From School Library Journal
Grade 3–5— When Zoey's mom whisks her out of their Minneapolis apartment to her grandmother's house in the country (the grandmother she never knew she had), the 10-year-old is excited but curious. Instantly she feels the tension between her mother and Grandmother Hazel. Seeking relief, she explores the house and finds a dollhouse with a beautiful doll in it. When an accidental tear falls from Zoey's eye onto the tiny china face, Princess Regina comes to life and begins to order Zoey around. The doll returns to her inanimate state when her mother leaves without a promise of return. Bauer weaves a fairy tale into a contemporary story of parental mental illness and resulting neglect. She depicts Princess Regina as alternating between alive and inanimate until she is touched by Zoey's tears and recognizes the compassion within herself. Now permanently alive, Regina joins Zoey and Hazel (who once owned the doll) and they adjust well to the life they share. While this book can be read simply as a fairy tale or on deeper levels of love and loss, it elicits the magic of The Velveteen Rabbit and Pinocchio, where only through love does one become real.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH
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On the day her mother drives her to the faraway town where her grandmother lives, Zoey learns several startling things: that she has a grandmother, who welcomes Zoey into her home; that her mother intends to leave her there indefinitely; and that the tiny china doll in her mother’s old room sometimes comes to life. Handed down through generations of Zoey’s foremothers, the imperious doll, Princess Regina, is a strong yet ultimately vulnerable character in her own right. The reader is often made aware of the narrator, who comments on the characters, their situations, and the storyteller’s task itself. Her amiable, conversational tone could be called avuncular if it weren’t so clearly feminine. Sayles’ pleasing black-and-white pictures illustrate the book with sensitivity and wit. While the story’s fantasy element does not always meld convincingly with the realistic depiction of Zoey’s family problems, at its best this unusual early chapter book succeeds in both areas. Grades 2-4. --Carolyn Phelan