As I’ve written elsewhere, this month is Picture Book Month, and today’s theme is Friendship (these people are organized), all of which gives me an excuse to write about one of my favorite books of all times, The Best-Loved Doll, by Rebecca Caudill. I’ve tried to show this book to Harper a few times, which has pretty much met with the response I had whenever my mother tried to show me movies she liked as a kid, as in, “Whuh? Where’s the color? Why’s everything so slow?” Kids today.
I don’t remember how I came to this book or exactly when, but I loved it. I loved it so much that all my dolls were named Jennifer, after the doll in the book, like I was some sort of elementary school George Foreman. I loved it so much that apparently I inscribed my copy to my best friend, Julie. I didn’t give it to her, since I still have it, but sort of just dedicated my copy to her, or something.
The Best-Loved Doll tells the story (true, apparently) of a little girl who is invited to a birthday party in a kickin’ brownstone. Each guest is asked to bring her best doll – there are several categories, including oldest and best-dressed – for tea and cake and prizes. Betsy considers her three fancy dolls, each of which would be sure to win a prize, before choosing to take Jennifer. Jennifer looks like hell, and her dress is “a fright.” She sort of resembles the sweet old lady you always see around and wonder if she’s homeless or not and decide she’s not because she seems too friendly and generally clean but you know her
apartment will kind of smell weird and have too many cats. Know what I mean? But Jennifer is Betsy’s favorite, and the one Betsy wants to party with. As Betsy watches all the other girls prizes, she hugs Jennifer and whispers reassurances. I just could not love this more. Betsy! What self-assuredness! I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say the ending is one of the more satisfying in all of fiction. I love the sketchy drawings too, although for me this book is really about the story of friendship and love and not caring what anyone thinks.
My hope is that one day Harper will let me get through this whole book with her, and more than that, of course, that she will be as self-assured and confident as Betsy, who doesn’t need to show off – in the world of little girls, this is a big deal – but is who she is, and wants her dolly to be who her dolly is. Like, World, Special Baby Doll is all filthy dirty and has a bunch of bandaids on her arms, but she’s my buddy so lay off!
This book is, to me, the essence of what’s great about girlhood. Then again, I really really really loved my dolls, and have a soft spot for odd, damaged, off-kilter things, so maybe it just appeals to my sensibilities. Or, perhaps, formed them.
Check out the official Picture Book Month site for great posts on why picture books are important (as if we needed convincing), as well as some great reading suggestions!