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The Doll Shop Downstairs Hardcover – September 3, 2009

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 3
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile (September 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067001091X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670010912
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 2–4—Anna's father repairs dolls for a living with parts he special orders from Germany. Their family lives above the shop and the nine-year-old and her sisters help with chores. In their spare time, they make up games to play with the dolls waiting to be repaired. Of course, each girl has a favorite. When war breaks out (an author's note says it is World War I and describes the embargo), Anna's father can no longer get his parts and the shop begins to suffer. He starts returning the dolls he can't repair, and soon there are only six left. Then Anna comes up with the idea to create new ones, and her Nurse Nora is a success. With business looking better, the only thing the girls have left to worry about is whether or not the owners of their favorite broken dolls will return to claim them. This slow but sweet tale has an old-fashioned feel and is based on a true story. Readers who stick with it will be happy with the ending.—Kelly Roth, Bartow County Public Library, Cartersville, GA END


-Mix one part Rumer Godden+s The Story of Holly and Ivy and many parts Sydney Taylor+s All-of-a-Kind Family and you create a standout family-and-doll story.+-Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 13 customer reviews
I collect dolls and this book is great.
It is so hard today to find books with good stories and with good lessons to teach.
My 10 year old daughter really enjoyed this book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on September 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Breittlemann family operated a successful doll-repair business on the Lower East Side of New York City. Because store-bought dolls were made of fragile materials such as china and porcelain during the early 1900s, they broke easily, and the Breittlemann shop had established a good reputation for its high-quality work. Anna and her sisters enjoyed helping out in any way they could, especially when it meant they could play with the dolls undergoing repairs. After all, these were expensive dolls that their parents could ill afford to purchase themselves.

The start of World War I brought an enormous interruption to their business, since almost all the doll parts they used were imported from Germany and the United States placed an embargo on trade with Germany. When Mama started taking in sewing jobs in order to generate badly needed cash, Anna became determined to get a job and help her family. Along the way the Breittlemanns learned that taking a chance with an interesting idea could lead to some surprising outcomes.

This tender story, with its plot based on actual events, is loaded with substance. Economic themes, especially the impact of war-time scarcities on production and consumption, are delicately woven into a tale of Jewish culture, social class, and children's play. The book's subtle blend of these rich themes works well to broaden the appeal to more than just doll lovers.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jewish Book World Magazine on December 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
With a nod to the best children's books about dolls, and another to Sydney Taylor's
All of a Kind Family, author Yona Zeldis Mcdonough gives us wholly original story about three doll loving Jewish sisters in New York City's Lower East Side. Mama and Papa run Breittlemann's Doll Repair Shop, whose sign states, "All Kinds of Dolls Lovingly Restored and Mended, Est. 1904". The story is told by middle sister, Anna, stuck between smart and grown up Sophie, age 11, and cute baby Trudy, who tries whining and crying to get her way. In a mere 107 magical pages, we are transported to the Breittleman's home and business, just before the outbreak of World War I. Dolls and doll parts, a resourceful Mama and Papa, and an appealing heroine and her sisters, are deftly drawn. Arguments among the siblings, hurt feelings, and lack of money are some of the problems that beset the family. When World War I breaks out, and an embargo is placed on importing German goods, economic problems loom; the doll repair business is in trouble. With resourcefulness, Anna surprises herself and her family by coming up with a possible solution. More than dolls are mended in this story. Anna, with the help of her encouraging mama, her pocket notebook diary and the comfort she finds in writing, mends her own heart, and finds her place in the family. Sketchy line drawings by Heather Maione convey the old fashioned ambience of the doll shop, and the active sisters in pinafores. Reading level, typeface, spacing and book length are perfect for young readers. This reviewer predicts that The Doll Shop Downstairs will become a classic. Jewish observance and values are a positive and matter of fact part of this very American story. For readers from 8-12 and as a read aloud for classrooms and families. Naomi Morse
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
THE DOLL SHOP DOWNSTAIRS receives fine black and white drawings throughout by Heather Maione as it tells of a doll shop and an awkward middle child who feels special only when she's in her family's doll repair shop with her favorite doll - a repair doll that isn't hers. When war threatens the shop, Anna dreams of saving it - and her doll. Girls will find this a tender, winning tale.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on December 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is about three sisters named Trudie, Sophie, and Anna.Anna is nine. Even though all of them are in the book at a lot of times, Anna is sort of like the main character. Sophie is eleven and acts like a grown up a lot and Trudie is seven and she whines a lot. Anna thinks that it is hard being a middle sister, because Trudie is cute and little, and Sophie is pretty and smart and can do a lot of things that Anna can't do. Anna thinks that Sophie is really clever but I think that Anna is too. Like the time when Trudie was about to cry because they didn't have a bed for their dolls, and Anna already had something to be like a bed for them. They live above a doll repair shop that their family owns. They help their parents run the shop when they don't have school. This family lives in 1904, and they are Jewish. I really like historical fiction, and sometimes it can be more interesting then plain fiction. This is a really detailed book! A lot of times in books the beginnings are interesting, because they tell a lot about the family. But it was like that the whole entire book. The girls had "their"own dolls, but they weren't really their dolls. They were actually dolls that had been sent to the shop to get repaired. But Papa was unable to find the right doll parts from Germany. So Sophie, Anna, and Trudie get to play with those three dolls.Sophie's is Victoria Marie, Anna's is Bernadette Louise, and Trudie's is Angelica Grace.I really, really liked this book. It is the best book I ever read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By GiGi on April 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I collect dolls and this book is great. I don't find too many books on doll stories. It is about a little girl, whose father owns a doll hospital. Her family is too poor to buy her a new doll and so she is allowed to play with a doll in need of repair. But once the doll is repaired it goes back to its owner. Read and see what happens! A nice book for doll lovers of any age!
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