Thursday, October 20, 2011

All I'll Ever Want Christmas Doll by Patricia McKissack

Patricia McKissack and Jerry Pinkney make one of those rare duos whose work together surpasses any solo attempt.  Patricia McKissack's story about a little girl who really, really wants a certain doll for Christmas has just the right amount of realism to capture the lesson that others are more important than things.  And Jerry Pinkney's illustrations add a dimension to the story that is difficult to description - it catches perfectly the setting of a poorer neighborhood with a gentleness that harkens a simpler time. Young Nell desperately wants the beautiful Baby Betty doll for Christmas and when the perfect black baby doll actually appears on Christmas she is overjoyed - until her father explains that the gift is for all three sisters.  Nell is crushed that she must share and quickly makes it clear that no one would have gotten the toy had she not asked and then begged for it.  Therefore, she should be the first to hold and to play with Baby Betty. Left with no new gift to play with, her siblings soon wander off outside to play by themselves. From inside, Nell can hear their laughter and begins to realize that Baby Betty doesn't do much.  She doesn't tell stories like Nell's older sister.  She doesn't laugh.  In fact, she does nothing!  And it is not Nell who is having a wonderful Christmas Day, it is her sisters who are enjoying each other's company.  Luckily, there is a quick and satisfying conclusion to the little girl's sudden unhappiness.

McKissack's lesson that sharing and being with loved ones tops a "perfect gift" is a simple, but sweet lesson.  With today's abundance of video/computer games under the Christmas trees, this story is a reminder that shouldn't be overlooked.  In the school setting, young readers/listeners are taught about making connections between author's thoughts and their own experiences.  In my experience  reading this story, second and third graders always were able to make some strong connections between themselves and young Nell. 

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