The Friendship Doll
Kirby Lawson (Juvenile Historical Fiction)
Miss Kanagawa was the last doll that master dollmaker Tatsuhiko would ever make. She was a doll like no other and was to be Master Tatsuhiko’s masterpiece. Miss Kanagawa, along with her fifty-seven sisters, were being sent to the children of the United States by the children of Japan as a gesture of friendship. These fifty-eight ambassadors of peace and goodwill carried with them the assurance that Japan was indeed a friend of America. But Master Tatsuhiko wanted his prized creation to be more than just a messenger and wished that she would discover her true purpose as a doll: “to be awakened by the heart of a child”. Sadly, Miss Kanagawa was as callous as she was beautiful and she was very certain that a doll with a samurai spirit such as hers would never have a need for a child.
The Friendship Doll is based on the actual arrival of fifty-eight dolls from Japan to the United States in November 1927. In her book, Kirby Larson takes us from 1927 to the present day and introduces readers to such events as the Great Depression, the Chicago World’s Fair, and the attack on Pearl Harbor. Through Miss Kanagawa, we meet a hopeful orator, an aspiring pilot, a voracious reader, and a devoted writer—each with her own remarkable story and each changed by a chance encounter with a unique and proud doll.
While reading The Friendship Doll, I couldn’t help but notice several similarities between it and Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (one of my favorite books). Both stories revolve around an exquisite doll with an overly-high opinion of itself who imparts something of value with those it meets while simultaneously discovering the joy that comes from being wanted and loved. While Edward is a silent presence, Miss Kanagawa somehow speaks directly to her visitor’s subconscious. Young readers won’t be bothered by this, but those of us old enough to remember The Twilight Zone episode entitled “Living Doll” featuring Talking Tina might be overly susceptible to the heebie-jeebies. Still, if you liked Edward, you’re sure to enjoy Miss Kanagawa as well.
Although this book does touch upon the sensitive subjects of death and dementia, its historical insights offer readers a valuable glimpse at a few events from our nation’s past. It also serves as a reminder that it is often the smallest of things that can bring about the greatest change within ourselves and there is nothing heebie or jeebie about that.
*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com
**Want more? Visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thedustyjacket