cover image Doll Baby

Doll Baby

Eve Bunting. Clarion Books, $15 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-395-93094-6

When she was a child, Ellie pushed her doll Daisy in a toy carriage. Now a single mother at 15, she pushes her infant daughter, Angelica, in a stroller. This brief, copiously illustrated tale strikes an awkward pose between beginning reader and chapter book, given the target age range. Ellie announces to her mother and stepfather that she is pregnant. Prodded by their questions, she recollects her visit to the free clinic and her confrontation with the child's father (""How do you know it's mine?"" he counters). The volume then charts Ellie's observations of her changing body, the birth of her daughter (not recounted in detail) and her exhausting life as a high school mother. She wistfully observes her former teammates playing softball and her ex-boyfriend in line to buy movie tickets with another girl. Bunting relates the sequence of events without judgment, but concludes on a cautionary note; as Ellie prepares to go to bed, with Angelica's bassinet on one side of her bed and her childhood doll on the opposite pillow, she admits, ""Sometimes in the night I cry and cry . I hug Daisy Doll and I wonder if I was right to want Angelica, to keep her. That kind of thinking makes me feel worse and I cry some more."" Still, Ellie remains somewhat at a distance. Presenting inconsistent renderings of the protagonist, Stock's sketchy and stiff watercolor-and-pencil pictures do little to enhance readers' involvement in the story. Ages 11-up. (Aug.)