how seemingly unfair. Her battles with Hoshi, however, appear one-dimensional, with a less-than-satisfying resolution between the two.
Regardless, Chiyo’s affection for Emily Grace fascinates, and the message of friendship and peace between nations endures, while a small-town girl’s honor is redefined. (author’s note, glossary) (Historical fiction. 8-12)