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The Friendship Doll

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,332 ratings  ·  233 reviews
I am Miss Kanagawa. In 1927, my 57 doll-sisters and I were sent from Japan to America as Ambassadors of Friendship. Our work wasn't all peach blossoms and tea cakes. My story will take you from New York to Oregon, during the Great Depression. Though few in this tale are as fascinating as I, their stories won't be an unpleasant diversion. You will make the acquaintance of B ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2011)
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3.87  · 
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 ·  1,332 ratings  ·  233 reviews

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Apr 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s
Sometimes you find good book in a round about way. Sometimes you can't remember exactly how you got there. I think this is how I found The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson. A conversation with friends on GR regarding stolen treasures or art led me to searching for some new books on the subject. Larson's book came up in the search. Considering this book is meant for young readers, I normally would have passed it by but the subject piqued my interest and the author had won a Newbery Honor Winner to ...more
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
After attending NCTE and having friends comment on the fact that I hadn't read this book and why haven't I read it and when was I going to read it, I set about to right this wrong. What a perfectly wonderful book. In many ways it reminds me of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by DiCamillo in that there is an object at the center of the books that is on a journey and needs to understand what love is about. In this book it is a doll, a simply beautiful doll.

Larson uses the fact that in the
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
I don't know quite what it is, but for some reason this book really annoyed me, and I found it more annoying the further along I got. It started off pretty well, and I wondered how much weight I should put to the feeling that it was strongly derivative of Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. (Not just the idea of a doll moving through time, witnessing American history, belonging to and affecting different children, etc--goodness, you'd think that'd be enough, wouldn't you?--but the doll's personality ...more
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a delicious book that made me smile many times. Miss Kanagawa, a three-foot-tall doll hand-made in Japan, came to the United States in 1927, along with 57 other dolls, as an ambassador of friendship. That much is a true story. What American children might she have met, and how might she have affected their lives? That is where Kirby Larson’s vivid imagination kicks in.

A rich, spoiled girl in New York City in 1928. A daughter of an unemployed mechanic in Chicago in the early days of the
Sophie Muller
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teen-literature
Wow! I was a bit weary to read a book dealing with Japanese culture from someone who isn't Japanese, but I was proven wrong. No stereotypes, but rather fantastic in-depth thinking regarding kindness (Bunny helping her friend instead of tripping her during her speech), friendship (Lois buying a souvenir for her less lucky friend at the Chicago fair instead of riding an attraction that would have made her feel like flying, her cherished dreams), old vs. young age (with Willie Mae Marcum reading to ...more
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
As a piece of writing, I found much to love in this book, particularly the multiple vividly rendered main characters, the historical detail, and the thought-provoking nature of some of the author's plot choices. Partial spoiler alert: The death of an important character was shocking to me, and left me thinking (still thinking) about the way most lives do not follow a satisfying narrative structure with closure, as was the case here. They are simply cut off, particularly when young people die sud ...more
Oct 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was FABULOUS. It would have been at the top of my reading list in 3-4-5 grade. "The Friendship Doll" has everything I loved (and still love really), strong female characters, historical fiction, a little bit of magic/fantasy, talk of travels, dolls that come to life, a cool pack horse librarian, and an eccentric older woman who collects things.

I should create a shelf titled, "Books I feel were written just for me."

*I just created a shelf titled "Books i feel were written just for me"
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I can't say enough about this book. I read it in an hour because I could not put it down. I was not familiar with the Friendship Doll Program and this story takes that actual event and intermingles it with wonderful fiction. It touches on different times in American history and interweaves the story of the doll and the story of the children and their families. The book takes us to the Chicago's World Fair, to the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky, to the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma. This is the BEST y ...more
Kate Willis
Oct 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
This was such a fascinating introduction to a little known historical event. I loved following the embassador doll through history on her sweet errands. (And the writing style was not dull on the least.) ;) The only thing that let me from giving it a higher rating were a few attitude and worldview issues put forth, but I still think it's worth it for older readers. ;)
Kelly Butcher
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Colby Sharp
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, mg-novel
Can't imagine ever reading another book that centered around a doll that I could like more than The Friendship Doll. Loved the character development of the doll.
Bluerose's  Heart
This book is based on actual events and people. Most of it is purely fiction, though. I think Amazon's description sums the story up pretty well:

"I am Miss Kanagawa. In 1927, my 57 doll-sisters and I were sent from Japan to America as Ambassadors of Friendship. Our work wasn't all peach blossoms and tea cakes. My story will take you from New York to Oregon, during the Great Depression. Though few in this tale are as fascinating as I, their stories won't be an unpleasant diversion. You will make
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ncbla
This is another satisfying piece of historical fiction from the always-reliable Kirby Larson. I was mesmerized by the story from its opening pages and read it in one installment. I love how history is woven with the creative imaginings of "What if?" from the author. Fifty-eight dolls actually were sent to this country as Ambassadors of Friendship from Japan in response to doll gifts sent to Japan from the United States earlier. Larson imagines the travels and brief enounters one particular doll, ...more
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Each of the stories in this book could stand alone; Larson was able to include so much in just 200 pages. At first I would be disappointed that one story was finished and I had to start over again, but each story became very compelling. I really enjoy books that make me want to find out more about their background (if based on fact), and this one encouraged me to find out more about the friendship dolls. I imagine that students reading this book may not have a lot of knowledge about WPA, the poo ...more
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction is, by far, my favorite type of fiction, but it is rare to find historical fiction that is appropriate and worth reading for younger readers. This book had such a unique premise, and I ended up doing a little internet research to find out more about the Japanese dolls because I found it so interesting! I wasn't sure how well it would work to have the book divided up into four shorter stories, but it felt natural and enhanced the doll's story line. The stories occur between 192 ...more
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-books
Two Stars - It was okay.

When I checked the publication date of this book I was surprised to see the year 2011. I was sure it was written a good 30 or 40 years ago. The writing felt older to me. I struggled to get through the story. There was a lot telling in the writing instead of showing.

I liked the idea behind this book. I enjoyed the stories of friendship and the lessons learned throughout. I didn't like that Miss Kanagawa was too full of herself and that trait didn't really improve as the s
The history of these Japanese Friendship dolls is completely fascinating to me - and I'm sure it has everything to do with this lovely novel of connected stories.

Webpage with pictures of the individual dolls:

Check out Mary Ann Scheuer's wonderful review here:

Also I plan to incorporate the word geegaw into more of my daily conversations.
Dec 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, mid-reader
So far it's just wonderful! I think it's going to be a big hit and can't wait until it comes out so I can recommend it to girls everywhere.
What an absolutely charming book-the stories of the 4 different girls and what they overcome with the help of Miss Kanagawa was one I didn't want to end. I must confess the 3rd story almost had me in tears(won't say any more because I don't want to give anything away) I can't wait until my niece is old enough to read this one. This is by far the favorite kids
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I absolutely love this book. When I was a child, I heard about exchange dolls between Japan and America. But I never got the story in details until I encountered this book. As Japanese living in America, I can't stop thinking about all these doll ambassadors. Wherever you live, in what era, people face same hardships. I do like especially Willie Mae and Lucy's stories. I recommend this book to all who once was a little girl.
Augusta Scattergood
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Here's what I love about THE FRIENDSHIP DOLL. It’s based on research and real facts, and it’s a great story, well-told in a way that makes the period jump off the page, in a good way. And there’s so much history! The Chicago World’s Fair, the Okies traveling Route 66, Eleanor Roosevelt.

My complete review:
Apr 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Moving compilation of four historical fiction short stories, each about a young girl and connected by the physical and emotional journey of Miss Kanagawa - a Japanese ambassador doll. The girls' stories work better than the doll's which seems slightly under-realized. Much more universal than the girly cover would suggest.
Michele Knott
I love the different stories, with the girls being different and the doll part staying the same. I think it was the right way to frame this story. Kirby Larson is such a fantastic historical fiction storyteller!
Wonderful new book from the author of Hattie Big Sky. A Japanese Friendship Doll is the link between five stories of friendship, courage and families. It's short, so each story is an intriguing sketch but give fully realized characters and situations.
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
One Sentence Review: While some of the girls' stories are stronger than others, it's still a good premise built on a bit of little known history.
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Great book! A lot like Edward Tulane in that this doll brings peace and closure to so many lives, young and old alike. Love that it is a historical book as well.
Lorraine Stinson
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it
"It is when we have had our hearts awakened by a child that we can truly call ourselves ambassadors of friendship."

The Friendship Doll, P. 9

Somehow, this inspiring, imaginative book crept up on me as a surprise. How could that be, when every book I've ever read by Kirby Larson was a resounding artistic success? She never fails to hit her mark precisely, crafting stories filled with beautifully developing emotions and characters that get inside of a person and really make a deep mark there. I
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Friendship Doll is about a large doll sent from Japan to the United States as an ambassador of friendship. This book is based on a true historical event as in 1927 fifty-eight friendship dolls were actually sent to the United States. The tale of this specific doll, Miss Kanagawa, however, is fictional.
Miss Kanagawa is a very prideful doll who views her title as ambassador as very prestigious and has no interest in actually cultivating a relationship with a child. Miss Kanagawa was made by
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Confession; I'm an adult and I grabbed this book thinking it would be "a light easy read" from the juvenile shelves.
Wrong. It was light, it read well, but each of the four mini stories were SO heartwarming one of them brought me to tears! (Willie Mae...come ON Larson! Why? WHY!!!)
I'm pleasantly surprised with this read. A great, thought-provoking book that would help both young and old people grow with lessons in sharing, caring, mental health and kindness.
I thought this book would be about a d
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am a big fan of Kirby Larson's books about WWII and dogs. When I saw this book, I was curious since I had never heard of the Japanese friendship dolls before. That story in and of itself was interesting to learn, but the way the doll is woven into the lives of different girls over time for different reasons was a wonderful walk through time and a way to show how personal strength is demonstrated in so many different ways. I know that my students will relate to the different girls just like I d ...more
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Kirby Larson went from history-phobe to history fanatic while writing the 2007 Newbery Honor Book, HATTIE BIG SKY. Her passion for historical fiction is reflected in titles such as THE FENCES BETWEEN US, THE FRIENDSHIP DOLL, as well as the sequel to HATTIE BIG SKY, HATTIE EVER AFTER, and her two latest titles, DUKE--which was nominated for 5 state Young Reader Choice awards as well as being a fina ...more
“Our actions make the fragrance of our lives...Would you smell of plums? Or Vinegar?” 8 likes
“The wren and the nightingale sound nothing alike, but think how dull the world would be without the songs of both birds.

—Miss Kanagawa”
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