This did not come highly recommended by my Goodreads friends, deemed too creepy and weird to be successful with most children. And they are not wrong in the abstract - this is a creepy book, and I do not recommend it to all. However, do you see that cover??? Omg, if the book has more of that kind of art, I said to myself, I am all over it. Creepy dolls ftw!!
Turns out, the book has more of that kind of art: miniature people with physics-bending hair, clockwork cities, a die with fairy wings and a girl's head that had the girl asking me, "Is that a dice-bee?" Then later, "I wished if dice-bees were real." There is a girl who lives in a castle inside a museum, watched through glass, lonely. She has a series of dreams that are open-ended, rough metaphors of her loneliness, and I really dug the post-modern stylin's that went into this story.
It's true there's something of a stunt in the book, when the girl in the castle asks the reader to put a picture of themselves in the book to assuage the girl's loneliness. I thought this was lamely obvious. My kids thought this was great. "Did we get this from the library?" The boy asked. "Yes," I said. "We should get a copy for ourselves so we can put pictures throughout the book." "Okay." So, fair warning, if this sounds like a nag factor request, don't show this to your kids. You know, if your kids are anything like mine, which they may not be.
Oh, and speaking of creepy, my boy is well-attuned to freak out on sad or scary children's books. He does not like it when things end badly, when the horror is overt or sentimental. (For example: The Velveteen Rabbit
gets a no.) He had no trouble with this though, for what it's worth. I've always been big on flipping out about star ratings for children's books, because should I star for my kids' enjoyment, or my own, or for the parents likely reading these reviews, or their children?
I guess I want to end with a defense of the negative review. I see a lot of bad behavior go down on GR, when someone takes umbrage with a negative review. If you can't say anything nice, why say anything at all? Bullpucky. I never would have known of this book had a negative review not gone past my feed, never would have wondered if the instant draw of the art for me would translate into enjoyment for my kiddies. The negative review was a challenge I was happy to take. In this limited case, the book worked for parent and children; we all really like this. But like with the negative reviews, the positive review is also suspect on a personal level - do you like creepy dolls, Dave McKean-style art, and meta-fictional children's lit? Maybe this is for you. If you don't, then the positive review is is useful in the negative, letting you know that this isn't for you. Whoa. I just freaked myself out.