Dolls of Hope
Written by Shirley Parenteau
This delightful book is a charming example of the kind of goodwill that can be engendered by simply getting to know what you have in common with another culture.
In 1926, Dr. Sidney Gulick, a missionary, began the Friendship Dolls project. In an effort to cool tensions and avert the coming war, the group arranged for an exchange of dolls between the children of Japan and the USA. Of course, the project did not stop the war, but the it lives on and still engenders goodwill.
The story follows a country girl as she struggles to keep one foot in tradition and the other foot in the future. Eleven-year-old Chiyo is sent to a girls’ school to learn from the shining example of a general’s daughter, Hoshi. Her benefactor is her future brother-in-law, a wealthy landowner. Hoshi is completely jealous of Chiyo and tries to make her life miserable. Both are chosen to represent the school in a welcoming ceremony in Tokyo. While there, Chiyo manages to become the sweetheart of the city, getting her picture in the paper and befriending the master doll maker. Of course, Chiyo’s notoriety only adds to Hoshi’s jealousy. Chiyo ends up taking some dangerous risks in order to protect the American doll placed in her care. Not everyone is happy with her solution, but it does make very exciting reading.
Fourth graders can practice their literacy skills while learning about Friendship Dolls, Japan, and a few words of Japanese. They will also fulfill requirements in history learning about an era not always thought about.