The Dollhouse Magic

The Dollhouse Magic

by Yona Zeldis McDonough, Diane Palmisciano
     
 

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Sometimes Miss Whitcomb faced the inside of the dollhouse out toward the street; other times, it was the facade. Either way, the girls loved to see the way she rearranged and changed it, to fit in perfectly with the holidays and seasons.

Lila and Jane can't seem to walk down Cheshire street without stopping at their good friend Miss Whitcomb's home to

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Overview

Sometimes Miss Whitcomb faced the inside of the dollhouse out toward the street; other times, it was the facade. Either way, the girls loved to see the way she rearranged and changed it, to fit in perfectly with the holidays and seasons.

Lila and Jane can't seem to walk down Cheshire street without stopping at their good friend Miss Whitcomb's home to admire the beautiful dollhouse in her window. Since Daddy lost his job, the girls can only dream of owning a dollhouse as grand. After all, it's three stories, with real clapboard siding and a cedar shingle roof.

But one day something sad happens to Miss Whitcomb, and Lila and Jane are devastated. How will the girls find hope in a time of need? Set during the Depression, this heartwarming story proves that friendship is indeed a magic all its own.

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of many acclaimed children's books, most recently Anne Frank and Sisters in Strength: American Women Who Made a Difference, both illustrated by her mother, Malcah Zeldis. Born in Israel, Ms. McDonough grew up in the United States and now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and their two children. Diane Palmisciano has illustrated many books for children, including Hannah and the Whistling Tea Kettle. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her dog, Daisy.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Fourth-grader Lila and her younger sister Jane have long admired the old dollhouse in the window of an elderly woman, Miss Whitcomb. When she invites them in to play with it, the three form a friendship. At Christmas when the elderly woman dies and leaves the dollhouse to the girls, they feel a bond with her that extends to the new friend they make who moves into Miss Whitcomb's former house. The realistic story includes references (plus an endnote) to the Depression setting—father has lost his job at the bank and is working unloading boxes, the family has moved to a basement apartment and scrimps to make ends meet. But the family is happy, especially when Daddy begins to repair some of the dollhouse furniture and Mama helps the girls make a tiny patchwork quilt as a gift to Miss Whitcomb. The story challenges the reader, with tenses switching to present for action and past for background; the vocabulary is not blunted for the easy-reader audience; and the story has a gentle sentimentality reminiscent of a former era but without much emotional bite. Black-and-white watercolor illustrations, about two to each of the eight chapters, add to the story. Little girls who like playing with tiny objects will no doubt find this a cozy read but it is not an essential purchase for libraries. 2000, Holt, $15.00. Ages 7 to 9. Reviewer: Susan Hepler
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-When Jane and Lila's father loses his job at the bank during the Depression, the family must move from their big house to the bottom floor of a smaller one on the poorer side of town. Not only are they cramped, but also most of their familiar luxuries are gone. That is why the girls are so fascinated by the elaborate dollhouse in the window of a house on Cheshire Street. One day, while they are admiring it, the elderly owner invites them in. Before long, the girls and Miss Whitcomb are friends. When she unexpectedly dies on Christmas Eve, the old woman leaves the dollhouse to them. Palmisciano's line drawings keep the tone light and include some period details. However, children never get a real sense of the time or of the characters' feelings. For example, when Jane finds three cents and the girls use the money to buy candy, readers are never told that sweets were a luxury during these hard times. Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin's The Doll People (Hyperion, 2000) is a better story about dollhouses.-Barb Lawler, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A simply written but touching holiday tale about cross-generational friendship. Sisters Lila and Jane are bewitched by the magnificent dollhouse displayed in the front window of Miss Amanda Whitcomb's house. Stopping by the window after school to gaze at the intricately wrought plaything is the highlight of the girls' day. Creating stories about the dollhouse and its contents helps the pair cope with the privations of the Great Depression; their Dad is out of work, they've moved out of their fine home, etc. An unexpected encounter with the eccentric, but friendly, older woman who lives inside the home marks the start of a special friendship. Miss Whitcomb welcomes the girls into her home, allowing them to play with her dollhouse. Despite their family's hardships, the girls exhibit remarkable grace as they, and their family, freely share of their goodhearted spirit with the lonesome spinster. The inevitable disaster occurs when Miss Whitcomb dies suddenly on Christmas Eve, leaving the children devastated. They soon learn that Miss Whitcomb has left them the dollhouse. Yet, her legacy is both physical and spiritual as the girls generously share their new treasure with the child who has moved into Miss Whitcomb's home. McDonough's attention to small details vividly recreates the ambiance of the Depression era. While the plot is predictable, the combination of the character's sweet nobility with McDonough's winsome prose is beguiling. Palmisciano's black-and-white illustrations, cheerfully drawn and with an eye for period details, lighten the emotional intensity of the tale. A wholesome and nostalgic period piece that's a moving affirmation of good will to all. An author's noteprovidesfurther background information on the Great Depression. (Fiction. 7-10)

From the Publisher

“The writing has an innocent charm that suits the story well. . . . This text doesn't flinch from the hardships of the Great Depression, nor does it sentimentalize them. Diane Palmisciano's lively black-and-white artwork appears throughout the book, highlighting the warmth and good humor of the text. An appealing beginning chapter book, particularly for doll fans.” —Booklist

“A wholesome and nostalgic period piece that's a moving affirmation of good will to all.” —Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805064643
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
11/01/2000
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 8.84(h) x 0.53(d)
Lexile:
770L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of many acclaimed children's books, including Little Author in the Big Woods, Louisa, and Sisters in Strength. She grew up in the United States and now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and their two children.

Diane Palmisciano has illustrated more than fifty books for children, including the Fiercely and Friends books by Patricia Reilly Giff. She lives in North Scituate, Rhode Island.

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