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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Book Review

I was recently contacted to review a new doll book. Anytime a doll book is offered for review, I’m there. This is the book and what follows are my thoughts about it.


The Construction of the Book:  A book that is well made and beautifully illustrated is what will draw me to it. This is a coffee table book. It measures approx. 9” x 12” x 1” thick. The book will lie flat with little pressure, so you can lay it on the table rather than hold it in your lap. It is a 2019 release.

The paper used is a good quality with a matte finish. There are illustrations on every page and so well photographed. That is an important feature I look for. There are 192 pages comprising of eleven chapters, ranging from bisque, antique, stockinette to plastic dolls to printed reference materials (ie: postcards)

There is a glossary of clothing terms, Russian terms, a bibliography and index, acknowledgements, an introduction of course and the authors bio.

The Author:  Author Linda Holderbaum began collecting ethnic dolls in the 1960”s. I would guess her collection is extensive given the expertise in chapter after chapter of descriptions and historical information. Over time, she began writing for doll magazines. That led to becoming an exhibit and competition judge, and finally being a museum curator and executive director spanning 30+ years. “She believes that dolls are truly a mirror of man and have much to teach us”

Inside:  The 11 chapters contained in the book cover the history of each decade and style of the dolls. Included, are the factories these dolls came from, the status now of those factories, and the family connections. Some dolls are not able to be identified accurately due to their age as some date back as far as 1920. Some of the identifiers are worn off but luckily in others, there are clues as to where they originated.

The descriptions of the dolls to include how they were made, the way they marked them to identify their makers. The costuming is explained as to how the patterns were chosen and the type of embellishments used. They used cottons, beads, ribbons, leather and so on, much of what we as doll makers use today, but the difference is that they used everything to embrace their culture and uniqueness.

Linda gives wonderful explanations of each doll referenced, to include descriptions of their costumes, the hair, the colours used. In other words, everything you want to know about each one on each page is there. She includes the Circa on each page.

As I went through the book, I appreciated the balance between text and images. I love how she has included so many examples of dolls in the stages of being complete and those that have broken down over time. I didn’t mind seeing that because you can see how they created the basic dolls before costuming.

The amount of text is great. It’s full of information about each type of doll while still holding my interest. I don’t like books that are so full of information that I lose interest in too many facts. This book does not do that. Every page of the book has a minimum of two images and as much as seven. I’m not sure how many I can show due to copyright, but I will include another of some footwear that I thought was so cute. I can really see an Asian influence in these.

I will end now on this. If you enjoy books and are a doll maker, and if you enjoy the historical side of doll making, this is a perfect book to learn about Russian dolls from the past, beyond the Matryoshka dolls (the stacking dolls) that we are so familiar with. The dolls in this book are every other style that we seldom hear about. 

It’s a heavy book, very well made and truly an excellent addition to your library. A book to pick up and read a chapter now and then to study the beauty of the these dolls. I love this book from cover to cover. It is so interesting and because of the quality of the photos, you can see all the most intricate details.  Enjoy, and a note that this book is available on Amazon.

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