Most helpful critical review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Missed the mark
on March 22, 2015
I know I'm the odd Mom out here, with all of these five star reviews, but I think a different perspective is always worth sharing. I SO wanted to love this book! And, frankly, the illustrations and writing alone are worth at least another star. But I'm so disappointed that I'm going to have to go with two.
I picked up the book due to a Reading Rainbow summary, which described a little girl who really wanted a specific doll, and denied that doll, decided to make her own. What a fantastic idea for a story! I was anxious to read a tale of empowerment and creativity and self-sufficiency, oozing with a positive message, hoping even to encourage my own daughter to make her own doll. But reading through the book, I felt that potential crumble along the way.
So Fanny does indeed ask for a Connie doll (for her birthday, then Christmas, then another birthday), which resembles those big-eyed, big-lipped, overly made-up fashion dolls so popular today. Her Mom refuses to get her one because they're "...just too... much." So Fanny heads to her room, and cobbles together her own adorable doll! Seeing that she's very different from the Connie dolls, she names her Annabelle. With a nod of approval from her mother, Fanny decides that Annabelle is "marvelous." So far, I'm loving this. But then the story takes a turn I didn't expect.
Fanny takes Annabelle on a play date with her friends and their Connie dolls, where the friends outright reject Annabelle. (Message: different is bad [even when you've put your heart and soul into it].) Fanny is made to feel so uncomfortable that she stuffs her marvelous creation into a dresser drawer. (Message: if your peers disapprove of something you love, you should abandon it.) Later that night, Fanny's conscience gets to her, and Annabelle is retrieved from her hiding place.
For the next play date, her friends offer Fanny their "extra" Connie dolls, but she insists on bringing Annabelle. The girls end up playing hospital, where the fashionistas are nurses, assisting Dr. Annabelle. Okay, I see the air of empowerment here, but it feels forced. Annabelle has gone from being an outcast to a sort of detached superiority (she is tolerated because doctors are "better" than nurses). Neener, neener.
In the final scene, while making her some new clothes, Fanny decides to also make Annabelle her own doll. How sweet. Then in another surprise twist, the new doll is named Connie. What's the message here?
I think that it's easy for an adult to read into a story the message they expect to see, and I can only assume that's happened with some of these other reviews (I'd have given the book five stars based only on the Reading Rainbow summary and the illustrations myself). But our kids have no such expectations, so they only get the message that's actually there. Another reviewer commented that after reading the story, her daughter didn't want to make her own doll, but she did want to buy a Connie doll! Because in the end, a Connie doll is still what everyone wants. Even other dolls.