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The Cats in the Doll Shop Hardcover – November 10, 2011

15 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Doll Shop Series

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Editorial Reviews


"...a sweet and old-fashioned story, similar in style to Sydney Taylor's All-of-a-Kind Family, set in World War I-era New York. Sensitive readers will relate to Anna's desire to make everything right for her cousin..." — School Library Journal, starred review

"Filled with references to Jewish traditions and the rich history of tenement life in New York City, these fully realized characters could be best friends with the girls from Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family. A quiet treasure." — Kirkus

"...a charming period piece that capitalizes on the nostalgia for its historical era without losing its emotional resonance with young readers. The black-and-white line illustrations are pleasingly romantic, primarily featuring Anna and her siblings dressed much like a certain American Girl Doll, along with the occasional furry kitty. Between the cats, the dolls, and the cozy family drama, what’s not to love?" — Bulletin for the Council of Children's Books

"McDonough does a wonderful job of capturing Anna's thoughts and feelings and bringing the reader into her world. Anna's compassion for her cousin and the cats will endear her to readers. Fans of Fancy Nancy and the American Girl series will find this book delightful, and will be clamoring for a sequel." — Library Media Connection

About the Author

Yona Zeldis McDonough is a longtime doll lover and collector. She is also an award-winning author who has published numerous books for children and adults. She presently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.
Heather Maione loved dolls when she was a child, though not quite as much as she loved to draw. The illustrator of numerous children’s books, she lives on Long Island with her husband and two children.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 690L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 140 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (November 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670012793
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670012794
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,489,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of six novels for adults: THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS, IN DAHLIA'S WAKE, BREAKING THE BANK (which has been optioned for a film), A WEDDING IN GREAT NECK, TWO OF A KIND and the about-to-be released, YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME, which will be out on October 7, 2014.

She is also an award-winning children's book author with 23 children's books to her credit. THE DOLL SHOP DOWNSTAIRS received a starred review from Jewish Book World saying that it "will become a classic." In another starred review Kirkus called the sequel, THE CATS IN THE DOLL SHOP, "a quiet treasure." THE DOLL WITH THE YELLOW STAR won the 2006 Once Upon a World Award presented by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Her most recent book for children, LITTLE AUTHOR IN THE BIG WOODS: A BIOGRAPHY OF LAURA INGALLS WILDER, came out from Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, on September 16, 2014 and her latest in the popular WHO WAS...? series, WHO WAS SOJOURNER TRUTH?, is forthcoming from Grosset & Dunlap.

For over a dozen years, Yona has been the Fiction Editor at Lilith Magazine. She works independently to help aspiring writers polish their manuscripts. To arrange a book club visit, inquire about editorial services or just to say hi, please contact Yona via her website: or on the Facebook fan pages for her novels, which she hopes you'll "like."


When I was young, I didn't think about becoming a writer. In fact, I was determined to become a ballerina, because I studied ballet for many years, and by the time I was in high school, I was taking seven ballet classes a week. But I was always a big reader. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and I used to frequent all the different libraries in my neighborhood on a regular basis. I would look for books by authors I loved. I read my favorite books--ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, A LITTLE PRINCESS, A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN--over and over again. I probably read each of those books twenty times in all. I read lots of other things too: I loved comic books and magazines, like Mad and Seventeen. But when you are reader, you just need to read. Sometimes you read books that change your life, like OF MICE AND MEN, which I read--and adored-- when I was in sixth grade. Other times, you read the latest adventures of Betty and Veronica. You'll read a three-day old newspaper some days or the back of the cereal box if that's all that there is available, because readers just need to read. So I kept reading, and I kept dancing too, though by the time I was a senior in high school, it was pretty clear to me that I was neither talented nor driven enough to become a professional ballet dancer and I stopped taking lessons and went off to college instead.

As a student at Vassar College, I never once took a writing course. I was not accepted into the poetry workshop I applied to, so I avoided all other writing classes, and instead focused on literature, language and art history, which was my declared major. I was so taken with the field that I decided to pursue my studies on a graduate level. I enrolled in a PhD program at Columbia University where I have to confess that I was miserable. I didn't like the teachers, the students or the classes. I found graduate school the antithesis of undergraduate education; while the latter encouraged experimentation, growth, expansion, the former seemed to demand a kind of narrowing of focus and a rigidity that was simply at odds with my soul. It was like business school without the reward of a well-paying job at the end. Everyone carried a briefcase. I too bought a briefcase, but since I mostly used it to tote my lunch and the NYT crossword puzzle, it didn't do much for my success as a grad student. But I have to thank the program at Columbia for being so very inhospitable, because it helped nudge me out of academia, where I so patently did not belong, and into a different kind of life. I was allowed to take classes in other departments, and by now I was recovered from my earlier rejection so I decided to take a fiction writing class--also, the class was open to anyone; I didn't have to submit work to be accepted. This class was my 'aha!' moment. The light bulb went off for me when I took that class. Suddenly, I understood what I wanted to do with my life. Now I just had to find a way to make a living while I did it.

I finished out the year at Columbia, got a job in which I had no interest whatsoever, and began to look for any kind of freelance writing that I could find. In the beginning, I wrote for very little money or even for free: I wrote for neighborhood newspapers, the alumni magazine of my college. I wrote brochures, book reviews, newsletters--anything and everything that anyone would ask me to write. I did this for a long time and eventually, it worked. I was able to be a little choosier about what I wrote, and for whom I wrote it. And I was able to use my clips to persuade editors to actually assign me articles and stories, instead of my having to write them and hope I could get then published.
But all the while I was also writing the kind of fiction--short stories, a novel--that had interested me when I was still a student at Columbia. And eventually I began to publish this work too.

I presently live in Brooklyn, NY with my husband and our two children and two small, yappy dogs. I have been setting my recent novels in my own backyard so to speak; Brooklyn has been fertile ground in all sorts of ways.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark on March 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
My 7-year-old daughter really loved The Doll Shop Downstairs -- in fact I credit it for getting her excited about reading -- so we were anxious to pick up Ms. McDonough's "sequel." And it definitely didn't disappoint. Yona McDonough has the rare gift of being able to tell a good, moving story while also sneaking in lots of history, religion, and culture. The only disappointment, as with any good book, is that it ends. I'd also add from a parent's perspective that I find her books very enjoyable -- which isn't always the case with children's books. And I don't even like cats! An excellent book.
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Format: Hardcover
In a family of three girls the news of an addition to the family comes with mixed feelings. When Anna discovers her new cousin Tania is coming from Russia to spend the year with their family she's thrilled, though their shared age seems to be the only similarity as of yet. Anna's sisters find Tania's quietness and the food she hides odd and instantly dislike her, but Anna quickly accepts her by offering her a new doll she created specifically for Tania. With the addition of Tania the last thing the family needs is a pet, but it may be just the thing to bring Tania out of her shell and potentially solve another problem altogether.

Charming. Absolutely charming and beautiful storytelling are found within the pages of The Cats in the Doll Shop by Yona Zeldis McDonough. Generally speaking I'm not incredibly fond of historically based novels & books for one reason or another, but this story was written so well that I couldn't help but be taken in by the lovely Anna. Her parents are recent immigrants to the US and have found a way to provide for themselves by creating and selling a line of dolls to companies like FAO Schwartz. For a ten or eleven year old girl I can think of no better place to be than in a family that has a never ending supply of dolls to create and play with, making it the perfect setting for the intended audience.

Obviously Anna's family is frugal though and the story isn't simply about the dolls and the doll shop, but about their cousin Tania and the cats that accompany her arrival. Anna was so welcoming to her cousin and it was wonderful to read about not only her desire to make her feel at home but her thoughts about her two sister's feelings about Tania.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been reading every day to my daughter, now 7, since the day she was born. When she picked up a copy of The Doll Shop Downstairs, our routine changed. For the first time, she wanted to experience reading a book all by herself. To say I was astonished wouldn't be quite accurate, I was also proud. Reading had become a private experience for her. She had found characters she loved and didn't want to share with anyone else. Once she completed The Doll Shop Downstairs, I quickly gave her The Cats in the Doll Shop. She carried around her beloved copy like a talisman or a guidebook to surviving childhood. I'm indebted to Yona Zeldis McDonough for giving my child characters so rich that she would have liked to befriend them and lessons on how to cope with growing pains, grief, and longing. This is an exquisite book soon to be a classic much like other treasured books from yesteryear. Your daughter will thank you for buying her a copy.
Below you'll find my daughter Olivia's review of The Cats in the Doll Shop:
This book shows Jewish culture, like the Sabbath and special holidays. I think it was helpful to show how you can interact with someone who might be disadvantaged or scared or from a different place than you. It was a very emotional story. I liked the fact that it was from the little girl Anna's point of view. I like the relationship she developed with the cats and how she gets to know them and take care of them. I liked how Anna's relationship with her big sister Sophie changed as the book ended. Tania and the cats brought them together. This book inspired me to imagine my own stories because of how Anna created her beautiful dolls. Yona Zeldis McDonough is a wonderful author and has created characters who children will love.
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Format: Hardcover
This is from my review from 11/5/11 on my website: [...]

Yes, I know. Two children's books in a row. Not my usual fare. But bear with me a moment. Baby Boomers read children's books because 1) there are children in our lives and/or 2) good children's books are always fun. In that vein, let me introduce The Cats in the Doll Shop by Yona Zeldis McDonough (illustrated by Heather Maione, Viking, November 10, 2011), a really good book. I won't give too many spoilers because you should take my advice and read it aloud to a 8 to 11-year-old. A sequel to the prize-winning The Doll Shop Downstairs, the plot features three young Jewish sisters who live on New York City's Lower East Side during the first years of World War I. Also in the story: their cousin Tania, who arrives from an increasingly impoverished Russia that is about to explode into civil war and revolution-and two cats. McDonough in no way diminishes "for kids" Tania's suffering and emotional bruising (from poverty in Russia and a rough passage to the U.S.A.). Neither are Tania's pathological shyness and strange personality ticks air-brushed. The fate of some newborn stray kittens cruelly broomed off a fire escape by an unfriendly neighbor is handled in a straightforward manner. And yet the tone and plot are mostly playful, always engaging. The Cats in the Doll Shop strongly reminds me, in fact, of the "All of a Kind Family" series by Sydney Taylor I read and loved in elementary school. (Those books were skewed to a slightly older audience.) Again, we have details of Jewish life in America in the second decade of the 20th century. The book is filled with dolls made by the father and the talented young Anna. I loved that!
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