The Dollshop Downstairs
Written By Yona Zeldis McDonough
Illustrated by
Heather Maione
Chapter One Discussion and Comments

This one starts off by introducing the main characters, Anna, Trudie, and Sophie.  We soon learn they live above a Doll Shop, run by their family.  I just love the way the girls are allowed to play with some of the dolls there for repair!  Their parents must be generous and understanding to let them do that.

And the names for the dolls!  Those three sisters obviously have a great imagination.  You can also see this in their making the bed from a box. 

This chapter made me a bit sad for the girls.  You know they don't have much money because the rag dolls they once had fell apart, and their mother is too busy painting dolls to keep food on the table to make more, and their dad can't afford to buy one for them.  I'm also feeling sorry for Anna, who feels her middle child position - she knows she's not as important as Sophie and not as cute as Trudie.

That said, they are basically happy little girls, thrilled to be allowed to play with a doll from the shop until it goes home with its owner.  They don't seem to complain about having to help clean, and only squabble a bit, as sisters usually do.  They mind their manners, and know they need to behave. And they do.

I would have loved to live over a doll shop and be allowed inside, even to just clean up.  It's like window shopping at its finest. 
plus, consider the times.  It might not totally be that Mother didn't have*time* to make a doll, but that she didn't consider it that important.  I can see the girls considered it important!!

I would have loved to live over a doll shop too.  As it is, I almost live in one, lol.


They seem like very well behaved girls. They play carefully with the shop dolls.


and that's the thing I find amazing too!  If I owned the shop, my daughters would never have been allowed to play with the dolls, lololol.

They are so careful and respectful of the three dolls.

list Mom

A little girls dream to live in a doll shop!  I am a middle child...sort of...third of four children.  I can relate with Anna.  I took care of my little brother and my older sister was very much like Sophie...we didn't get years difference.  I loved to sneak into her room and play with her broken doll when she wasn't home.  I remember making doll beds from Quaker Oatmeal boxes when I was little.  Later I even helped my daughter make doll beds from them and used a shoe box too...we added a handle to the box and she still has it for her Munch-Chee-Chee doll....she is 43 now. 

The parents may struggle to make a living but there is much love, happiness and togetherness.  This is how it was back mother lost her father when she was about eight years old 1926.  She and her three sister's would help their mother at her work cleaning offices.  There was always a real sense of close family throughout their lives.  We seem to have lost that closeness in families today.

I take care of my dolls today knowing that they are with me only for a small part of their lives.

I loved making doll furniture out of boxes, etc.  I remember my sister and I discovering that if you took a Styrofoam cut and cut halfway down two sides, and then 'mashed' the cut flap down for a seat, we could have a chair! Amazing what children do when they are accustomed to *making do, not buying new*

You are right--there does seem to be a lot of love in that family! 

List Mom

The book says "she has not had a chance to make new ones" (p. 4).  I think dolls are pretty important to everyone in the family because it is their business.  Even Papa has promised a doll to each, but he conditioned it with "if the shop does really, really well" and Anna thinks that day is pretty distant.  So I think Mama is too busy feeding the family, doing laundry, keeping the house clean (at least the girls clean the shop), and painting dolly faces to do much else. 

One thing I'm pleased about is that, even though these are valuable dolls (must be costly since they don't have one of their own) and that they belong to someone else, the girls are allowed to play with one each.  I think that shows the parents love them, wanting them to have a doll to play with, and trust that they really will be careful with the dolls.



I am a middle child so I know exactly how Anna feels.  
I was very impressed with the variety of descriptive ways the author used for the dolls and the parts for repairing.  Any doll lover would have been delighted to be in the shop when a box from Germany arrived.
Denise M

I can't imagine that the mom doesn't think dolls are important seeing as they run a doll repair shop. But I do think that when you make and/or repair dolls for a living, it can be hard to make or repair them for yourself for free, both because it is money out of your pocket and because after doing it all day for others, you probably don't want to keep doing it for yourselves. Plus family time probably had to be dedicated to other more necessary, sewing clothing, cleaning, etc.

Erin :)

Today I even found a tiny porcelain doll at the thrift store that came with a broken arm (fortunately, she did come with the arm, so she can be repaired). Hana is thinking of converting the bottom of her unfinished dollhouse into a temporary doll shop for the duration of the book, and this little doll will be her first patient. I'll have to attach a picture of her later.

I am liking the story. I think that Mama is just too tired and busy to repair the girls' dolls ... what's the saying, the plumber's house always has leaky pipes? But they are all very loving, and the girls get to play with the visiting dolls, and they get to help out and learn the trade too.

It rather reminds me of the "All of a Kind Family" series, also a Jewish family, set in turn of the century New York, with lots of sisters. This is a little later, but I think the two families would have been friends if they had known each other.

Thanks for the nice complements about the box bed.  It's the bottom of a jewelry box for the mattress and the box lid for the headboard.  The bedding pieces are jewelry pouches that came inside the box.  The coverlet is a hankie from my grandmother's collection.  This was a fun challenge!

Susan D

I think what I like about your bed, Susan, and what I like in general about challenges that go with children's books, is that we are doing exactly what a kid would have done.  We find something we already have with which to make a bed or to make a table or a dress or whatever.  We work with what we have, we make do, and we still have fun with it.  We use our imaginations.  This is what play is all about.  Happy

Three of the Wren Cottage Hittys representing the girls in the Breitelman's Doll Shop, have used one of the very large boxes that used to arrive from Germany full of doll parts - and indeed there are some doll parts on one of the tables in the workshop. Inside the box the three dolls (bitty sized Hitty types) cuddle up together inside a pillowcase on top of the shavings and tissue as mattress, because these girls are .... poor .... and making do, and imagining that the dolls are lying on feather beds, with satin coverlets .... they are taking it in turns to tell the dolls' dolls bedtime stories.

The Wren Cottagers have enjoyed seeing the various Hittygirls' Hittys lovely imagined beds in boxes :-))))

I do think that when you make and/or repair dolls for a living, it can be hard to make or repair them for yourself for free, both because it is money out of your pocket and because after doing it all day for others, you probably don't want to keep doing it for yourselves. Plus family time probably had to be dedicated to other more necessary, sewing clothing, cleaning, etc.

Erin :)

Erin, I can identify with that too. In the 1970's I made sets of Raggedy Ann and Andy for others
 in the colour choice of the purchaser or recipient. It was trendy to have the doll hair and clothing match their bedrooms.

I made pink sets, yellow sets, mint green sets, sky blue sets, lavender sets, etc.They were very appealing, and I gave great attention to detail. By the time my own children came along, 
I still loved the Raggedys, but just could not face making another one.  I did try a shortcut version, but it just wasn't as satisfactory,  even though our daughter loved it when she was a toddler.

It would have been very exciting to receive the boxes of doll supplies from Germany, even though the items were not for the children.  

I loved that the children were allowed to be foster moms to the 3 old dolls,  and that they gave them such beautiful names.  The wooden box bed with pillowcase blanket   was so typical of how we played with dolls as children.

I love to bring old dolls back to life,   so I think it would have been great fun to have a doll repair shop downstairs,  and even the chore of caring for the shop would have been acceptable,  if I could admire  and wonder about the current inhabitants, and have some quiet time after chores to play with the dolls waiting for repair.

Susan K in ON