Monday, 17 September 2012

Paper Dolls, by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb

Paper Dolls stars a little girl with tiger slippers, stars on her ceiling, and a butterfly hairslide which she keeps losing. On the second page, her and her mum make a string of five paper dolls, and so the rest of the story follows their adventures. They get chased by a dinosaur,  stalked by a tiger, and pursued by a crocodile. “You can’t catch us. Oh no no no!” they sing. “We’re holding hands and we won’t let go,” and they escape off to the next stage in their adventure.

Rebecca Cobb’s illustrations are simple and endearing, quite nostalgic, the little girl wearing a green stripey dress, green tights and a cosy red cardigan. What I like best, though, is the way the illustrations are organised. First, the dinosaur is introduced, accompanied by a picture of the girl sitting on her bed, paper dolls in one hand, dinosaur in the other. Turn the page, though, and suddenly the dinosaur is real, chasing the string of dolls, who have come alive and are running and jumping. Turn the page again, and they’re back to toys, until... boom, the tiger is chasing the dolls across a farmyard. I like this blending of reality and imagination as the story progresses.

The story is sweet, though it didn’t blow me away. I wasn’t too keen on the names given to the paper dolls, and the ending is rather unusual. It exudes happiness and contentment though, and when the paper dolls come to a sticky ending, Julia Donaldson gives it a slightly over-sentimental, happy twist. Again, the illustrations are the best part of this, the page filled with lots of different things to look for and pick out: can you find the mice, the bus, the stars, the goldfish? It’s a nice sentiment, though one that adults are more likely to 'get' than children, I think. Firstly: you can overcome anything if you hold hands like the paper dolls do, and stick together. Secondly: your memory is a treasure trove that can help keep hold of things that have been lost.

The little girl’s tiger slippers are the coolest thing ever, and I quite fancy a butterfly hairclip too - which can be followed through the pages like a mini treasure hunt.

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