I love Fracesca Lia Block, but I must admit to some skepticism when I saw a tiny picture book with illustrations by Barbara McClintock. HOUSE OF DOLLS (Harper 2010) is a rarity in that it combines lovely, delicate illustrations with a story that is dark in places. Madison Blackberry (and the naming here is exquisite for all the characters) inherits a dollhouse and its occupants. However, she is now terribly fond of the dolls who seem to have a better life than she does. She removed B Friend (the bear boyfriend of one doll) and Guy (another boyfriend to another doll) and says they are away at war. What is war? The bnsence of someone you love, being in the dark, losing hope. WOW. Little by little, the dollhouse falls to disrepair. Then the final insult: dresses are gone as well. The dolls implore Madison's grandmother for her help. She knows just what is motivating Madison and how to help make both Madison's and the dolls' lives better.
I know it may sound sappy here in the retelling. That is my clumsiness, I assure you. Block uses language as an artist uses color and line and texture: lovingly, sparingly, boldly as necessary. Somehow the language and illustrations combine to produce a wonderful book definitely for older readers. Slight at 61 pages, there is much here to be chewed and contemplated. <246>