Saturday, December 7, 2013

December Doll Reading: The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden

 Throughout December I'll be suggesting some nice doll books to read with your children. First up is The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden.

This is the version I have. The pictures are only coloured in green and red.

 Rumer Godden wrote several children's books with doll characters, including "Miss Happiness and Miss Flower", about a pair of Japanese dolls, and the sequel "Little Plum",and  "Impunity Jane: The Story of a Pocket Doll".She also wrote many books for adults.
  The Story of Holly and Ivy was a book I had as a kid. It became one of Ivy's favourites because one of the characters had her name, so we read it every year for years. Still do sometimes.It was originally published in 1958, but I believe it's still in print. You can even get it for your Kindle!

This is a more modern edition.

   It's a very sweet book. The first sentence is a very good description of the story: "This is a story about wishing. It is also a story about a doll and a little girl."Set at Christmas time, it follows the story of an orphan named Ivy.When all the other children at Ivy's orphanage are taken in by families for Christmas and the last staff member must leave to take care of a sick relative,Ivy is sent to the babies orphan home. Stubborn Ivy insists that she is not a 'baby', and sets out to find the grandparents she is certain must be out there waiting for her. She gets off the train, only to find herself alone in a strange town, with no money and night quickly falling.It's also the story of Holly, a doll who has only just been unpacked for sale on Christmas eve. Holly is afraid she won't be sold in time for Christmas. The other toys warn her that with her red and green outfit, she is considered "a Christmas doll", and Christmas dolls will be returned to storage when the holiday is over, to wait out a long and lonely year in the dark.As for the wishing, Ivy wishes for the beautiful doll in the window,and a home and someone to love her. In spite of the warning that a child's hands are rough, Holly wishes for 'her' little girl, who will love her and muss her clothes in an embrace. Of course, we know they will end up together, and maybe Ivy will find the grand parents she's looking for. At least, we hope so. So many times it's so close, and yet so far that we're on the edge of the page, so to speak. The story is well  written.When Ivy falls asleep in a bakery shed and wakes up to find the shed has cooled in the night, we can almost feel how cold and stiff her legs have become. The ending always has me crying happy tears, which has always prompted Ivy to laugh at me. (Such an insensitive child for someone who cries at the drop of a hat to have had!)
It's a fairly short chapter book and can be read in one sitting if your kids are patient. (And so are you!) If not, you could surely do it in a couple of readings. Young kids can read it themselves.Age recommendations are all over the place on this book.The younger scale is for having it read to them obviously, but I've seen 4-8, 5-10, and up to age 12.As usual, you know your child and what they can understand, and what they'll put up with. (The story might be a bit slow moving and serious for some very young children to stay interested in.On the other hand, the characters of talking toys,and a villan that's an evil owl might do the trick!)
And even more recent.

 The book was made into an animated tv special called "The Wish that Changed Christmas" in 1991. The tv show isn't nearly as mystical (Was that toy owl really alive?) or beautiful as the book, but it's nice. I know it was released on video, but I don't know about DVD.

 It can also be viewed on YouTube. But read the book instead. And if you happen to cry at the end, well, maybe your kids won't make fun of you.


  1. Thanks for the memory of dolls in books, since the years have passed since my first memory of dolls in a book. I enjoyed this blog.
    My favorite book was THE SECRET GARDEN, with the little girl displaced, leaving her favorite dolls to move to England. And a GOLDEN BOOK about a little girl whose father is a ship captain, who brings home dolls from all over the world. My cousin brought me horses from service after the Korean War. The horses were used during my playtime.
    My memory of play was that it was forbidden after 10 years of age, and so I never saw my dolls again until I was 19 yrs old. The dolls were molded and thrown away.
    In my aging life, I collect dolls, make any doll from my crazy child's thinking, (which my husband says is all day, every grocery day of shopping at Walmart) I look at what is popular and selling.
    What do you think of Monster High Dolls? I met a mother that told me her 8 year old daughter is a collector, and has all the dolls she may find. I told her I saw a Monster High Doll that could be created by the child.
    I also make pole puppets from characters in books and make them look like my German grandparents as clowns. Also my best friend from college who died, I made into the Red Queen and named the Duchess after her from ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Thanks, Mrs. ATK

    1. I love The Secret Garden too! Another of my favourite children's books, (also by the same author, Frances Hodgson Burnett), is The Little Princess. Have you ever read that one? Come to think of it, her doll features in the book too. I got a Little Golden book last week I thought might be the one you're talking about. As it turns out, the girl in the book has dolls from all over the world, but it doesn't say her dad is a sea captain. It's a Ding Dong School book called 'Dolls of Many Lands.
      I like Monster High dolls. I think they look wonderful, and are very creative. I would still like my child to play with some human dolls though. I think it gets a little creepy to play with nothing but 'dead' characters and monsters all the time.


Thanks in advance for your comments.