Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – Rumer Godden’s Doll Stories

I loved dolls as a child. I mean I LOVED them. It was slightly pathological. I think I liked dolls more than people. I was never into Barbies, or plastic dolls at all. I loved rag dolls and made them my family. I had Raggedy Anne and Andy, as well as Holly Hobbie and several of her friends. Despite the fact that I had three sisters (all older), I think I relished the company.

I was a strange little child.

Anyway, it’s no surprise then, that I read Rumer Godden’s doll books over and over. As far as I know I never owned these books, but I could take you to the exact spot they were shelved at the public library. I must have borrowed them about twenty times.

Rumer Godden wrote a number of books for children, but the ones that remain with me are three of her “doll” books.

THE DOLL’S HOUSE is a slightly creepy, but very entertaining family drama wherein the family are mostly dolls. It’s the longest of the three at just over 24,000 words. I haven’t looked at this book since I was a child and it’s possible I would find it quite weird now. It certainly sounds a bit weird. Here’s one description:

Tottie is a loving little wooden doll who lives with her family in a shoebox. The doll family are owned by two sisters, Emily and Charlotte, and are very happy, except for one thing: they long for a proper home. To their delight, their wish comes true when Emily and Charlotte fix up a Victorian dolls’ house – just for them. It’s perfect. But then a new arrival starts to wreak havoc in the dolls’ house. For Marchpane might be a wonderfully beautiful doll, but she is also terribly cruel. And she always gets her own way . . .

Sounds vaguely like Fatal Attraction or something. I’m not really sure why I liked it. I’m a little freaked out.

The other book I liked was MISS HAPPINESS AND MISS FLOWER. This is a much shorter book, at 17,322 words. It’s certainly less dark.

When little Nona is sent from her sunny home in India to live with her relatives in chilly England, she is miserable. Then a box arrives for her in the post and inside, wrapped up in tissue paper, are two little Japanese dolls. A slip of paper says their names are Miss Happiness and Miss Flower. Nona thinks that they must feel lonely too, so far away from home. Then Nona has an idea – she will build her dolls the perfect house! It will be just like a Japanese home in every way. It will even have a tiny Japanese garden. And as she begins to make Miss Happiness and Miss Flower happy, Nona finds that she is happier too.

I think I enjoyed the Japanese details most in this book, and the caring relationship Nora has with her dolls. Obviously this is a “girl” book, but it’s lovely. I can’t wait to find a copy for my daughter to read. I think she’d love it.

Finally THE STORY OF HOLLY AND IVY, is a very short (about 8000 words) illustrated Christmas story about an orphan, a doll, and childless couple. You can imagine the rest. Very sweet and poignant to read on a cold December night.

All the books are about grade four reading level so suitable for average readers of that age or advanced readers 6 and up. For little girls who loved dolls, these are a real treat. They might be hard to find in print but Kindle editions are available.

For this week’s I can’t wait to read I’m going with THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate. I love gorillas AND elephants so really, how can I say no? It sounds lovely. Also I really enjoyed her verse novel HOME OF THE BRAVE so I’m excited to see what she does with this one. WISHLISTED!

For other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts check out these blogs:

8 thoughts on “Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – Rumer Godden’s Doll Stories

  1. I did not read any of these as a kid, clearly I was (and am) missing out.

    I read Home of the Brave recently and was touched by Applegate’s tenderness with words and situations.

  2. Fascinating, Gabrielle! That first one sounds like a Twilight Zone episode! And the second reminds me of The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson.

    The only book I’ve ever read of hers is The Holly and the Ivy (different cover than the one you show).

    Hope you like The One and Only Ivan. I loved the simplicity and poetic quality of the prose.

  3. Like Pamela says, thanks for highlighting older books that got missed by some of us, including me. The Doll’s House does sound creepy. I think I would have loved it as a 4th grader.

    I’m assuming you’ve read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane? Not that he’s a doll exactly, but it just popped into my head a story you would enjoy.

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