cover image DAHLIA


Barbara McClintock, . . FSG/Foster, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-31678-5

In a doll story that will win over even confirmed tomboys, McClintock (Molly and the Magic Wishbone) introduces a Victorian child who, despite her frock and pinafore, enjoys digging in the dirt and climbing trees. After Aunt Edme sends Charlotte a doll dressed "in linen and lace and delicate silk ribbons," the child brings the doll up to her bedroom (home to birds' nests, a bug collection and a pet snake) and lays out the house rules: "No tea parties, no being pushed around in frilly prams. You'll just have to get used to the way we do things." And the doll, whom Charlotte names Dahlia, does just that. She joins the girl and her teddy, Bruno, as they make mud cakes—and even tastes one—and participates in Bruno's favorite game of "toss-up-in-the-air-and-land-in-a-heap." When Charlotte washes the mud from the doll's face, her "prim" painted mouth "blur[s] into a soft smile." Dahlia even survives a fall from a tree, although her finery gets crumpled and torn. Readers will hold their breath when the child shows her tattered doll to seemingly priggish Aunt Edme, who responds to the beaming Dahlia's condition with a smile of her own. McClintock's detailed tableaux conveying the garb, architecture and furnishings of the era perfectly fit the mood of the story, their delicate lines and coloring belied by the robust action they convey. A timeless charmer. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)