cover image The Doll Shop Downstairs

The Doll Shop Downstairs

Yona Zeldis McDonough, , illus. by Heather Maione. . Viking, $14.99 (118pp) ISBN 978-0-670-01091-2

Taking loose inspiration from the true-life story of the late Madame Alexander, whose New York–based company has been producing dolls since 1923, McDonough (The Doll with the Yellow Star ) fashions a wholesome tale of a Russian-Jewish immigrant family on New York's Lower East Side in the early 1900s. The Breittlemanns live above their doll repair shop, where Papa restores porcelain dolls, Mama repaints the faces, and sisters Sophie, Anna and Trudie help however they can, taking special pleasure in playing with unclaimed broken dolls. When WWI begins and needed doll parts can no longer be had from Germany, middle daughter Anna comes up with the idea of making cloth dolls. McDonough tells the story in nine-year-old Anna's straightforward, sympathetic voice, accurately presenting relevant historical details as well as the emotional complexities of sibling relationships. Reminiscent of the All-of-a-Kind Family series, the book distinguishes itself both by its foundation in doll history and its authentic depictions of imaginative play. Maione's (Princess Bess Gets Dressed ) lighthearted line drawings only vaguely suggest the era, and the characters' cartoonish features do little to illuminate their personalities, but the lively illustrations have little-girl appeal. Ages 7–11. (Sept.)