Dare Wright's The Lonely Doll
Children's book review by Suzanne Holland
Exquisite isn’t a word I would use lightly, but it is the first one that springs to mind when I reread this book. Lovely, timeless, enchanting are also applicable.
The Lonely Doll has as its concept the story of a little doll and her search for friends portrayed in black and white photographs, rather than illustrations. That concept is unique in itself; I can’t immediately think of anyone except Tanya Hoban who does this.
What makes this book so special is the artful juxtaposition of dolls in adult sized settings.
It is as if the inhabitants of the house and neighborhoods have all momentarily disappeared, leaving the evidence of an upper crust home, with its beautiful furniture, clothes and jewelry.
The story line is captivating also. Poor Edith, our lonely doll, is wishing hard for some friends when, as if by magic, Mr. Bear and Little Bear appear on her doorstep. They are snuggly teddy bears that somehow knew Edith needed them.
All disbelief and questions are suspended as we read and see the fun adventures. These are no ordinary bears! Dare Wright has given them personalities that somehow we can discern not simply by following the story but by admiring the poses and settings of the bears. We can certainly tell that Little Bear is a fun-loving rascal, and that Mr. Bear is kindly but strict (Edith and Little Bear have to do their lessons).
The Bears and Edith have some wonderful times together. They go to the park, the beach and fishing.
As a little girl I wanted a doll exactly like Edith; I would have loved to be Edith! She had the most adorable clothes and hairdos. Lest you think this is a book that would only appeal to girls, let me say that the little boys in my class have always liked it, too. Oh sure, they all moan when I bring it out and tell them the title, but Little Bear and his impish personality claims their attention.
Well, of course, good times can’t last forever, and the inevitable crisis happens.
On a boring rainy day just meant for mischief, Edith and Little Bear wreak havoc with dress up clothes and makeup. Mr. Bear catches them; Edith gets fresh (she calls him a silly!) and gets a spanking.
In the interest of full disclosure, when Edith is across Mr. Bear’s lap, a little bit of her frilly underpants is showing. Just so you know! Also, remember back in the 50’s and 60’s when this series was written, spanking was an acceptable form of discipline.
Poor insecure Edith is sure that this must mean that Mr. Bear doesn’t love her any more and that he will leave her to be all alone again. Of course, this doesn’t happen and in fact there are further books that chronicle their antics:
Edith and Mr. Bear, A Gift from the Lonely Doll, Holiday for Edith and the Bears, and The Lonely Doll Learns a Lesson.
Children can certainly relate to the anxiety that accompanies getting in trouble and displeasing their parents. Mr. Bear solemnly promises that he will never her and there is our happy ending.
Children love this book and so do I!
Grandmothers, favorite aunties and parents should consider adding The Lonely Doll to a classic book collection. It’s the next best thing to having Edith herself!
Webmaster's note: You can even order a new book about Edith in color photography. The Lonely Doll Makes New Friends is "a story in the Dare Wright tradition."
Read more of Suzanne's reviews.
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.