The Friendship Doll is about a Japanese doll, Miss Kanagawa. This book is a series of interrelated short stories about this doll and several families. When I started reading this book, I was a bit distracted. It didn't draw me in. The doll and the first short story annoyed me and irritated me. The writing was good from the beginning, but I wasn't so sure about how this book would turn out. I'm very thankful I stuck with it. This is a wonderful book! It brought me to tears and even as an adult it made me reflect on life's suffering.
The stories of the young girls begin with the opulence of the roaring 20s. The next story is set in the early years of the great depression. The next stories are set later in the 1930s. The final story is set in the present time. Each of the stories has a message of what matters. Love, loyalty, kindness, bearing with one another in love--all of these are embedded in the short stories amidst great suffering.
In one of the short stories, a child dies and that is why I recommend that this story is appropriate for middle schoolers. If your child has known children that have passed away or had family members pass away, he or she may be ready to read this. But, I wasn't sure that all 4th and 5th grade girls would really understand the weight of the stories in this book (I think girls will be more likely to read this book than boys). Each of the stories deals with the suffering of life--the death of a parent, deep financial struggles of families, death of a child, loss of a living parent, alzheimers... These are challenging topics to discuss with children and help them understand. This may be a wonderful book to read aloud with your children and discuss. Talk with them about the decisions the parents and children made and why. Ask them what they thought of their decisions. Help them understand that suffering is a part of life, but that God is with us every step of the way. That is the one part of this book that is missing. God. He isn't mentioned in any manner or form. So, although he isn't included, he also isn't disrespected by the story. I think reading this book would be a great a chance for you to share with your children about death, heaven, and God.
As a parent who is always looking for good, solid books for my children to read, I highly recommend this book. I plan on incorporating it into our curriculum in 7th grade. I'd also recommend this book to adults. It may really make you pause and think about how petty our cares are at times and how great true suffering and loss is as it did for me. We need to remember what matters and live that way.
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher.