Dolls of hope by Shirley Parenteau

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A Friendship Dolls Book
Candlewick Press, 2015. ISBN 9781536200263
(Ages: 8-12) Highly recommended. Themes: Friendship. Japan. Dolls. Adventure. Bullies. Can humility and honour live side-by-side in a progressive society? Chiyo is a young Japanese girl born into a relatively humble and simple family in a farming community. It is 1927 - a time when traditional Japanese life is on the cusp of change. But for Chiyo, her adventurous spirit is about to create opportunities that she could never imagine. While attempting to check that her older sister's potential suitor is worthy, she ends up being sent to boarding school (at his expense and suggestion) and into an environment that is challenging to her core. Despite the 'mean girl', Hoshi, constantly causing havoc, Chiyo eventually gets a chance to be involved in the Friendship Dolls event - the American Dolls having been sent to Japan from America to be a diplomacy tool to create positive relationships between the two countries. Chiyo is 'tripped' at every step by Hoshi, but her grace shines through and she is eventually chosen to be the protector of the doll 'Emily Grace', and the face of the Japan Doll. Even this joyful role comes with pain as Hoshi's jealousy causes strife. Even though Chiyo's spirit and honour is challenged, she finds ways to rise and smile through difficult circumstances.
Shirley Parenteau's tale gives great insight into more traditional Japanese culture and thinking - especially their esteem of honour and humility. But she is also able to show the spirited, but gentle personality of the central character, almost as a metaphor of a changing Japanese society. This tale will be enjoyed by female readers aged 8-12, especially those interested in other cultures (or for students of Japanese). The cover is a little too 'sweet' for my liking and may perhaps prevent some potential readers from selecting this book from the shelf. It does highlight the historical and Japanese connection, but is a bit too 'cute and girly'.
Highly recommended, for ages 8-12
Carolyn Hull