Forgotten Bookshelf: The Dollhouse Caper by Jean S. O’Connell
Okay . . . I admit it, I’ve got kind of a weakness for children’s books about dolls. When I was really little I loved reading Beatrix Potter’s tales of Hunca-Munca and Lucinda Doll, and when I was a bit older I found Behind the Attic Wall captivating (and hypnotically disturbing). Now that I’m grown up, I still enjoy books like The Doll People and The Christmas Doll. So can I tell you how jazzed I was to find The Dollhouse Caper? Especially since . . . wait for it . . . it’s a book about dolls who get played with by boys.
Yeah, boys. No, it isn’t some sappy attempt to make a novel-length version of William’s Doll (although, I like that one, too). Jean O’Connell simply creates a family with three boys which owns a dollhouse that they bring out of the attic every Christmas, and the boys each enjoy playing with it in their own unique ways. For example, the father doll spends pretty much all of his time stuffed upside-down in the toilet (you can see this on the cover illustration, above).
Of course, Father Dollhouse doesn’t mind this – he’s far more concerned that his owners – young Kevin, Peter, and Harry – will soon decide that they are too grown-up to play with dolls. Also, the dolls keep hearing voices outside at night, making plans to rob the house when the boys and their family are away for the holidays. Can the dolls warn the humans of the impending robbery before it’s too late?
As you can see, Connell’s books goes to great lengths to create a story about dolls that both boys and girls will enjoy – and she succeeds. It’s fast-paced, full of humor (especially during the scenes with the somewhat bumbling robbers), and has charming details about the dolls’ life in the dollhouse (there are depictions of them decorating a tiny Christmas tree, eating fake food together in the kitchen). And as a bonus for reluctant readers, it’s thin. Nothing like a good thin book to make the school assignments easier. (It’s also a plus for teachers looking for a good classroom read-aloud.) It’s enough to make even the most jaded little soul want to play with dolls again – or at least read more stories about children who do.