Monday, June 18, 2007


Do you ever read a book that seems to be written just for your child? I don't mean a personalized book with your kid's name and birthday in it. I mean a storybook with a character just like your child, who reacts exactly the way your child would. And if the book is also illustrated in a style that your child loves, it seems like it is meant for your child.

I feel this way about "Dahlia", by Barbara McClintock. I blogged a few days ago about "Adele & Simon" a wonderful book by this author. On the back cover it mentioned that her previous book, Dahlia, had won several awards, so we checked it out of the library.

Dahlia appears to take place in the late 19th century. The illustrations reminded me of the pictures from my old Louisa May Alcott favorites. Charlotte is found at the beginning of the book with dirt all over her pinafore, making mud pies with her teddy bear, Bruno. She is less than thrilled to be called indoors to receive a package from her aunt. Inside is a doll, a prim-faced, frilly-dressed doll. Charlotte does not want a doll, and tells the doll that there will be no staying indoors and having tea parties. This doll, soon dubbed Dahlia, will have to learn to dig in the dirt and climb trees. But what will happen when Charlotte's aunt sees the doll after her outdoor adventures?

My daughter is not a tomboy. Her favorite colors are pink and purple, and she went through a loooong princess phase. However, she is the kind of girl who would wear a pink floral twirly dress to climb trees and dig for worms. She has some dolls, but is fairly uninterested in changing their outfits. Instead, they tend to spend a lot of time tied to jump ropes and being lowered over the banisters. Her dolls go on adventures with her, just as Dahlia goes with Charlotte. But she feels affection for them. When her doll, Sally, broke one of her china legs, I ended up sculpting a new one out of clay so Sally could be "healed". I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but let's just say that Dahlia also needs some TLC at one point in the story, and Charlotte is ready to provide it.

Even if your daughter (or son) isn't like Charlotte, I think they will enjoy this story about a child full of curiosity, compassion, and spunk. Be warned, however, that any child looking at Charlotte's bedroom full of bird's nests, shells, mushrooms, insects, plants and snakes may soon be begging to make their own room look the same. We were already well on our way, but we still need to add some bird's nests.

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