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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Separated at Birth?

I’m at the bookstore the other day browsing the aisles, fairly certain there wouldn’t be anything there to surprise me since my last visit. The middle grade fiction? Done it. The non-fiction (what little they stock) Fine. The picture books? Seen it, seen it, seen . . . . . it?

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Oh me, oh my, where did that come from? Hyperion? Sneaky Hyperion. They’ve all sorts of things I’ve missed this year. And this latest fairytale from Lauren Child was the proof within the pudding (or porridge, if you will).

The longer I stared, the stranger it became. Because if there is one book this reminded me of right off the bat, one book that I never thought anyone would ever want to redo in another form, it’s The Lonely Doll.  Compare and contrast.

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Those of you unfamiliar with The Lonely Doll and its subsequent sequels may also be unfamiliar with its creator, Dare Wright.  A couple years ago The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright was released by Jean Nathan.  The book systematically told the story of Ms. Wright and her family issues.  In my library we’ve a couple books in Wright’s Lonely Doll series in paperback and they do go out.  Edith and Mr. BearA Gift from the Lonely Doll.  That sort of thing.  But when it comes to a psychologically strange series, nothing really comes close to it.  The doll is routinely spanked, revealing its frilly underwear.  Male bears befriend but also punish the little girl doll for her mischief.  On the one hand, they are books about finding family.  On the other hand, they’re the weirdest damn picture books you’ve ever seen.  They’ve inspired such artists as Cindy Sherman and when you look at them you can understand why.  Wright, after all, was an accomplished photographer.



They also look remarkably similar to Child’s newest creation.  Both books feature girl dolls with facial expressions so vague they might mean anything from misery to joy.  Both have those dewy eyes.  In both cases the girls misbehave.  In both there are bear dolls that interact with them.  I flipped through the Child book wondering, not ridiculously, if the bears would catch Goldilocks and spank her.  Child is not Wright, however, and this is (after all) the 21st century.  It’s hard to work spanking into a text these days without the raising of multiple eyebrows.

It’s entirely possible that this is a big old fat coincidence, but I dunno.  Has Child been influenced by Wright?  It’s the first time Child has created this three-dimensional world and not made drawn characters her protagonists.  I enjoyed The Princess and the Pea quite a bit when it was released, so I’m baffled by this change of pace.  Wright did pioneer the posed photographed doll-in-picture-book style.  All I can figure is that it’s a tribute of sorts.  Interesting in any case.

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Elizabeth Bird About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of NYPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Brenda Kahn says:

    As soon as I saw the cover, I thought of The Lonely Doll as well!

  2. adrienne says:

    I’m quite a fan of Child’s work, so I ordered a copy of this for the library, but when it came in, I rather regretted it. It’s like that doll is always watching me.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Me too! I was planning to order it until I got a look at the cover. Reminded me of that creepy doll I had when I was little. I had to keep hiding it in new places because it watched me! And I had nightmares about it!

  4. Phyllis says:

    The Goldylocks doll is just creepy looking. There is no “life” to the photos.

  5. mhg says:

    I just went and read the website of Dare Wright. Such a sad ending to her fully creative life style. At the end, hardly anyone there for her. I hope someone will get it together to create a retirement facility for all the hard working creatives in this field who do not make much money at this publishing job. Dare’s story is all too real and scary. Thanks for re-introducing me to her.

  6. Covertcritic says:

    It’s no coincidence, but it’s nothing to do with Lauren Child; she just wrote the words. Polly Borland, whose book it is, is a huge fan of Dare Wright. The book may well be a tribute to Wright, but if it is, it’s Polly’s.

  7. laurasalas says:

    Creepy! That bear spanking the girl is just…disturbing. And the doll on the cover–kind of like the nun doll my MIL has in her guest bedroom. Just always watching.

    And it all somehow reminds me of Panda Go Panda. When my daughter loved that DVD years ago, I would just cringe. It just feels wrong.

  8. your neighborhood librarian says:

    I live in Baltimore, and we loves our freaks here, especially the kitschy freaks. Secret Life of the Lonely Doll I cannot keep on the shelf. I love thinking of all these art students posing their own little messed-up dolly tableaux!

  9. DareWrightEstate says:

    Dear Elizabeth,
    I wish you would have another look at “A Gift From The Lonely Doll.” Contrary to what you’ve written, Edith is not “routinely spanked.” I would also respectfully request that your remove the copyright photograph of Edith, Mr. Bear, and Little Bear from your website. Sincerely, Brook Ashley, Executor The Estate of Dare Wright

  10. Fuse #8 says:

    As per your request the photograph has been removed.