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THE BIRTHDAY DOLL

Jane Cutler, Author, Hiroe Nakata, Illustrator
Jane Cutler, Author, Hiroe Nakata, Illustrator , illus. by Hiroe Nakata. FSG $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-30719-6
Reviewed on: 02/02/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
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In a childlike and thoughtful offering, Cutler (The Cello of Mr. O. ) considers the relative value of shiny new toys. Franny's fancy birthday doll arrives in the mail from an aunt and uncle she doesn't remember. Rose wears a beautiful gown, and her mouth is "shaped like a kiss." She sings "Ring around the rosy" when Franny squeezes her hand. Four birthday guests arrive for her party; Franny gets three nice presents and an old rag doll in a paper bag. When Franny and a couple of the birthday guests stare in shock at the used present, Grandmother smiles at the guest who's brought it and says, "A cuddly sort of doll." "She's not pretty," Franny complains to her grandmother that night. "Not pretty," her grandmother agrees. "But her face is pleasant." Left alone in her bedroom, Franny discovers there's little comfort to be found in stiff, robot-voiced Rose, whose frilly dress is scratchy. Suzie, the floppy rag doll, offers Franny what she needs: "Suzie was soft the way an old sheet is soft. She smelled like children." Shown in vignettes and full-spread illustrations, Nakata's (My Book of Thanks ) beguiling figures resemble rag dolls themselves, with soft round faces and stitched-on smiles. Cutler models a family that does not preach, but welcomes and accepts. Young readers will appreciate Franny's revelation, and the way her family allows her to come to it all by herself. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)

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