cover image Toby's Doll's House

Toby's Doll's House

Ragnhild Scamell, Regnhild Scamell. Levinson Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-86233-026-9

Toby wants a dollhouse for his birthday, but the grownups around him have their own ideas. ""He means a fort. I always wanted a fort, when I was a boy,"" says Grandad; Auntie insists that he wants a farmyard; his father, gesticulating enthusiastically, is sure it's ""a multi-storey car-park full of toy cars."" Toby says polite thank-yous for the presents, then converts the gift boxes into a two-story house for the paper dolls he's been making. British author Scamell (A Prickly Problem) undergirds the simple tale with some droll observations. The tendency of gift givers to give what they want will ring a bell with many readers, and Toby's ability to improvise his own low-tech dollhouse demonstrates that sometimes the best toys don't come from a store. Reynolds's (Harry and the Snow King) moon-faced characters with dot eyes are surprisingly expressive; he depicts the well-intentioned but self-absorbed grownups with humor (they play with the gifts--intended for Toby--with a child's concentration). The book's tweaking of gender stereotypes helps give it an edge, despite its almost blandly sunny first impression. Ages 3-7. (June)