Monday, April 16, 2018

Black Doll Story Books and Other Favorite Doll Tales

Several years ago, I received a list of Black doll storybooks. I am not sure who compiled the list; therefore, I cannot extend credit. I wanted to share these titles here for others who might be interested in purchasing these books for themselves or (with the exception of two titles*) for children you know or educate.

Chalk Doll, The by Charlotte Pomerantz (Harpy Trophy, 1989).  Mother tells Rose about growing up in Jamaica and making her own rag doll because she couldn't afford a store-bought chalk doll.

Daisy and the Doll by Michael Medearis and Angela S. Medearis (The Vermont Folklife Center, 2000).  Daisy, an eight-year-old Black girl living in rural Vermont in the 1890s is given a Black doll by her teacher.  She becomes uncomfortable that her skin is a different color than her classmates.  She then finds the courage to speak from her heart.

Elizabeti's Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen (Scholastic Inc., 1998).  A young Black girl watched her mother care for her new baby brother.  She wanted to care for her own baby.  She searches until she finds an object that she can use as her very own doll baby to care for.

Minnie Saves the Day (The Adventures of Minnie by Melodye Benson Rosales (Little, Brown and Company, 2001).  Hester Merriweather's grandmother gives her a handmade doll that proves to be very special.  Includes historical background on Chicago's African American community during the 1930s.

Nettie Joe's Friends by Patricia C. McKissack (Alfred A. Knopf, 1989).  Mama won't let Nettie Jo Take her scraggly old doll to cousin Willadeen's wedding unless she has a new dress.  The story is in a rich southern storytelling tradition.

Sitting Pretty a Celebration of Black Dolls by Diane Johnson (Henry Holt and Company, 2000).  In poetry and photographs Black dolls, most, simply made cloth, from around the world are used to illustrate the author's original writings.

Additional Black doll storybooks not included in the above list:

The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C. McKissack (Schwartz and Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, 2007).  The Christmas holiday season of the Great Depression provides the setting for this delightful, thought-provoking story.  Because of their meager circumstances, “Santy” rarely visited Nella’s house with gifts for her and her two sisters, Eddy Bernice and Dessa.  This year was different.  Santy brought the beautiful chocolate-brown, Baby Betty doll that Nella longed to receive.  Events occur after the doll’s arrival resulting in Nella learning a valuable lesson.

Almost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (Scholastic Inc., 2003).  Sally, a Black rag doll, recants the story of a slave family’s escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad.  

Becky by Julia Wilson (Ty Crowell Company, 1966).  Becky sets out on a shopping trip to find a doll that looks like her. She does, but due to its cost, is unable to purchase the doll until something magical happens!

Beloved Belindy by Johnny Gruelle (P. F. Volland, 1926).  The Beloved Belindy book contains several short stories about the goings on in the make-believe Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy doll nursery. [In this 1920s American storybook, Beloved Belindy serves as mammy to doll characters Raggedy Ann and Andy.]

My Doll, Keshia by Eloise Greenfield (Black Butterfly Children’s Books, 1991).  This baby board book is a story about a little girl who, with the help of her big brother, and through imaginative play, teaches her doll to walk, dance, wave, sing and talk.  

Rag Doll Tales by Yvonne Augustin (Mindstar Media, 2012).  A young slave mother sews a rag doll to give her daughter.  Even though the doll was a girl, she named it Eugene, after the child's father so the daughter, who was sold away, would remember her roots.  The doll would be passed down for generations that span from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement.

Topsy Turvy’s Pigtails by Bernice G. Anderson (Rand McNally  & Company, 1938).  Topsy Turvy lives in the Comical Doll House down by the Crooked Lane with Mr. and Mrs. Turvy.  Topsy is a Black-stocking doll.  She has four pigtails of which she is very proud.  After the prim and proper Mrs. Turvy threatens to cut off Topsy’s pigtails, Topsy decides to run away.  During her run, Topsy encounters four different animals who take things away from her! 

*Note:  Beloved Belindy and Topsy Turvy's images might be considered derogatory and not recommended for today's children.  


Other Favorite Doll Storybooks (none of these books are about Black Dolls):

Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill (Henry Holt and Company, 1992).  For a doll contest at a party, a girl chooses to enter a doll that seems least likely to win a prize.

Doll Lady, (The by H. Elizabeth Collins-Varni (Illumination Arts, 2001).  An inspiring story about a woman who spends her life making dolls to give to the children she loved.

Elisabeth by Claire A. Nivola (Frances Foster Books, 1997).  Forced to flee the Nazis, a young girl and her family eventually end up in the United States where years later, with a young daughter of her own, she is reunited with the beloved doll she left behind in Germany.

Gingerbread Doll, (The) by Susan Tews (Clarion Books, 1993).  The year is 1930 and Rebecca and her family are celebrating their first Christmas on their Wisconsin farm.  Rebecca wants a porcelain doll she's seen in the store window but she knows her family has no money for fancy toys.

Little Oh by Laura Krauss Melmed (Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books, 1997). A lonely woman folds a little doll from origami paper then places it in a box.  The origami paper doll springs from the box exclaiming, "Good Morning Mother!"

Paper Princess Finds Her Way Home, (The) by Elisa Kleven (Puffin Books, 1994).  A little girl makes a picture of a paper doll princess that comes to life and is carried off by the wind.  With luck, she finds her way home.

Scrap Doll, (The) by Liz Rosenberg (Charlotte Zolotow Books, 1991).  A little girl fixes up her mother's old doll and learns that something made at home with love can be much better than most beautiful store-bought presents.

The Kingfisher Book of Toy Stories
-Raggedy Ann Rescues Fido
-The Steadfast Tin Soldier
-Adventure in the Garden
-The Little Girl and the Tiny Doll, etc.  A collection of eight stories about toys and childhood by authors such as Johnny Gruell and Russell Hoban.  Compiled by Laura Cecil (Kingfisher, 2002).

William's Doll by Charlotte Zolotow (Harper Trophy, 1972).  More than anything, William wants a doll. Silly, says his brother.  Sissy, says the boy next door.  Finally, someone understands William's wish and makes it easy for others to understand, too.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

...Black Doll Exhibition Explores Women’s Craft...

The image above and the text below are from the Culture Type article, "In Paris, Black Doll Exhibition Explores Women’s Craft, History of Childhood Play, and Dynamics of America’s Racial Structure"
by  on  • 6:58 am

"EUROPEAN MUSEUMS ARE EXPOSING THEIR AUDIENCES to works by African Americans artists that reflect and respond to the history of race in United States. Two major exhibitions, “The Color Line: African American Artists and Segregation” at Le musée du quai Branly in Paris (2016), and “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” organized by the Tate Modern in London (2017), explored the intersection of art and politics during the Jim Crow, civil rights, and Black Power eras.
"A new exhibition at La Maison Rouge in Paris presents art objects produced during an earlier period in American history. “Black Dolls: The Deborah Neff Collection” (2018) features more than 200 dolls hand made between the 1840s and 1940s. While the other exhibitions present works made by artists intended as art objects, these items were crafted as items of everyday play and companionship for children. The dolls are believed to be designed and crafted by African Americans, primarily black women, for their own children or for the white children in their charge, during and after slavery. They are objects of beauty, curiosity and originality, toys that speak to the history of race, gender roles, domestic relationships, and caregiving."
Read the rest of the article here.

Neff's collection of black dolls are beautifully photographed and described in the book, Black Dolls:  From the Collection of Deborah Neff

Get a 34-second glimpse of the collection in the following video.


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Monday, April 9, 2018

Presenting Leontyne Grace by Frantz Brent-Harris

Doll box for 2018 WLBDA Club Doll, Leontyne Grace by Frantz Brent-Harris

In March 2017, my online doll group, We Love Black Dolls Anew, commissioned Jamaican-born Canadian doll artist, Frantz Brent-Harris of Sona dolls, to create our 2018 club doll.  The inspiration for asking Brent-Harris to create our doll was his 12-inch, full-figured resin doll, Monica.  Monica was initially created to include in one of his exhibitions, but because of intense interest in the doll, a limited edition was created.  I fell in love with Monica after seeing Facebook photos the artist shared and after reading Roxanne's blog post about her doll (the link to that post is provided at the end of this post).

To set our limited edition dolls apart from Monica, WLBDA members selected a medium brown complexion for our doll and requested a different head sculpt.  I asked that the hands be slightly more relaxed.  We also wanted a signed certificate of authenticity, a doll stand, and box.  Frantz complied with our wishes.  Everything else with regard to the doll's hairstyle, clothing, shoes, etc. was left to the artist's creative interpretation and remained a mystery for everyone except me* until the dolls were shipped and received by members.

*I had seen a few photos (as illustrated above) of the doll-in-progress and the final finished doll before they were shipped.

This is one of the photos the artist shared prior to shipping our dolls to us.

My reaction after seeing photos of the dolls prior to shipping is captured in a Facebook Messenger message to the artist:

I am blown away! She is gorgeous! Wow! I love the box, too. It's as classy appearing as the doll.
She is amazing!!!!!
I can hardly wait for my doll to arrive. I want to show these photos to the ladies, but I don't want to spoil the element of surprise. Wow, just wow! Can't wait to write a blog post about her.

By the end of the first week in April, everyone had received their doll and their reactions can be summed up in two words:  She's exquisite! 

Prior to receiving my doll, I also sent the following message to Frantz:

(I don't have a phrase for a doll artist who has outdone himself, but what we say to people who have cooked a very good dish, "You put your foot in it." (This must translate to a person putting their whole heart and soul into something they've done). You did that!

And he did!  So now please allow me to present some of the multiple photographs taken of my gorgeous, 12-inch, full-figured, resin beauty, Leontyne Grace (named by the artist after opera singer Leontyne Price and singer/super-model/actress Grace Jones):

Leontyne Grace wears a red and black houndstooth dress, belted at the waist with a wide black patent-leather belt, gold and black beaded necklace, and red stiletto pumps.

She definitely has curves, which she proudly shows off in the above and next photo.

Leontyne Grace is articulated at the usual five points.  Her head, arms, and legs and strung.

Leontyne Grace has a beautiful face that expresses an air of confidence.  She wears a removable custom-made wig made from super soft, curly fibers.  This lovely doll has beautifully-painted arched eyebrows and brown eyes that seem to see through you and beckon recognition. Her dark lip color complements her sepia complexion. 
Without her wig, Leontyne Grace is as lovely as she is wearing it, as illustrated in this photo and the next photos that were taken using different lighting.
Leontyne Grace is breathtakingly gorgeous!
With each doll is included a doll stand (not shown), a numbered, signed certificate of authenticity, shown here and a doll box, shown next.  While the certificate indicates there are 20 dolls, only 15 were made including the artist's proof.
The custom-designed, woodgrain-paper-covered doll box is personalized with the doll's name and the club's name.

I love Leontyne Grace.  I am very grateful that Frantz was able to accommodate our request to make our 2018 WLBDA Club Doll.

Read Roxanne's review of Martini Beach Monica here.  She is one of the 15 who owns Leontyne Grace and plans to write a blog review of her doll as well.

To contact Frantz Brent-Harris about his doll art, his email address is

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