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4.8 out of 5 stars
Fanny
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Oh this just doesn't make a jot of sense. It doesn't. Look, under normal circumstances books with big flashy morals make me cringe. You know what I'm talking about. Books with agendas. The ones that foist some kind of message on you like "be yourself" or "cheating is wrong". To make a book with that kind of blatant preachifying actually work as a whole you need to be some kind of amazing writer. You need serious skills. And then I pick up Fanny by Holly Hobbie. I pick it up, I read it, I choke up, I read it again, and for the life of me I have absolutely no idea why a book that could have been so messagey and didactic instead ends up sweet, loving, and smart. What the freaking heck happened here? For Holly Hobbie (author/illustrator of those fabulous Toot & Puddle books) to switch gears entirely and write a picture book about a little girl, LET ALONE a picture book that thwaps Barbie and Bratz dolls upside the head, and for that same book to be an overwhelming and utter success.. well, I can't explain it. By all logic this book shouldn't work. The fact that it will charm you utterly and completely is a testament to Ms. Hobbie's mad skillz in the writing and illustrating arenas. Bow before her, people. Then scratch your head in bafflement.

If there is one thing in the world Fanny wants it is a Connie doll. One of those big-lipped designer dolls all her friends already have. And when Fanny's mom says in no uncertain terms that she will not purchase that toy for her daughter, Fanny comes up with a solution. Why not make her own? The end result is a lovely comfy doll she names Annabelle that looks nothing like the store bought Connies everyone else has. At first Fanny grows embarrassed of her "different" doll. But after a little consideration she decides that even though Annabelle isn't like the others, she's still a great doll and worth playing with (particularly when the Connies are nurses and Annabelle's the doctor). And when she starts making her more clothes, Fanny decides to give Annabelle her own little doll. That doll's name? Why Connie, of course.

They publisher is sort of toting this with a Holly-Hobbie-Goes-Human angle. Those of us who were children of the 70s and 80s, however, might be surprised to learn that this is not the first time Ms. Hobbie has penned people rather than pigs. If you flip through her illustrated memoir The Art of Holly Hobbie you'll find quite a few Sunbonnet Sue pictures. The minute I saw these they triggered an immediate response in the spiderwebbed crevices of my memory. Holy cats, I used to read Holly Hobbie when I was a kid! After gasping a little over this revelation, however, it's clear that the author has refined her art over the years. Where in the past her girls were often be-hatted with faces hidden in silhouette, Fanny's mug is clear and present every step of the way. If Ms. Hobbie ever sported a reluctance to do people, it's now impossible to tell.

Let's go back to Fanny though. Take a gander at this gal. She's kind of a rare beast, though you wouldn't necessarily recognize the fact at a first glance. The glasses and headband are cute. Ditto her penchant for black leggings and pink sneaks. And as one co-worker of mine said as she flipped through the book, "Thank GOD she's not a redhead!" We children's librarians get a little sick of repetition, and some days it feels like the word "spunky" is synonymous with "flame-haired". That said I'd almost say that Fanny is less "spunky" than she is inventive and ingenious. I mean, she wants something, her mother says no, and so instead of whining about it she sets about finding a solution to her problem another way. Spunk heck. This kids' got chutzpah.

I can already hear what some people will say about the book. A kid that age has created a doll that good? Poppycock! Yeah, well sure. That's probably true. Maybe Fanny's some kind of proto-sewing machine prodigy for being able to create a doll this good out of her pink pajama top. But I think most people will be willing to overlook that minor detail (and honestly, it's not impossible that some kids would be gifted in this way) in the face of the story's tone. Hobbie's great skill is that she never feels like she's pandering or even trying to make you feel a particular emotion. Using succinct little sentences we feel Fanny's frustration, embarrassment, and ultimate confidence without a vast plethora of needless sentences. Plus you can't help but like a book where the mom explains why she won't buy her daughter her heart's desire because when it comes to those kinds of dolls "They're just too... much." Parents everywhere will sympathize.

The illustrations themselves are part of the real draw here. Fanny is immediately accessible and sympathetic right off the bat. Something about her feels real. Maybe that's why the artificial glamour of the Connie dolls look so out of place. Not that Hobbie can't make a mean Connie doll. A combination (as I've said) of Barbie and the Bratz, these vapid supermodels make for a wonderful punch line when Fanny and friends play hospital and Dr. Annabelle is assisted by two over-makeuped nurses. Above and beyond the physical presentation of the objects in this book, Hobbie is also capable of producing an excellent skeptical glance. When Fanny presents her homemade Connie doll the looks on her friends' faces speak volumes.

The book bears some surface similarities to The Birthday Doll by Jane Cutler in which a glamorous hard plastic doll is eventually eschewed as a bedtime companion for its floppier, sweeter rival. That book might pair nicely with little Fanny, but there's an emotional tug to this book that would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. Hobbie's managed just the perfect melding of text and image so that what you end up with isn't a diatribe against oversexed dolls for girls but a clever story of ingenuity and tenderness. Tone can sometimes be everything in a picture book and the tone of Fanny will sustain it in the memories of children and adults for a long time to come. Sweet in the best sense of the word.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is excellent for children who are unique in their own special ways. Fanny is a little girl who wants the doll that every other girl has, but her mom won't get it for Fanny. Fanny decides she'd make her own doll. When her friends see her doll, they ignore it and instead play with the popular dolls. Fanny puts away her doll since it was different. Fanny get's a sewing machine from her mom, which her friends also put down. That night, Fanny starts thinking about her doll and didn't want the doll to be scared/lonely. By morning, Fanny has realized how special her doll is because she made her. Fanny is then invited over to her friends house and proudly brings her doll. Fanny and her friends play with the popular dolls and Fanny's doll. At the end of the book, Fanny gets creative again. Really cute book!!

This is a great book because it addresses a common issue amoung children (and parents too). Children will identify with Fanny because of the emotions she experiences with her Mom and her friends. In the end, Fanny was proud of her creative uniqueness which she was able to comfortably incorporate into her next play date with her friends.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
What a wonderful book for girls! I read through this the first time without telling my daughters about it (just in case we had another Purplicious incident) and was amazed at how well this book presented essentially the same type of life-lesson without the unacceptable behavior! They loved it and asked me to read it again, then re-read it after that! They have faced some of the same doll issues (they still want Bratz, but we have never allowed them to have the dolls, their games, books, or videos, etc.) and could easily related to the main character in that sense. It's always heart-warming to find good, girl-positive books that present great ideas for topics of discussion between mother and daughter.

I highly recommend this one to anyone who wants their daughter to understand that it's perfectly alright to dance to a slightly different tune. :)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2015
Format: Hardcover
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.

[Spoiler alert]

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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I just read this one to my six year old son and 4 year old daughter and they loved. I do too. It's simple and sweet and makes you feel okay for being different. Now they both want sewing machines for their birthdays!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
We have a new, loved doll book we recently added to our collection. Holly Hobbie has written a book that this mom and her daughters can relate too, a story that will delight any creative little girl's heart, about a little girl who desperately wants a Connie doll just like her friends, but consistently and vehemently gets told no by her mother,

"Because I don't like the way Connie dolls look," said her mother. "They're just too...much."

Frustrated but resourceful, Fanny decides to make her own Connie doll. But when she's finished, the doll doesn't look anything like Connie. When her friends silently express their disapproval, Fanny banishes the doll to a dresser drawer. She ultimately has to decide which she cares about most: the doll or her friends' approval.

Despite the heavy sounding moral, the story is charming, not too "girly" and comes across as a joyful testament to a child's creativity and ultimate good sense.

(A bonus of buying the book is that it includes a Holly Hobbie illustrated paper doll to fasten together, as well as a blank one that your child can color and make thoroughly their own.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
OK so obviously a beautiful book with a great message. I sat with my 5 year old daughter and we read it. At the end I was a bit choked up and she look moved too, so I said, "should we make you your own doll". Her response? "Can I get a Connie doll?" doh!!!! So the 4 star rating (as opposed to 5) is for the apparent lack of effectiveness of the message to my own daughter!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Fanny is a girl that finds her own way to believing in herself, with the help of Annabelle of course. I loved this book because it shows a young girl who starts to doubt herself because of peer presure but she doesn't cave in and in the end she is happy. The next book in this series was a lot of fun too. I hope there are more to follow.
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on August 14, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
this is a sweet book, beautifully illustrated, and i have enjoyed having holly hobbie become a part of my little girl's childhood, she was a feature of mine in the seventies. after re-reading this, my 5yo became inspired to make her own doll, collecting fabrics, stuffing, pins etc. together, we made our own rather imperfect annabelle doll, who we both love despite her many little flaws, and yes, i think she IS alive, she has certainly made her presence and needs felt, and the other toys are feeling a little insecure as my 5yo deals with making them all friends with this powerful new arrival. my 5yo has made peg dolls and pipe cleaner dolls before, hand made dolls impact on a house-hold in a way that store-bought will never capture. . .somehow, the imperfections are really stirring. the heroine, fanny is clearly a very creative character . . .
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Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book is wonderful. My daughter loves it and I was actually reluctant to purchase it having never heard of it before. My wife told me it was good and I got it here on amazon. In fact, both my 6 year old as well as my 3 year old enjoy it and ask for it very frequently. It is currently next to their bed since it is one of the more requested books to be read to sleep. I've read it several times and heard my wife read it many many times and I am not tired of it one bit. I highly recommend it and hope it receives the recognition it deserves.
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