Little Kim's Doll

Kim Yaroshevskaya, Author, Kim Yarashevskaya, Author, Steve Chappell, Illustrator Groundwood Books $14.95 (24p) ISBN 978-0-88899-353-3
In this strangely propagandistic tale set in 1930s Moscow, a girl's wish for a doll is subsumed by her mother's revolutionary ideals. Kim longs to own the ""perfect"" doll in the toy shop window, yet her parents, ""like many parents in Russia those days, believed that little girls who played with dolls would never learn to be brave and strong."" In a poignant spread that may put readers in mind of Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen's splendid Elizabeti's Doll (1998), the resourceful child fashions a doll from a spoon and kerchief and names it Natasha. But the point of view abruptly shifts from Kim's wish for a doll to her mother's driving desire for a ""brave and strong"" girl. When her mother sees Kim with Natasha, she is ""very upset. She lectured and she scolded."" When the mother gives Kim a toy rifle ""very much like the ones the soldiers carried as they marched in... the great Red Square,"" the girl cradles even that, ""wrapped in a cuddly blanket."" The woman then suddenly and inexplicably decides (after another fit of fury) that Kim's determination demonstrates exemplary strength and courage, and she presents Kim with the doll of her dreams on her birthday. Melanson's expertly stylized paintings in muted tones of green, brown and red effectively skew perspectives and convey a period flavor while capturing the Moscow skyline. But the political overtones of the text prompt ominous imagery in the artwork as well: toy marching soldiers encroach on the prized doll in the window; images of goose-stepping soldiers in the background endow the toy rifle gift with an air of eerie reality. This disturbing volume will bring on many more questions from kids than it answers. Ages 3-6. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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