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The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson
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The Friendship Doll

by Kirby Larson

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A clever and touching story about how a Japanese "Amabssador of Friendship" doll touches the lives young American girls who encounter her during the Great Depression. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
Sweet story with well drawn characters and an excellent sense of place and time. The modern day segment with the Orson Welles quote preceeding it makes a beautiful cap to the story. This book makes me curious about the real friendship dolls and what happened to them all. ( )
  shazzerwise | Jan 5, 2012 |
I selected this book because the city of Fullerton received a Japanese Friendship Doll. I wonder if it was the same year? The book is reminiscent of the book, Hitty Her First Hundred Years. Although in that book the focus is on the location in which the doll ends up. In this story the emphasis is on the people connection. In both The Friendship Doll and Hitty the dolls both narrate their own stories. This Japanese doll to a lesser extent. Her voice is recognized for it comes between two printed flowers. Both stories mention the doll maker. Interestingly in this one the doll, Miss Kanagawa, is an adult and she seems to be genuinely concerned with each child who connects with her. There is sadness but hope in the book and a touch of the philisophical. ( )
  MarthaL | Oct 5, 2011 |
What a wonderful and touching story about a Japanese doll and the young American girls who were touched by her and who had their lives changed by her. Miss Kanagawa was the final doll made by a famous Japanese dollmaker and begins the story very proud of her role as an ambassador of friendship.

The story ranges in time from 1927 when the dolls arrive in the US to the present day. But the bulk of the story talks about the doll's interaction with four young girls. The first if Bunny. She is a wealthy girl in New York City but she is the lonely youngest child in her family. When a chance to be recognized and thought as important as her older sister is taken away from her by a school rival, she has to decide whether to play a mean prank or react with kindness. Miss Kanagawa encourages kindness.

The next little girl is Lucy who lives near Chicago in 1933. Lucy is a daredevil who wants to fly like her idol Amelia Earhart. When her great-Aunt takes her to the Chicago World Fair, she has to decide if she will spend the quarter her father gave her on a ride about the fair or on buying a gift for her friend who couldn't afford to go to the Fair. After seeing Miss Kanagawa at the doll exhibit, Lucy makes the right choice.

The third little girl is Willie Mae. It is 1933 and deep in the Depression. Willie Mae lives with her mother, sister and baby brother in the Hollers. When she gets a chance to go live with a rich woman and read to her, Willie Mae knows that she has to do it. The rich woman has bought Miss Kanagawa in an auction along with some fossils she really wanted. Miss Kanagawa changes both Willie Mae's life and the life of the older woman.

The final little girl is Lucy. It's 1939. Lucy is from Oklahoma and it is the Dust Bowl. After her mother dies, she and her father head off to California to start a new life. They eventually find their way to a camp in Oregon. Lucy goes to school and a kind teacher takes her to a museum that has a Japanese room and Miss Kanagawa is a featured exhibit. That part of the story ends with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Miss Kanagawa being packed away again.

The last piece takes place in the current day where Lucy has grown old and suffers from Alzheimer's. When a young boy who doesn't know how to deal with the changes discovers Miss Kanagawa in Lucy's attic, the old Lucy briefly returns and tells the story of her life.

The book is not long but it is very descriptive and really gives a feeling for what it was like to be young children at a very difficult time in our Nation's history. I know that I cried a few times as I was reading it. This would be a great story to share with middle graders as they study the Depression. I don't think I could read it aloud with tearing up though. ( )
  kmartin802 | Aug 5, 2011 |
Throughout the twentieth century, Miss Kanagawa, one of fifty-eight dolls made to serve as ambassadors from Japan to the United States, travels the country learning to love while changing the lives of those who need her. ( )
  prkcs | Aug 4, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385737459, Hardcover)

A Q&A with Author Kirby Larson Your first novel, Hattie Big Sky, was a huge critical success and won a Newbery Honor. Can you describe what it was like to start a new book, and how you got the idea? It was overwhelming to begin a new book after winning the Newbery Honor (with my first novel, no less!) and, in fact, I suffered mightily from what my friend Cindy Lord calls "The Dreaded Second Novel Syndrome." Everything I wrote after Hattie Big Sky seemed wretched, nothing near the quality of that book. One day, I was walking with my husband, pouring out my tale of writing woes, and he reminded me that I'd said the same things about early versions of Hattie's story. When we got home, I looked at my very first draft of Hattie Big Sky...and it was awful! I was thrilled. I figured that if I could whip a manuscript that bad into shape, I could do it again. In addition, I had an idea that wouldn't leave me alone, inspired by a photo I'd run across while researching Hattie Big Sky. Taken in 1928, it shows a Montana farm girl standing next to an exquisite Japanese doll, nearly the girl's size. It was so intriguing to me--how on earth did such a doll end up in rural Montana? Answering that question took me over five years. An early version of The Friendship Doll tried to incorporate a contemporary child into historical events. And it really didn't work at all. My wonderful editor, Michelle Poploff, told me two things that helped me find my way into the heart of the story. She said the story really took on energy when I was writing about the past. She also pointed out that we are living in hard times now, and that a story set during the Great Depression would definitely resonate with today's kids. I pitched that early version (not without some pain and grumbling) and started completely over. It was the absolute right thing to do. The new book takes place during the Depression. Do you feel there are parallels between the Great Depression of the ’30s and what we are experiencing in our country now? I do, and I feel proud to have been able to write a story that shows that love and friendship can soften hard times. In addition to Hattie Big Sky and The Friendship Doll, you’ve written a few picture-books as well as a book in the Dear America series. What draws you to historical fiction? If you had told me 15 years ago that I'd be writing historical fiction, I would've laughed out loud. I was never a student of history until I learned that my great-grandmother may have homesteaded by herself in eastern Montana as a young woman. In attempting to find out if that really did happen, I discovered that history is not just dates and battles and footnotes, it's people--people like you and me. And I find people completely fascinating! I love the challenge of learning enough about a different time and place to be able to take a reader there. Growing up, I always thought it would be fun to be a detective, and with historical fiction, I feel like I can be one--without the danger. You’ve traveled all over the world to discuss your books, but you’ve also traveled with relief groups to troubled parts of the world. How do you think these experiences inform your creative process? People often ask me what I want readers to take away from my books, and I always say, “I want readers to take away what they want to take away.” That being said, I think both my writing life and my personal life are a lot about figuring out what it means to be a decent human being in this world. My experience helping out with Hurricane Katrina clean-up certainly informed and enriched my contributions to Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival, co-written with my dear friend Mary Nethery. My trip to the Middle East, especially after speaking with kids in Beirut, certainly fed my desire to explore why we humans often set up barriers of prejudice and suspicion and added to the impetus to write about the War Relocation Camps in World War II, as I did in The Fences Between Us. I want to write books that offer hope. That's one reason the story of the Friendship Dolls--the ultimate example of hope--wouldn't leave me alone. In 1927, Dr. Sidney Gulick wanted to do something to improve the rocky relationships between the U.S. and Japan. A former missionary, he knew how important dolls were to the Japanese culture, so he organized a drive to send blue-eyed baby dolls overseas. Thousands of kids--in Sunday schools, Camp Fire Girl groups, schools in every state--participated and, in the end, over 12,000 dolls were sent to Japan. In gratitude, the school children there contributed the equivalent of one penny each and 58 amazing Friendship Dolls were created and sent here. Sadly, these positive efforts were undone by WWII. But Dr. Gulick never gave up hope, holding firmly to these words: "We who desire peace must write it in the hearts of children." When Hattie Big Sky received a Newbery Honor, the announcement was made at the ALA conference that just happened to be in your home town of Seattle that year. How did it feel to achieve this honor among so many local supporters? Aside from my wedding day and the day each of our children was born, that was the best day of my life. After the very early morning call (and the admonishment not to reveal the news until 9 a.m.!), I was so overwhelmed, I burst into tears. Hattie Big Sky is a very personal book--I call it my love letter to my maternal grandmother, who was a huge influence in my life. She died before the book came out so the big news was bittersweet. A few minutes after I hung up the phone, I began to wonder if it was a practical joke. But we decided to drive into the city anyway for the press conference. I found a seat in the very back--still wondering if it was true. My husband (to whom the book is dedicated) marched right up front. As soon as the cover appeared on the big screen, the room erupted into the loudest cheers I've ever heard. I began to cry all over again. To share that news with so many local booksellers, librarians, and fellow book creators was sweet indeed. Though there have been rough patches, I feel completely blessed to be able to pursue my passion of writing books for children and young adults.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:25 -0400)

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Throughout the twentieth century, Miss Kanagawa, one of fifty-eight dolls made to serve as ambassadors from Japan to the United States, travels the country learning to love while changing the lives of those who need her.

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