While attending a writer’s retreat on the North Shore of Lake Superior, we chose to spend a little time browsing in Drury Lane Bookshop. It is in a small house overlooking Lake Superior and the harbor at Grand Marais. I was very pleased to find the shelves exceptionally well stocked, given the small space available to house the books, and with a wide range of choices.
I found a book by Donna Tartt, whose book The Goldfinch, I count as one of my favorites. I’m now happily absorbed in reading another of her titles, The Secret History.
But my most delightful find of the day was The Doll’s House, by Rumer Godden.
It is a book that I quickly recognized as one I loved when I was a very young reader, and is one of those stories loved by children and adults with young hearts, about toys that we wish to believe carry on their own secret lives when we are not looking. Toys like Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Or the Velveteen Rabbit, The Indian in the Cupboard, or Winnie-the-Pooh. So many that I’m sure you can name your own favorite.
This book is about a variety of dolls collected together from various places, combined into a family and given vitality by the creative play of the two sisters to whom they belong. It’s a book full of gentle magic, historical tidbits of England, surprisingly affecting doll adventures, and beautifully described details of their dress and doll house furnishings. These descriptions remind me of how I loved the descriptive details in A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, especially when her garret bedroom is transformed, by the generous neighbor across the way, into a warm and beautiful bower full of comforts and hot food.
Children’s books are meant to fire the imagination, touch the heart, take the reader along on adventures and quests, spark humor, and offer comfort, relief, and escape from the stresses of everyday life, from which kids suffer as much as the rest of us. This is a book that deserves a place on every child’s bookshelf, right along with those by Beverly Cleary, Laura Ingalls Wilder, C.S. Lewis and many others. I had never been able to find it again because I couldn’t remember either the title or the author. Seeing it there, I quickly scooped it up. I plan to read it aloud, to a special little girl in my family.
I hope that you read widely as an adult reader, but remember the books you loved as a child and share the best of them with kids in your life. Best of all, maybe you will be the writer to create the next beloved children’s book. I hope so.