cover image The Very Little Princess

The Very Little Princess

Marion Dane Bauer, , illus. by Elizabeth Sayles . Random, $12.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-375-85691-4

In this blend of family drama and fantasy, Bauer plays with the classic notion of a doll coming to life, but in truth, the story is about a girl and her mother. One day Zoey’s single mother takes her to visit a grandmother she never knew existed. Bewildered by the obvious friction between the two women, Zoey explores the house and discovers a tiny china doll, who is brought to life by Zoey’s tear. Zoey has always believed toys could come alive, but is peculiarly rewarded for her faith as the domineering doll convinces Zoey that she is a princess and Zoey her servant. As the relationship between girl and doll develops, Zoey’s mother’s character unfolds in unsettling pieces. Told in alternating points of view between the doll and Zoey, with frequent addresses to the reader—“Just about now, you’re probably wondering what kind of story this is, anyway”—Bauer’s novel raises worrisome, unresolved questions about Zoey’s fate. The characters’ flaws give the story realism and depth, but those expecting a sunny, traditional tale will likely find it more disturbing than magical. Final art not seen by PW . Ages 6–9. (Feb.)