The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb – Children’s Book Recommendation #6

We surely have lost something or someone we loved in our life. This experience of loss is beautifully depicted in this storybook. The story approaches this delicate subject of loss in a relatable and profound way.

Meet Ticky, Tacky, Jackie the Backie, Jim with two noses and Jo with the bow. They were the beloved paper dolls handmade by the girl in the story and her mother. The girl and the paper dolls spent much time together playing and experiencing a string of adventures in the land of imagination until at one point in the story, the paper dolls were gone for good.

paper doll rebecca cobb

The opening line, “There was once a girl who had tiger slippers and a ceiling with stars on it and a butterfly hairslide which she kept losing and two goldfish and a nice mother who helped her to make some paper dolls.” opens the story with a subtle hint of sentimentality. From there on, the story flows evocatively but then a very real pair of scissors threatens…

The Imaginative Play with the Paper Dolls

It is so inspiring to the readers to see how the girl had so much fun playing with simple paper dolls. She used her imagination to play with the paper dolls animatedly, such as dancing, jumping, singing, hopping in the garden, chatting with the ladybird, sniffing flowers and laying down in the forest of grass together.

paper doll adventure

She created various stories whereby they needed to run away from a big dinosaur or danced with the animals in the farmyard. Another exhilarating adventure of them exploring the house during breakfast time whereby they danced round the honey and kicked crumbs and explored an island and were chased by the crocodile.

The book actually opens up possibilities for the readers to explore and discuss different ways to play using their very own favourite toy or other simple toys.

The Favourite Objects

Everybody has their very own favourite objects.

the paper doll julia donaldson

This book can be a very good invitation to have children to be aware of the objects around them. It also encourages a sense of belonging to those objects by getting them to share what and why they like that particular item(s). Like the girl in the story, a favourite thing can be as simple as a pair of tiger slippers, a set of stars-mobile, a hairpin, or it can be a “bigger” thing like a pet or even a special person.

The Boy with a Pair of Scissors

Here comes the boy with a pair of scissors whom the authors do not elaborate on his motive or the consequences after using the scissors to destroy the girl’s belonging. This can be a very good opportunity to open up a discussion with the children on different possible reasons why the boy did what he did and also, analyze the different consequences of his doing.

snip snip paper dolls

The Loss

The readers are confronted with a moving moment of farewell where the paper dolls are cut up but this doesn’t stop them from existing. There are still Ticky and Tacky and Jackie the Backie and Jim with two noses and Jo with the Bow. They still exist, in a very special way, even though all of them are nothing but paper snow by the end of the story.

Indeed, a farewell is never easy and what we love about this storybook is how it invites a further discussion about coping with changes and loss. Children move schools, graduate, constantly have to say goodbye to relatives, teachers, and friends. In some cases, they need to deal with the concept of death at such a young age. With this storybook, they can now depend on their memories to keep their loved ones and beloved objects alive in their hearts.

reading the paper dolls

“We’re not gone. Oh no no no!”

Happy Reading,

Capella Preschool Team


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