Monday, August 27, 2012

The Favourite Book of Eight-Year-Old Me

Everyone has their favourite books from childhood and one of mine was Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden. I used to borrow this as often as possible from the library and for reasons that I can't remember would take it back, return it then hide it on the wrong shelf in the hopes that it would still be there to take it out the the following week. Why I just didn't ask my parents to buy me a copy or keep it out and renew it is now a complete mystery to me. I fell in love with this book so badly but never owned a copy. Then I grew up and forgot all about it until recently when I wondered if it was still about. A quick search on the Internet revealed that a hardback copy had been released and I bought it but when it arrived it was missing the most important thing - the doll's house plans.

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Miss Happiness and Miss Flower is about a girl called Nona who is sent from India to live with her aunt and uncle in England. The two dolls arrive at the same time from Japan and are also missing home and someone to take care of them. Bullied by Belinda, the youngest daughter of the family, the dolls give Nona an interest and gradually she starts to stand up for herself. She feels that she knows what the dolls are going through and begins researching how to make them a home. The dolls speak to each other too and their thoughts mirror Nona's. She's as concerned as they are that the house be correct and authentic. And so gradually she starts to feel part of her new family as the dolls gradually get the home they desire.

The best part of this book for eight-year-old-me though was definitely the plans at the back to enable you to build your own Japanese doll's house. This had young me absolutely entranced. As Tom, the eldest son of the family, makes parts of the house for her it is carefully explained in the back. I never had one, nor any Japanese dolls but this book was always part magic for me for that reason alone. Everything is described from how to make the screens to the drawing placed in the alcove. So when I found that the new copy didn't include the plans I went into a frenzy and searched across the interwebs until I found the right copy. Madness really as I'm never going to make the house but just the thought that without the plans I definitely couldn't was bad enough.

I feel I should apologise to all the other kids at my local library who never managed to take it out as I either had it at home or it was hidden in some corner.

This copy was printed in 1976, costs 45p and has no barcode! Also, bizarrely, the synopsis at the front of the book explains the entire plot, start to finish. I need to look at my other books from this era to see if this was a thing.


jongleuse said...

Guess which book I have just finished reading to my 4 year old daughter! And we are about to start the sequel, Little Plum.
I too loved this book sooo much. May have to track down the edition with the plans as husband is something of a carpenter. In the meantime we have removed almost all the furniture from daughter's dolls house, placed the mattress and cushions on the floor and installed her little Japanese Emperor and Empress dolls (present from sister-in-law who is Japanese)
I always wanted a little gypsy caravan in the garden like Kizzy in the Diddakoi (also by Rumer Godden) possibly even more than the doll's house.

Sarah said...

I've never even heard of this book before Liz but OMG it has plans to build your own Japanese doll's house! How awesome would that be!!! I might have to track myself down a copy of the book too, just so it can sit on my shelves in the hope that one day I might possibly build a house LOL

Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

Aww. This book looks wonderful! I love the idea of making my own Japanese doll house.