I felt that a book was needed to inspire my daughter on the wonders of playing with a doll's house. Now would be the perfect time for 'Miss Happiness and Miss Flower', I thought, Rumer Godden's children's book published in 1961; one of the most magical books there is on the subject of dolls and their houses.
The plot: a girl from India comes to a strange land to live with her aunt and cousins. Nona Fell is lonely in this chilly English village, and feels out of place.
But just then, she is given a set of Japanese dolls, to share with her spoilt cousin Belinda. The arrival of the dolls transforms her relationship with her environment and her relatives. The entire family, with the exception of Belinda, join together to help make a Japanese doll's house for the dolls, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower.
That is the story. It is simple, but what is so charming is how the dolls speak for themselves in the narrative. We hear them talk to one another, learn of their anxieties and feelings, although the humans never do. In this way the book enters into the child's world of play, echoing how children the world over interact with dolls, giving them a secret voice of their own.
Just as enchanting are the descriptions of the Japanese doll's house, as it is planned and slowly comes into being. The tiny tea cups, the paper sliding doors, the minute cushions and side tables, made me want to grab some four by four and get hammering!
This was a perfect read for myself and my daughter, but really, this could be a great read for dads and sons too. One of the real heroes of the book is Tom, the kind cousin who builds the house for Nona. If ever there was a book to inspire DIY, this is it.
But luckily, thanks to my dear friend Sarah, my lucky daughter has her own beautiful doll's house, perfect and finished, just waiting for little figures to fill the rooms with fun and laughter, and her days with happy hours.