CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 8 . . . . December 10, 1999
A young girl growing up in Moscow in the 1930's has a very special wish. She wants a doll and has her heart set on a beautiful one she has seen in a Moscow store window.
"But little Kim's parents like many parents in Russia those days believed that little girls who played with dolls would never learn to be brave and strong. And since they wanted their little girl to be among the bravest and the strongest, they weren't going to buy her a doll. Ever."
Kim is determined and makes her own doll by taking a soup spoon and dressing it in a kerchief. Kim's parents try to tempt her with a more "suitable" toy - a rifle. But her reaction to this new toy does not please her parents.
"Little Kim pressed the rifle to her heart. She wrapped it in a cuddly blanket and rocked it gently singing a Russian lullaby ... her mother was furious!"
In time, Kim's parents have a change of heart and see Kim's persistence as proof that she is strong and courageous. For her fifth birthday, Kim is given the beautiful doll she has seen in the store window.
This book is problematic on many levels. The author, who was born in Moscow, has set this very simple story against the complex historical background of the Soviet Union in the 1930's. It is a bit ambitious for a picture book for very young children to try and embrace the political and ideological subtleties of that time. Here, we have goose-stepping guards and parents trying to tempt their child with a toy rifle. Perhaps these images take away from the strength of the story. As well, I think may people will find the illustration of a young child crafting a rifle very unsettling.
The stylized and sophisticated illustration by commercial artist Luc Melanson make this visually a very handsome book, but I do not think the text or illustration work well for the intended audience.
Carol McDougall worked for many years in Children's and Young Adult Services with the Toronto Public Library and was the librarian for the Canadian Children's Book Centre. She is currently the Atlantic Liaison Officer for the Canadian Children's Book Centre in Halifax, NS.
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