Title: The Doll Shop Downstairs
Author: Yona Zeldis McDonough
Illustrator: Heather Maione
Concepts: entrepreneur, innovation, producers and consumers, services, scarcity, international trade
Review: The Breittlemann family operated a successful doll-repair business on the Lower East Side of New York City. Because store-bought dolls were made of fragile materials such as china and porcelain during the early 1900s, they broke easily, and the Breittlemann shop had established a good reputation for its high-quality work. Anna and her sisters enjoyed helping out in any way they could, especially when it meant they could play with the dolls undergoing repairs. After all, these were expensive dolls that their parents could ill afford to purchase themselves.
The start of World War I brought an enormous interruption to their business, since almost all the doll parts they used were imported from Germany and the United States placed an embargo on trade with Germany. When Mama started taking in sewing jobs in order to generate badly needed cash, Anna became determined to get a job and help her family. Along the way the Breittlemanns learned that taking a chance with an interesting idea could lead to some surprising outcomes.
This tender story, with its plot based on actual events, is loaded with substance. Economic themes, especially the impact of war-time scarcities on production and consumption, are delicately woven into a tale of Jewish culture, social class, and children's play. The book's subtle blend of these rich themes works well to broaden the appeal to more than just doll lovers.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children