Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “William's Doll” as Want to Read:
William's Doll
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

William's Doll

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,051 ratings  ·  173 reviews
"An excellent book about a boy named William who wants the forbidden—a doll. The long-awaited realistic handling of this theme makes it a landmark book."—School Library Journal

More than anything, William wants a doll. “Don’t be a creep,” says his brother. “Sissy, sissy,” chants the boy next door. Then one day someone really understands William’s wish, and make it easy for
Paperback, 32 pages
Published May 1st 1985 by HarperCollins (first published May 10th 1972)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about William's Doll, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about William's Doll

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,051 ratings  ·  173 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of William's Doll
You know, I think I remember people talking about this book when I was a kid. I think it was still a big deal by the time I was in school and people would bring this up as shocking. I never did read it as a child.

This seems like a controversial subject back in the 70s. This is simple. William wants a doll and his brother and neighbor make fun of him and his father buys him very boy toys like basketballs and trains. Still, William wants his doll, so his grandmother buys him a doll so he can lear
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Such a shame this is still relevant. At least I'm surprised to see ppl in the US who say it is... that means that most of us get it, right? ...more
All William wants is a doll. He sees, on the title pages, a young girl who has one and he'd like one too. One to hug and cradle, care for and kiss goodnight - 'just as though he were its father and it were his child'. But when his brother and his friend see him imagining this play, William is ridiculed. His father does nothing to acknowledge this and, instead, offers an alternative - a rather luxurious train set and a basketball. William plays with these too and he enjoys it...but he'd still lik ...more
Skylar Burris
Dec 29, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: childrens
I don't much care for children's stories that preach to parents rather than simply telling a good story to the kids. This is one. It rather assumes the reading parent needs to be educated about allowing a boy child to play with a doll. It did not hold my daughter's interest, and I haven't dug it back out to read to my son, who is, at this age at least, under no threat of being called a sissy for playing with dolls.

I suppose if you have one of the rare 0.5% of boys who, given an undirected choic
Rad kids' book about a (white) boy who is teased for and distracted from (unsuccessfully) wanting a doll. When I read this to my kids, I was a little uncomfortable with William being teased- I would have preferred a more positive storyline so the kids don't get any ideas, but it was written in an age where this was the norm. Great for someone being teased for stepping out of their assigned gender roles. In the end, William's grandmother buys him a doll,"so he'll know how to take care of his baby ...more
Cassandra Gelvin
Dec 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Not as good as it probably used to be.

This review originally published at

This book was probably great for its time (1972). I think it's a bit outdated in execution, although the message still resonates today.

A little boy named William wants a doll that he can play with, a baby doll with eyes that open and close, and he wants to treat it like a baby and wake it up in the morning and feed it and things like that. His brother tells him, "Don't be a creep!" (
First published in 1972, this one has held its place in the canon of children's literature. For better or worse (probably worse) there continue to be few books in which boys resist social expectations surrounding 'appropriately' gendered ways to be nurturing. This simple text tackles several ideas, including teasing and bullying (as it comes from peers and family members) and gender stereotyping. I appreciate the way that book stresses that having a doll and being nurturing doesn't supersede or ...more
Becky Bass
William’s Doll is about a young boy who dreamed of having a doll of his own. His father suggested giving him a basketball, and his brother continuous;y teased him calling him a “Sissy.” His father went out and got him a basketball and a basketball hoop, and William began to practice. He was really good, but he still wanted a doll. His father brought him a train set that he played with a lot, but he still wanted the doll. One day his grandmother came to visit, and william explained how he loved p ...more
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
I'm so relieved that I still liked this book. I just do not like the cover of this book. I'm not sure why exactly, but this cover is just not for me. Thankfully though, the content inside is every bit as good as I hoped I'd remembered it. My daughter also enjoyed the book. I feel like this book should be mandatory reading for anyone raising boys. Raising a boy that wants to nurture a doll means you have done an excellent job. Being able to be kind and nurturing doesn't preclude one from being ab ...more
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
William WANTS a doll but his brother and friend makes fun of him. His dad buys him a basketball and a train set which he plays with but he STILL wants a doll! Wait till Grandmother comes to visit and see what SHE does... This is an excellent book for kids AND adults! Very simple but to the point.
Shannon Kitchen
Dec 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens, gender
My heart literally hurt while I was reading this. I almost started crying. It reminds me so much of the story I've heard about my husband and his doll. I wish so many more people would read this book. Boys need to learn to be nurturers too! ...more
Aug 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens, wrong
Weird in a Dare Wright way. What Southerners would call "sweet"--and not in a nice way. ...more
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When William asks for a doll, his brother says, “Don’t be a creep.” His next-door neighbor chants, “Sissy, sissy, sissy.” His father offers him a basketball, attaches a net to the garage, and shows him how to jump and throw the ball into the net. William practices and practices, and gets good at throwing the ball into the net.

But he still wants a doll.

His father buys him an electric train and William plays with it a lot. He uses twigs for trees and builds bridges, tunnels, and stations from card
How did I not know about this book!? It's sweet and wonderful and shows how boys are shamed for having "feminine" interests and how that is unacceptable. It's not a perfect book, but it is delightful. ...more
Dec 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Thank goodness for understanding, rational grandmothers. William wants a doll, which, to some of the people around him, is odd and unacceptable. They give him basketballs and trains instead because heaven knows what a young boy who play with dolls will turn out like. Oh wait - grandma gets it. He will turn out to be nurturing and caring. Annoying that this is still relevant.
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
NOTE: For any of you who wish to see this review with added page photos, visit my side blog:!

5+ years

William’s Doll, a picture book published by 1970s writer Charlotte Zolotow and artist William Pène Du Bois, a powerful story about a little boy who dreams of having a doll so he can practice being the caring, nurturing father he wants to be some day.

The plot of William’s Doll is a simple one: William, a young boy, wishes for his father to buy hi
Sabrina Betancourt
The story of William is about a young boy who prefers a doll over other typical “boy” toys, and his family is unsupportive of his fondness for the doll. The book falls under the genre of realistic fiction. His dad, sister, and brother tease him for wanting to play with the doll, and attempt to make him feel like playing with a doll is wrong. His dad offers him a basketball, a basketball net, train, etc to try to interest William, but he ultimately wants to play with the doll. William’s grandmoth ...more
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"William's Doll" is a very interesting book with a nice plot/twist. I love it because little boys grow up all the time with the notion that they should play with certain toys, wear certain clothes, and even possess certain characteristics. I was a bit confused at first as to why William wanted a doll. After continuing the story, i realized that maybe there was a good reason William wanted a doll in the first place. William's brother and neighbor represent typical reactions in our society where b ...more
Shiloh Pearson
This realistic fiction book was originally published in the 1970s, but its theme is just as relevant today. This simple yet powerful story centers around a little boy named William who wants a doll. However, his father, brother, and male neighbor all tell him that dolls are for girls. Instead, his father buys him a basketball and an electronic train. When his grandma comes to visit, William tells her about how he just wants a doll so he can take care of it, so she buys him one. When his father f ...more
Linda Lipko
Jan 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Written in 1972, this book was daring for the time.

I'd like to think that society is much more accepting of little boys who don't want to play rough and tumble sports, who don't care for basketball (even if they are good at it) and who want to play with a doll.

William longs for a doll to play with. All the taunting and teasing by his brother and neighborhood boy, naturally called names like sissy and creepy, did not take away the desire William had to possess a doll.

His grandmother understood hi
jenee tuggle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kris Dersch
Definitely feels dated but to me that's a good thing...I like that I could say to people, hey, this book came out in 1972, even then we knew it was okay for boys to play with dolls. But will present challenges for contemporary kids...I had to, for example, explain the word "sissy" to my kid. I think I'm grateful that this book does feel a little bit dated, it means at least we've made some progress. ...more
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely little book. I know this story myself because of Free to be... You and Me, in which a beautiful musical version of the story is presented. That version is a little different from the original, so don't expect exactly the same words. The musical version rhymes and the book doesn't, but the story and sentiment and message are exactly the same, which is why I think this is such a wonderful book. I think it's important for young boys to grow up to be good fathers (even if that's not ...more
Owesha Henry
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this story and i like the message it sends to young readers. William really wants a doll so he can care for it . His brother and the other boys call him a creep and a sissy for wanting a doll. His dad seems a little uncomfortable with William wanting a doll so he goes out and buys him toys that he deems more appropriate for a boy. William enjoyed the toys but he still wanted a doll. His grandmother eventually gets him a doll and explains to William's father that the doll is ess ...more
Jul 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: everybody-books
This book is about a boy who wants a doll, but is discouraged by peers and father.
Themes -- gender roles, acceptance
I wouldn't use this book with children, it is preachy towards parents with a dull story line.
Michael Fitzgerald
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picture-books
Nice story, but the illustrations do make William seem creepy - not because he is a boy who wants a doll, but because he is far too old to want to play with dolls. And I really don't get why they chose the basketball picture for the cover. ...more
Robert Davis
Quite a groundbreaking and forward looking book. More than 40 years after first being published in 1972, it is just as relevant today. It is a gentle story and I liked it.
Shaye Miller
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Someone in my #IMWAYR blogging community mentioned this book recently, so I immediately requested it be shipped in from another library. William's Doll was published the year I was born (1972)!

It begins:
William wanted a doll.
He wanted to hug it
and cradle it in his arms...

And somehow this is a problem for his brother and another neighborhood boy who calls him a creep and a sissy. And it seems to be a problem for his father because he immediately purchases him a basketball and hoop and a train se
Maughn Gregory
For many years we've given this book and a (Black) baby doll to friends and relatives who had baby boys. I found a rare, mint, hardback copy in a second-hand bookstore and re-read it for the first time in many years and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the images and the gentle, direct moral delivered by the text. ...more
Jessica Shepherd
This book actually has a great story line. Obviously in the world people see it as weird when a little boy wants a doll. I think this is important because in our society now, it is okay for children and even adults to explore and be who they want. Even though William's purpose was to become a good parent one day, it's still a good lesson for children. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Pete's a Pizza
  • I Am Jazz
  • And Tango Makes Three
  • It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  • The Darkest Dark
  • Oliver Button Is a Sissy
  • Julián Is a Mermaid (Julián, #1)
  • Red: A Crayon's Story
  • Crictor
  • Antiracist Baby
  • From Head to Toe
  • Alma and How She Got Her Name
  • Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13
  • My Princess Boy
  • Ghosts in the House!
  • Doctor De Soto
  • 10,000 Dresses
  • Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse
See similar books…
Charlotte Zolotow (born Charlotte Gertrude Shapiro) was an American author, poet, editor, and publisher of many books for children.
She was published by more than 20 different houses (many of which she has outlasted). She was an editor, and later publisher, at Harper & Row, which was called Harper & Brothers when she began to work there and is now known as HarperCollins.
Among the many writers she e

Related Articles

  Author Casey McQuiston took the romance world by storm with her 2019 debut, Red, White & Royal Blue. A double Goodreads Choice Award winner...
300 likes · 44 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »