Friday, May 2, 2008

The Lonely Doll

I recently stumbled across Dare Wright’s The Lonely Doll at my public library. My nieces (ages 4 and 6) and I immediately fell in love.

Edith is the titular lonely doll. She has a lovely house but no companionship, so she prays for friends. One day two bears arrive at her house: Mr. Bear is an adult, and Little Bear is a child like Edith. The two apparently are not related since Little Bear refers to the other bear as “Mr. Bear.” Mr. Bear makes sure Edith and Little Bear do their lessons; Edith and Little Bear get into all kinds of mischief.

Wright both wrote and “photographed” the book using a real doll and toy bears. The dolls are posed at home, on the street, in the park. As a child, I remember imagining what life would be like if my toys could actually move, think, and feel. This book answers those questions.

Lonely Doll was published originally in the 1950s, and the dolls and story feel dated—but that is major part of the book’s charm. I've always had a fear of old toys, and this book plays on those fears, in a good way. My nieces particularly enjoy the scene where Mr. Bear spanks Edith and Little Bear. The photographs produce torrents of giggles; clearly, corporal punishment is far outside the realm of their own personal experience.

According to the official website, Wright wrote and photographed ten books in the Lonely Doll series, but only three are currently in print: The Lonely Doll, Edith and Mr. Bear, and A Gift from the Lonely Doll.

I haven’t been this delighted by a series of retro picture books since meeting Kay Thompson‘s Eloise. They make me feel like I am a little girl again (without actually having to be a little girl again).

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