In another writer's hands, a plot involving talking paper dolls could be disastrous. But Mahy (The Door in the Air; The Greatest Show Off Earth, see p. 69) has a dazzling touch with fantasy, elevating it from potential silliness to lyrical inventiveness. One day, a girl's grandmother cuts out five paper dolls. She draws a face and clothes for the first one, but before she can finish all five, they blow away on a talking breeze. Thus begins a years-long journey in which each of the remaining four dolls is drawn by different people who chance to encounter them. Their adventures include being shut in a chemistry book and almost being chopped up by a lawnmower; they end with a return to the first owner and a sailing trip in a paper boat to a magical island where "the voices of the world sang and whispered and grumbled and joked and argued all around them." Readers who crave a dose of enchantment in their fiction will savor this diversion. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Five paper dolls holding hands, cut out as a treat by Sally's Nana and torn out of her hands by the wind have marvelous and exciting adventures. Sally's Nana drew the first face, but the various finders of the dolls gradually fill in the others. The sisters, though physically identical, have very different personalities to fit their different faces. The ending is very happy, if almost unbelievable; what keeps our disbelief suspended and our interest held is Mahy's tremendous talent as a storyteller. 1997 (orig.
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Gr 2-5On a sweltering summer afternoon, Sally's Nana cuts her a chain of paper dolls. They draw the features of the first doll, but the set is stolen by a bird when they go inside for lemonade. Thus begins an odyssey that only a consummate storyteller such as Mahy could spin. The first paper sister, Alpha, is a free spirit, an adventurer who welcomes the changes in life. As the breeze lifts her over the city, she catches a glimpse of an enchanted island. As the intrepid sisters journey on, they are saved from a lawnmower's jaws, a bad-tempered porcelain pig, a towering rubbish fire, and, finally, an obscure life as a bookmark in a forgotten school text. Along the way, they meet a number of children who sense their magic in varying degrees. As these new characters draw or paint features for the remaining figures, each sister's unique personality, only sensed before, comes to brilliant light. The people who encounter the dolls are all affected in subtle ways. In a fitting conclusion, Olivia and her brother (who are, incidentally, Sally's children) find the dolls and take them to the sea, floating them in a toy boat. At last, the sisters are headed for the mysterious island. Mahy's multilayered tale pays loving tribute to the power of story and imagination. MacCarthy's illustrations are liberally peppered throughout the text, reflecting its light humor. Children who enjoyed Sylvia Waugh's The Mennyms (Greenwillow, 1994) will also be captivated by this engaging story.Lisa S. Murphy, formerly at Dauphin County Library System, Harrisburg, PA
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
A premise prettily developed in Elise Kleven's Paper Princess (1994) takes a profound turn in the hands of Mahy (Tingleberries, Tuckertubs and Telephones, 1996, etc.).
One lazy day, young Sally's grandmother draws "a wild, adventurous girl with sticking-out ears" on a folded piece of paper and cuts it outa paper doll linked to four blank outlines. The "sisters" are instantly whisked off, carried by breeze, bird, and fortune, passing in turn through the hands of a child artist and a sad songwriter, spending years marking a place in a student's forgotten textbook, and returning at last to Sally's own daughter, Olivia. As the conscious but unformed blank dolls are filled in, one per stop, they acquire names of their own, and character traits from their creators, each of whom receives an epiphanyan inkling of what he or she will become. Flat but lively, the paper dolls swoop through a world of rounded, realistically modeled details in MacCarthy's numerous, perfectly placed pencil drawings. The fragile dolls narrowly escape destruction again and again, so this can be enjoyed as high adventure, but Mahy, with her gift for expressing complex ideas simply, makes clear to readers that the five dolls together represent a whole person, endowed with the Courage, Love, Sorrow, Wisdom, and Laughter required to live well. They are last seen sailing off (in a paper boat, of course) toward a metaphorical, dimly perceived but long-sought island. A superb story, gracefully told.