The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
I am a finicky holiday book reader. The book has to give me more than people merrily opening large presents or fretting that their gifts aren’t good enough. There has to be depth, magic and that special holiday something that makes it a worthwhile holiday read. This book has all of that.
Set in the middle of the Depression, this picture book features a family struggling to give everyone a wonderful holiday. Nella and her family always have Christmas, but don’t always have presents. But Nella is hoping and wishing for a Baby Betty doll. Her sisters tell her that it will never happen, but on Christmas morning there it is! All of the girls struggle to be the one who gets to play with Baby Betty. Nella wins, but slowly realizes there is more to Christmas than just ending up with the best present.
With two such great talents working on a book together, you know this is going to be wonderful. McKissack is as much an artist with words as Pinkney is with paint. McKissack has created a book that looks frankly at a poor family struggling to get by. I love her wording as she describes Baby Betty:
“There before us was a for-real, store-bought, brand-new Baby Betty doll, the color of chocolate, with rosy cheeks, black curly locks, and thick eyelashes.”
One can almost smell the new toy, much less visualize it so clearly. So much of the book reads with this clarity and style. It draws readers into the story, and allows them to bask there in that place for awhile. Add to that Pinkney’s signature illustrations, and you have a real wonder of a book. Pinkney again captures children in mid-stride, mid-expression, so that readers finish the movement mentally, dancing their own images in their head along with the story.
Highly recommended as a holiday story with all the right messages for the true spirit of the season without any preachiness. This book will work well as an annual family read, or as the perfect companion to a sweet baby doll present.