The best doll books

6 authors have picked their favorite books about dolls and why they recommend each book.

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Five Sisters

By Stephanie Campisi, Madalina Andronic (illustrator),

Book cover of Five Sisters

This is a stunning, beautifully illustrated Russian folktale. I love that folktales come from all over the world and that I can share these beautiful stories with my students. It introduces them to customs and cultures they may otherwise not get to experience. In this one, a great white oak gifts an old man a branch imbued with magic. The old man takes the branch and carves five matryoshka dolls, “each smaller than the last.” The wooden dolls come to life bringing the old man and his wife (who are childless) endless joy. Who doesn’t love a tale about love and happiness?

Five Sisters

By Stephanie Campisi, Madalina Andronic (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Five Sisters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I am the author of two folktales in addition to several other fiction stories for children and an early childhood educator. I taught kindergarten and first grade for over twenty years. As part of our state standards, we must do a yearly unit of study on folktales. Folktales deliver universal messages to children in a non-didactic way. We can use them to address issues that young children face while also using them as resources to teach students about faraway places, customs and cultures. Folktales are in integral part of an early childhood education and it’s a unit of study that I always looked forward to. Immersing myself in them was the catalyst for recreating my own. 


I wrote...

Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves

By Annemarie Riley Guertin, Helena Pérez García (illustrator),

Book cover of Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves

What is my book about?

"Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves is a timeless story about kindness and why the fir, spruce, and juniper trees don't lose their leaves in winter, with its beautiful art and unforgettable characters (Cardinal, Jack Frost, and the Frost Queen), this tale will warm readers' hearts." - Starred Review

Molly Morningstar A Doll for Me

By Andrea Coke, M. Fernanda Orozco (illustrator),

Book cover of Molly Morningstar A Doll for Me: A Fun Story About Diversity, Inclusion, and a Sense of Belonging

I always appreciate children’s books that are diverse. Children everywhere should be given the opportunity to see themselves in the stories they read. It’s important for adults to understand that what a child takes away from a storybook character can become a life-altering emotion. I found that emotion in this book. Molly Morningstar is a little girl with a problem: She can’t find a doll that looks like her! Sure, the dolls all look like her classmates, but not one looks like Molly. In refusing to settle for just any other doll, Molly finds the perfect solution to the problem. What if she could make a doll? I love the emotion, fortitude, and creativity shown by our shining star, Molly Morningstar.

Molly Morningstar A Doll for Me

By Andrea Coke, M. Fernanda Orozco (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Molly Morningstar A Doll for Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

As a former teacher, and grandmother of 13 now-grownup kids, I can’t begin to count the total number of children’s books I’ve read. A gazillion maybe? I have published 5 children’s books of my own and have read them to hundreds of classes all over the U.S. I have been an editor of children’s books for about 10 years and feel honored every time an author hands their precious manuscript over to me for assistance. I’ve read so, so many amazing books. It was difficult to name just a handful, but these books spoke to me, evoking emotions that stayed with me long after the last i was dotted and t was crossed. I hope you will feel that as well.


I wrote...

The Knot Fairy: Winner of 7 Children's Picture Book Awards

By Bobbie Hinman, Kristi Bridgeman (illustrator),

Book cover of The Knot Fairy: Winner of 7 Children's Picture Book Awards

What is my book about?

The Knot Fairy was my first picture book. It blossomed out of love for my grandchildren (and their messy hair) and was a story that had to be told. You see, everyone knows her. She visits children everywhere…And she just likes to tangle their hair! Aha! So she’s the one! Soon my ideas morphed into a series of fairy books, each featuring the pranks of a different mischievous fairy. My mantra became, “Who better to blame it on than a fairy?”

As my first book remains near and dear to my heart, I have had the pleasure of meeting many other first-time authors, each with a story that is near and dear to their heart. The following books are among the best.

Book cover of Eulalie and the Hopping Head

This Is David Small’s very first book that he both wrote and illustrated. I came upon this book in my mid-twenties. I have cherished it ever since. Great artwork with a limited palette due to the archaic 4-color printing process used back then. With this book, it works! Beautiful artwork and humorous wording. Mother Lumps and her baby daughter, Eulalia, are frogs. A mother’s favorite thing happens - Mother Lumps encounters another mother claiming her children are perfect and, therefore, she is perfect as a mother. Grrrrr. Walking along, they encounter a doll left behind at a picnic. They think the doll is a real child. Mother Lumps sees her as abandoned and takes her home. It is so adorable how the story unfolds. I tear up every time. A lovely message is conveyed.

Eulalie and the Hopping Head

By David Small,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eulalie and the Hopping Head as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I decided at the age of 5 that I wanted to write and illustrate books for children. That is exactly what I have been doing the last 40 years of my adult life. I find that I walk around seeing and hearing the world as potential stories. It’s fun! I can not imagine doing anything else for a living! I recommended the 5 books that I did because they are a little strange and curious and thought-provoking. The art, as well. Therefore, they feel like they emerged from the author/illustrator from that place within, way down deep, where only authentic expression of self can be found. 


I wrote...

Is That You, Eleanor Sue?

By Tricia Tusa,

Book cover of Is That You, Eleanor Sue?

What is my book about?

Eleanor Sue loves to play dress-up. She decides to ring her own front doorbell to try out these various characters on her mother. Is her mother fooled? Is mom playing along? Hard to know until the reader is pulled into the big surprise. The book confirms the fun of imaginative play and how far it takes us into that realm within. And how satisfying it is to share it with someone you love and trust. And finally, it was fun for me to do a book with a lot of underlying femaleness. An expressive young girl, a willing (and tireless!!) mother, and a grandmother with a dry sense of humor. It was a satisfying feeling when this idea came to me, and equally satisfying to come up with artwork to fill out the words.

The Doll's Eye

By Marina Cohen,

Book cover of The Doll's Eye

Hadley was starting her new life, even if it was against her will. Moving to her new/old house bothered by a neighbor fascinated by bugs and a step-father she loathed, Hadley wished for things to be as they used to be: when she didn’t have to share her mother. But the more she resists her new life, the more she becomes immersed in the house’s mysterious past. 

The Doll’s Eye is a creepy mystery that builds towards an unexpected outcome, reminding us that divorce is hard, but running away from our problems can be even more perilous.

The Doll's Eye

By Marina Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Doll's Eye as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

All Hadley wants is for everything to go back to the way it used to be-back when she didn't have to share her mother with her stepfather and stepbrother. Back when she wasn't forced to live in a musty, decomposing house. Back when she had a life in the city with her friends.

As Hadley whiles away what's left of her summer, exploring the nearby woods and splitting her time between her strange, bug-obsessed neighbor Gabe and the nice old lady that lives above the garage, she begins to notice the house isn't just old and creaky. It's full of…

Who am I?

I grew up in the 80s, the era of horror super-franchises. Most would be familiar with Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween, but there were so many more. Oscar-winning films the decade prior like The Exorcist and Jaws ushered a new wave of new horror. Whether it was advancement in visual effects, or improvement in production, the genre was everywhere. And I couldn’t get enough. Those experiences have possessed my pen and continue to rule my reading choices. I hope you enjoy these recommendations as much as I did. There’s a lot we can learn about ourselves when we’re scared.  


I wrote...

Mystic of the Midway

By A.A. Blair,

Book cover of Mystic of the Midway

What is my book about?

A pop-culture paranormal mystery that has scored extremely high with audiences during bedtime reading.

Effie knew she wasn’t the same after her accident but didn’t realize how different she had become until her family vacation. When Effie begins to hear whispers and have visions things get really strange! Effie finds a love letter to her mother that isn’t from her father! A strange mystery girl seems to follow her wherever she goes but vanishes before Effie can confront her. Even the rides in the amusement park begin to speak to her! Effie wonders; is she going crazy? Or, are all the things that are happening trying to tell her something?

A Candle in Her Room

By Ruth M. Arthur,

Book cover of A Candle in Her Room

I love all books by Ruth M. Arthur, and this one is particularly special. It starts with three sisters and an evil doll named Dido. I love multi-generational stories, and this one starts in the late 1800s and ends up in a post-WW II orphanage. I have read this book about seven times and never tire of its compelling power. Arthur weaves the supernatural into real life and loss, exploring how trauma can persist and damage generations, while giving young readers a gripping read.

A Candle in Her Room

By Ruth M. Arthur,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Candle in Her Room as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author and regularly read 2-3 middle grade books a week. I love books that respect kids enough to make them think, and I seek out good books constantly, whether they are intended for kids, youth, or adults. I’m the author of the early education books It’s OK Not to Share and It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, and the ghost adventure The Griffins of Castle Cary for kids ages 8-12. I’m a graduate of Swarthmore College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and besides writing, I host two podcasts: BookSmitten (children’s books), and Renegade Rules (early childhood). Enjoy the books!


I wrote...

The Griffins of Castle Cary

By Heather Shumaker,

Book cover of The Griffins of Castle Cary

What is my book about?

Siblings Meg, Will, and Ariel Griffin are off on an adventure! They can’t wait to spend a week visiting their eccentric aunt and her giant, tongue-drooling Newfoundland dog in England. But when they arrive, they discover a bit of a ghost problem. Add in some very peculiar lights, strange new friends, a police chase, and some stampeding sheep, and the Griffin kids are in over their heads—literally. The three children must race to solve the mystery before the ghosts take something that doesn’t belong to them. Ages 8-12. Winner Best Children’s Fiction (Society of Midland Authors, 2020). 

“Fast-paced. Suspenseful scenes…and laugh-out-loud funny scenes perfect for young readers.” – School Library Connection

Book cover of The Dollmaker of Krakow

The Dollmaker of Kraków is about a doll named Karolina who finds herself in the human world after her homeland—the Land of the Dolls—is ravaged by an army of rats. To be more specific, she finds herself in a dollmaker’s shop. In Kraków. In 1939. World War II has just begun, and Karolina watches as the horrors of the Holocaust unfold before her eyes. Glistening with folklore and fairy tales, this historical fantasy shines with hope and beauty. It never fails to remind me how art can save us, over and over, even—or especially—in the darkest of times. 

The Dollmaker of Krakow

By R.M. Romero,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dollmaker of Krakow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A timeless fantasy set in the Second World War that weaves together magic, folklore and history, perfect for fans of The Book Thief, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Goodnight Mister Tom.

One night a little doll named Karolina comes to life in a toyshop in Krakow, Poland, in 1939 and changes the life of the gruff, broken-hearted Dollmaker. And when the darkness of the Nazi occupation sweeps over the city, Karolina and the Dollmaker must bravely use their magic to save their Jewish friends from a terrible danger, no matter what the risks. This powerful story is about…


Who am I?

It took me a long time to realize that the books I write have always (always) been about trauma. (I write fantasy, so the link wasn’t immediately apparent to me.) But now that I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it. Likewise, it took me a long time to notice that all my favorite magical books were the ones that seemed to be trying to find a new language for the terrible things that can happen to and around us. Magic provides a powerful language for psychological pain. It can make it more real. It can make it more digestible. It can help us to see it more clearly. Fiction tells lies that make reality bearable and understandable—and magical fiction is no different. Which is why it will probably always be my favorite kind.


I wrote...

The Sisters of Straygarden Place

By Hayley Chewins,

Book cover of The Sisters of Straygarden Place

What is my book about?

Seven years ago, the Ballastian sisters’ parents left them in the magical Straygarden Place, a house surrounded by tall silver grass and floating trees. They left behind a warning saying never to leave the house or go into the grass. Ever since then, the house itself has taken care of Winnow, Mayhap, and Pavonine—feeding them, clothing them, even keeping them company—while the girls have waited and grown up and played a guessing game. 

Until one day, when the eldest, fourteen-year-old Winnow, does the unthinkable and goes outside into the grass, and everything twelve-year-old Mayhap thought she knew about her home, her family, and even herself starts to unravel. 

Apartment Book

By Leo Hartas, Richard Platt,

Book cover of Apartment Book

This book has so much detail to keep the reader fascinated. It’s like looking inside a doll’s house with its constant activity from all the families and residents living there and what they get up to over the course of a day. Each page is a gem and the intricate detail keeps you engrossed in their lives. Adults would enjoy this book too. I still have my well-loved copy from 1995.

Apartment Book

By Leo Hartas, Richard Platt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Apartment Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

Being a children’s illustrator and writer, I have built up a well-loved collection of childen’s books over the years. They must have great drawings and imaginative concepts. They are books I can come back to again and again. The books I have chosen are ones where you can lose yourself in their intricate detailed worlds and forget about day-to-day troubles for a while. These books can also help reluctant readers by enticing them into a visual world first and then into appreciating the written word. 


I wrote...

Annie's Chair

By Deborah Niland,

Book cover of Annie's Chair

What is my book about?

First published in 2005 this picture book has been consistently popular, mainly due to the common theme of sharing and how compromise can be the best workable solution for everyone. Young children can have a tough time sharing and they can be passionate about certain possessions. This story covers the frustrations and obstinacy involved when battling it out. Who will win?

This book has won the Children's Book of the Year - Early Childhood, several Children's Choice Awards, and the Speech Pathology Australia, Best Book for Language Development for Young Children.

Frozen Charlotte

By Alex Bell,

Book cover of Frozen Charlotte

This book features an isolated old schoolhouse that has been converted to a family home, where the ghost of one of its residents still lingers, along with her old collection of little porcelain dolls. The seaside landscape drips with atmosphere, and that army of tiny, malevolent porcelain figurines is one of the weirdest and scariest variations on the “creepy doll” trope I’ve ever encountered.

Frozen Charlotte

By Alex Bell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frozen Charlotte as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Zoella Book Club Autumn 2016 title
"So creepy and amazing [...] I loved it [...] You'll never look at small china dolls in the same way ever again." - Zoella
"Deliciously creepy." - Juno Dawson
Dunvegan School for Girls has been closed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and students are long gone. But they left something behind...
Sophie arrives at the old schoolhouse to spend the summer with her cousins. Brooding Cameron with his scarred hand, strange Lillias with a fear of bones and Piper, who seems just a bit too good to be…

Who am I?

I’ve been terrified, fascinated, and delighted by scary stories my whole life, and my very favorites dabble in the speculative and supernatural: ghosts, monsters, magic, and worlds beyond our own. Give me all your haunted houses, your warped realities, your inexplicable horrors intruding on the everyday world. These fantastical elements are fraught with the power of nightmares and fairy tales, and that makes them the best tools we have to get around our news-hardened, cynical safeguards and explore what truly frightens us.


I wrote...

Here There Are Monsters

By Amelinda Bérubé,

Book cover of Here There Are Monsters

What is my book about?

Sixteen-year-old Skye is done playing the knight in shining armor for her insufferable younger sister, Deirdre. And moving across the country seems like the perfect chance to start over as someone different. In their isolated new neighborhood, Skye manages to fit in, but Deirdre withdraws from everyone, becoming fixated on the swampy woods behind their house and building monstrous sculptures out of sticks and bones. Then Deirdre disappears. 

And when something awful comes scratching at Skye's window in the middle of the night, claiming Skye's the only one who can save Deirdre, Skye knows she will stop at nothing to bring her sister home.

The Doll's House

By Rumer Godden, Tasha Tudor (illustrator),

Book cover of The Doll's House

A little wooden doll named Tottie is excited when an antique dollhouse is given to the children in her human family. But while the dollhouse itself is lovely, a dreadful doll named Marchpane comes with it.  She is a horror—and completely disrupts the harmonious life of the doll family. What to do? How can she be gotten rid of?  

This is a tale with a race against time, and an effort to restore balance to a damaged world. I especially love that the story is told from the doll’s point of view. Tottie is a sweet little thing, always worrying about others, but very determined to set things to rights before Marchpane ruins everything forever.

The Doll's House

By Rumer Godden, Tasha Tudor (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Doll's House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Rumer Godden, one of the foremost authors of the 20th century, and illustrated by two-time Caldecott Honor recipient Tasha Tudor, comes a heartwarming tale filled with imagination and creativity that is ideal for any girl who has ever loved a doll so much that it has become real to her.

For Tottie Plantaganet, a little wooden doll, belonging to Emily and Charlotte Dane is wonderful. The only thing missing is a dollhouse that Tottie and her family could call their very own. But when the dollhouse finally does arrive, Tottie's problems really begin. That dreadful doll Marchpane comes to…

Who am I?

I’ve always loved dollhouses, from the one my mom built for me when I was ten, to the ones I refinished and decorated as an adult with my own kids. There’s something magical and mysterious about miniature rooms, tiny furnishings, and dolls who may have secret lives unknown to us. My first novel, Time Windows, features a dollhouse found in an attic that allows Miranda to see through its windows into different times in her real house’s past. In my second dollhouse novel, Sweet Miss Honeywell’s Revenge, Zibby’s antique dollhouse turns out to be teeming with ghosts. I am intrigued by other authors’ novels of dollhouses, and I hope you will enjoy those on this list as well as my own two creepy tales.


I wrote...

Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge: A Ghost Story

By Kathryn Reiss,

Book cover of Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge: A Ghost Story

What is my book about?

Zibby knows there's something very wrong with the dilapidated antique dollhouse she bought for her twelfth birthday at a miniatures market. She hears strange rustlings in the house and one of the dolls never seems to be where she left it. Most frightening of all, whatever make-believe Zibby plays with the dolls comes true—but in a warped, twisted kind of way. Terrified, she tracks down the original owner and learns that the dollhouse is haunted by the ghost of a stern and terrifying governess named Miss Honeywell. Zibby and her friends must race against time to lay this ghost to rest before someone else winds up dead.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

By Eugenia Parry, Elizabeth Siegel, Ralph Eugene Meatyard (photographer)

Book cover of Ralph Eugene Meatyard: Dolls and Masks

The black-and-white images of Ralph Eugene Meatyard have long fascinated me and informed my visual work and writing. Meatyard was, by profession, an optician in Lexington, Kentucky, yet his personal passion was making photographs. His subjects were his wife, children, and family friends, who he often posed in murky settings as they wore masks and held dolls. These images are both disquieting and euphonious, tapping into something primal that hints at the secretive world of childhood.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

By Eugenia Parry, Elizabeth Siegel, Ralph Eugene Meatyard (photographer)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ralph Eugene Meatyard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I'm Mitch Cullin, or so I've been told. Besides being the ethical nemesis of the late Jon Lellenberg and his corrupt licensing/copyright trolls at the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., I'm also a documentary photographer, very occasional author of books, and full-time wrangler of feral cats.


I wrote...

Tideland

By Mitch Cullin,

Book cover of Tideland

What is my book about?

Tideland was the third book in my West Texas Trilogy. It was designed to be highly metaphorical and fantastical. While I'm not much of a fan about pontificating on my own novels, I can relate that the underlying themes of the book deal with the resilience of children, issues of abandonment, and how a creative imagination can power through trauma.

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