Children's Literature @ NYPL
Booktalking "The Doll Shop Downstairs" by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Nine-year-old Anna and her sisters Sophie and Trudie delight in their dolls. Luckily for them, their parents own a doll shop. Unluckily for them, their mom and dad cannot afford to buy the girls dolls. However, they make do by playing with the dolls in the shop that await repair. Their favorites are dolls that they christen Bernadette Louise, Victoria Maria and Angelica Grace.
World War I makes doll parts hard to come by. Trudie, amazingly enough, finds some spare doll parts in a box tucked away in a corner. Their father is glad to help make the repairs, and consequently their dolls seem more complete.
Such adventures the girls have with their dolls in the doll shop! Anna is even courteous enough to write notes to her doll, Bernadette Louise, when she is busy in the shop making new dolls. Will Bernadette Louise's owner ever return to the doll shop to claim her for a lucky person?
My only criticism of the book is that it is not realistic that F. A. O. Schwartz becomes interested in buying the family's homemade dolls.
The book was based on a historical figure, Beatrice Alexander, a dollmaker. As a girl, her name was Bertha, and there was a doll shop downstairs where she played with dolls awaiting repair. During World War I, she constructed Madame Alexander dolls that did not depend on the importation of German-made doll parts.