Monday, May 23, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday -- The Friendship Doll -- and WINNERS announcement

First, I need to announce the winners in my Grey Griffins Giveaway!

The winner of the signed hardcover copy of The Brimstone Key is:

Deb Marshall

The winner of the signed hardcover copy of The Relic Hunters is:

Lenny Lee

YAY!  Congrats to the winners! Email me your addresses (JoanneRFritz AT gmail DOT com) so I can mail your prizes out to you!  And thanks so much to everyone for entering.  If you didn't win, never fear, there will be more giveaways in the future.  My bookshelves are overloaded.

Second, to anyone who reads my blog in Google Reader: my apologies for that "extra" Grey Griffins post that, um, mysteriously got posted on Friday night.  Silly me.  Still trying to figure out a way to schedule comments to be turned off at 11:59 pm without having to stay up that late  (Note to Blogger coders: we  need this kinda thing!).  Of course it didn't occur to me that if I SCHEDULED comments to be turned off, I was SCHEDULING a whole spankin' new post.  Duh.

Third, let's get to today's MMGM post.  (And it's about time! Whew!)

The Friendship Doll, by Kirby Larson (Delacorte Press, May 10, 2011, for ages 8 to 12).

Source:  advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from the publisher):  I am Miss Kanagawa. In 1927, my 57 doll-sisters and I were sent from Japan to America as Ambassadors of Friendship. Our work wasn't all peach blossoms and tea cakes. My story will take you from New York to Oregon, during the Great Depression. Though few in this tale are as fascinating as I, their stories won't be an unpleasant diversion. You will make the acquaintance of Bunny, bent on revenge; Lois, with her head in the clouds; Willie Mae, who not only awakened my heart, but broke it; and Lucy, a friend so dear, not even war could part us. I have put this tale to paper because from those 58 Friendship Dolls only 45 remain. I know that someone who chooses this book is capable of solving the mystery of the missing sisters. Perhaps that someone is you.

Why I liked it:  Okay, I have to admit I was put off at first by the idea of the doll telling the story.  I was afraid it would be coy.  But the doll's few brief monologues actually serve as a clever framework to hold together four quite different stories (told in third person) about four very different girls during the Great Depression, Bunny in New York in 1927, Lois in Illinois in 1933, Willie Mae in Kentucky in 1937 and Lucy, who travels from Oklahoma to Oregon in 1939, as her Dad searches for work.  And in the space of 30 or 40 pages for each girl, Kirby Larson manages to bring them fully to life. The writing is clear and concise and the details are wonderful.  These are painless history lessons disguised as entertaining stories about four girls who are each touched in some way by their encounter with Miss Kanagawa.  I had never heard of these Friendship Dolls before, so I definitely learned something! 

Warning:  Not all of these stories end happily, but there is enough sweetness to balance the sadness.  If you liked Moon Over Manifest, or Kirby Larson's own previous book, the Newbery honor-winning Hattie Big Sky, you would enjoy this.

What middle grade historical novels have YOU read and loved?

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger

Other regulars:
Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Ally Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
Michael G-G at Middle Grade Mafioso


  1. Sounds like an interesting book. It would have to be masterful to tie in the 4 girls stories. Thanks for the great review.

  2. Moon Over Manifest is one of my favorite MG novels (as are many historically based stories). I will put this on my TBR list. Thank you!

  3. I am amazed at how many books you read! I don't read a lot of Middle Grade, but I am currently reading The Underneath. Great book!

  4. EEEK! Did you hear that squeal from a way up here? oh my, thank you thank you: )

    And I am so looking forward to reading The Friendship Doll-loved Hattie Big Sky.

  5. I hadn't heard of this one. Thanks for the review!

    Johnny Tremain is still one of my favorite MG historical novels.

  6. I wondered about this one, but like you,I wasn't sure about the doll's POV. Good to hear I don't need to worry about that. :-)

    Great review, Joanne!

  7. I also was a little leery of the doll POV, but it sounds as if it's successful.

    I doubt my three guys would read this, but I will keep it in mind for my niece. (I know this is utterly sexist; I have tried, believe me, to balance the testosterone, but they will have none of it. Perhaps maturity will bring greater openness?)

  8. Natalie: Thanks! I thought it was well done.

    Barbara: I adore Moon Over Manifest (I raved about it back in September 2010 on this blog).

    Corey: I only have time to read two books a week and since I started doing MMGM posts I read one MG and one YA (I read very few "grown-up" books). I remember The Underneath being dark, but well written.

    Deb: Ahaha! Yes! I definitely heard it all the way from Canada that time! And I loved Hattie Big Sky too.

    Myrna: Ooo, Johnny Tremain is one of my all-time favorites, although I know plenty of people (including my own son) who don't care for it.

    Shannon: Thanks! Yeah, the doll doesn't say much, but what she says is profound.

  9. Michael (your comment hadn't appeared when I wrote my comment above): I see I'm not alone in my initial worry about the doll POV. But it's only a page or two, then you get right into the first girl's story.

    And I almost added a line in my review that this is definitely a girl book! Nothing sexist about that, I think! Not sure about that maturity thing. A guy simply doesn't want to read about girls and dolls. They might like The Penderwicks though.

  10. Hi Anita! Yes, it is. I like the retro feel of it.

  11. The beginning of the synopsis would normally scare me off (the phrase "my doll sisters" is just a but it actually sounds like a pretty neat little book. I enjoyed Hattie Big Sky so I should check this one out.

  12. Hi Stephanie! Yes, the publisher's synopsis doesn't really do the book justice.


I've disabled comments on this blog. I may be back at some time in the future, but for now, please visit my website:

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.