Picture Book Review: Dahlia by Barbara McClintock

Picture Book Review: Dahlia by Barbara McClintock

“Charlotte didn’t have a doll. Charlotte didn’t want a doll.”

When we meet Charlotte, she is making mud pies with her teddy bear, Bruno. She’s the kind of girl who climbs trees and her room is full of birds’ nests and boxes of beetles. And yet Charlotte’s Aunt Edme has sent her a doll. A doll with a prim painted mouth dressed in linen and lace and delicate silk ribbons.

“We like digging in dirt and climbing trees,” Charlotte confessed to the doll. “No tea parties, no being pushed around in frilly prams. You’ll just have to get used to the way we do things.”

The doll looked concerned, but said nothing.

If you’re anything like me, you cringe more than a little at the first mud pie fed to the doll. You shudder when the doll is thrown into the air and lands in a heap. Though you might smile when she takes to fishing quite well.

I adore Barbara McClintock’s beautiful illustrations. Even more I really like this story of a little girl and her doll. Like the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, Dahlia is a wonderful reminder that the toys children love most, the ones that become real parts of their imaginative play worlds, never become real for the child without being battered and bruised in the process.

I know we parents can get rather attached to the pretty dolls with their neat clothes. Or maybe that’s just me. Although I find myself groaning when I see the new dolly dragged through the dirt and covered with grass; although I cringe when the shoes and stockings and hair ribbons are lost and the face gets written on with ballpoint; still, when I step back I see that my daughters are having fun with their toys. Which is really the point of toys now isn’t it?

Bella and Sophie both love this beautiful picture book and I do too. Though the copy we have now is borrowed from the library, I think I’ll be adding this one to my wish list.


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