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The Most Recognized Children’s Book Guide, Podcast, and K-12 Reading Source

The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson

The Friendship Doll is a beautifully written historical fiction novel for 4th-6th graders. It was written by Newbury Honor winner Kirby Larson who has written other historical fiction novels.

The first question the reader will have when starting this book is what is a friendship doll. In 1929, American Sidney Gulick, who had been a missionary in Japan, came up with a plan to send over 12,000 dolls as a sign of goodwill to children in Japan. Wishing to return the favor, a viscount in Japan devised his own plan to create 58 dolls that were 32 inches high and were hand crafted and accompanied by various accessories (like a parasol, a stationary set and a silk purse) that would teach children throughout the US about Japanese culture.

The Friendship Doll is one doll’s story of her journey and the four girls’ lives she touches. Miss Kanagawa starts off in Japan, then goes to New York City, then to the World’s Fair in Chicago, on to Kentucky and finally to Oregon . The best part about the book is learning about what life was like for various girls during the Great Depression. Times were hard but Miss Kanagawa is able to inspire these girls to make a change inside themselves...whether to be braver, kinder, more generous or stronger. The reader will likely also fin the real life story of the dolls to be fascinating. Internet research will easily help the reader to discover the present locations of the dolls and images of what their accessories looked like. Larson is a master at her craft...she quickly brings the reader into the story and when it is over, she inspires you to learn all about the facts of the past that inspired the book.  

A great read with an engaging group of characters: The Friendship Doll should be on your list for a fun read with a great historical background!