The Fairy Doll & Other Tales from the Doll's House, by Rumer Godden (out in paperback this month from Macmillan Children's Books). This is an anthology of all of Godden's doll stories, and it contains the following stories (with original dates of publication)
The Doll's House (1947)
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower (1961)
Little Plum (1963)
The Fairy Doll (1956)
The Story of Holly & Ivy (1958)
Candy Floss (1957)
Impunity Jane (1955)
So basically what you get is 468 pages of the most beautiful doll goodness you can imagine. And along with the dolls, you also get the stories of the children whose dolls they are.
Now, I myself had read The Doll's House back in the day, and it distressed me somewhat--one of the dolls is an evil, conniving piece of work and as a result I didn't seek out Godden's other doll books. This was my loss, because I would have loved them, but on the other hand it meant that I had a lovely, blissful, utterly satisfying time reading all the rest of them pretty much straight through over the past two days!
I especially recommend Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, which I can safely say is the best doll house book I have ever read. It is the story of a little girl, Nona, who's sent from India to live with London cousins, and who is absolutely miserable. Then two little Japanese dolls arrive from an American great-aunt, and Nona, seeing in them a mirror of her own cultural dislocation, begins to plan how she can make them feel at home. The whole family ends up being drawn in to making a Japanese dollhouse, complete with many, many beautiful accessories....and even Belinda, the youngest cousin who took a Skinner to both Nona and the dolls, ends up being won over. It is very moving, and if you have a child who loves making small, detailed things, this is pretty much a perfect story.
And if you are at all like me, this book will make you want to start building a Japanese doll house of you own (with sliding partitions, and bonsai trees) and it was such a treat to find the story of Belinda, Nona, and the dolls continuing in Little Plum!
The Story of Holly & Ivy made me weep a bit on the bus ride home--it's a lovely Christmas story of a doll and an orphan girl finding each other, and a forever home. And if you can find a doll with a red dress, like Holly's, I can't think of a better book and doll paring for Christmas than this one.
And I want to mention Impunity Jane in particular as well, for how often do you find the story of how a boy adopts an unwanted doll, and plays with her....while worrying about being found out by the other boys? It ends happily, because Impunity Jane is such a lovely action figure that she fits just beautifully into games that don't involve traditionally "girlish" pursuits. Read this one to the young boys in your life, so that they are encouraged to think outside gendered boxes, and so that, if they already have played with dolls and it has worried them, they can be comforted. (And in Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, the boy cousin is the main builder of the doll house, allowing him to be part of the imaginative fun too!).
Of course, the cover, what with its pinkness and gold trim, is designed to appeal to girls; it would be hard to get your average boy to sit down and read them independently. Sneaky reading out loud would have to be the way to go.....
In any event, I'm so glad I got a review copy of this one; I loved reading these lovely stories. Except I didn't read The Doll's House again, because the evil doll was seared into my mind just plenty.
Interesting aside: here is a description of sushi as enjoyed (!) by a London family of the early 1960s, from Little Plum:
"She made sushi, which are slices of pressed rice with all kinds of surprises in the middle--meat, shrimps, or a slice of crystallized orange, or a dab of custard with seaweed on top."
Custard sushi....can this really have happened???? There is egg custard sushi, but what with the "dab" I don't think that's what this was....