cover image House of Dolls

House of Dolls

Francesca Lia Block, illus. by Barbara McClintock, Harper, $15.99 (80p) ISBN 978-006-113094-6

Fans of Block's edgy novels and admirers of McClintock's traditional artwork will be equally surprised by this unusual yet successful pairing. Turning away from her usual subject matter and unabashedly evoking Rumer Godden's The Doll's House, Block sets her story in an antique dollhouse, incongruously placing it in a contemporary "cool, all-white-and-gray penthouse apartment." Owned by lonely and "sour-faced" Madison Blackberry, the dollhouse is warm and cozy, and the nontraditional, deeply loving family that lives in it inspires the girl's jealousy; her own family is cold and distant, except for Grandmother (the dollhouse's original owner). Succumbing to her bad instincts, Madison takes out her boredom and jealousy on the unsuspecting dolls, who suffer greatly, yet wish only for her to be loved as they themselves have been. The small, slender book is generously imbued with McClintock's delicate b&w line art, including many full-bleed spreads depicting the elegance of the dolls' world, but Block's slightly dark undertone tempers the story's saccharine potential. The tale's roots in the time-honored tradition of dolls' secret lives lend it weight, and the ending, though somewhat predictable, is satisfying. Ages 8–12. (June)