Christmas always comes to Nella's house, but Santa Claus brings gifts only once in a while. That's because it's the Depression and Nella's family is poor. Even so, Nella's hoping that this year she and her two sisters will get a beautiful Baby Betty doll.
McKissack and Pinkney join forces for their third collaborative effort in this story of three sisters who have to share one doll for Christmas during the Depression. The middle sister, Nella, writes to Santa to ask for a Baby Betty doll, even though she knows there isn't much chance of receiving her due to her family's modest circumstances. On Christmas morning, the girls each receive a little bag of treats, but there is only one doll for all of them, leading to bickering and arguments. The wise parents tell their daughters to sort it out for themselves, and they do: Nella claims the doll as her own, and the other sisters ignore her and continue to play together. Nella finds that her sisters are more fun to play with than a silent doll, so she decides to share Baby Betty. The longer story is full of humorous dialogue and scenes of realistic family life showing the close bonds within the family. Pinkney's watercolor illustrations are masterful, as always, capturing the emotions on the girls' faces and filling in details of the family's Depression-era world. (author note) (Picture book. 4-8)
Copyright 2007 Kirkus Reviews, LLC Used with permission
Gr 2-5 During the Great Depression, the all-black town of Boykin, AL, was identified as the poorest place in America. Santy hardly ever showed up, but this year middle-child Laura Nell Pearson writes him a letter asking for a Baby Betty doll that shes seen advertised in a newspaper. Her two sisters are scornful, but to their amazement, the doll appears on Christmas morning. Of course theres a fight, and Daddy and Mama tell the girls to work it out. Laura convinces her sisters that the doll belongs to her, but soon discovers that playing with an inanimate object isnt as much fun as it is to play with real live sisters, and in the end invites them to a tea party for Baby Betty. McKissacks knack for combining historical detail with true-to-life family drama and language is shown to good effect, showcased beautifully by Pinkneys evocative watercolors, which give a real flavor of the time period. An authors note at the beginning gives the history of the story. Learning to appreciate what you have and to share what you get are two lessons that never go out of style. - Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library
Copyright 2007 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
In expertly wrought watercolors, Pinkney focuses on how light hits certain objectsvoluptuous oranges, a new patchwork quilt, a baby doll's yellow frockwhich are some literal bright spots for a family holding onto the positive despite their Depression-era struggles. The newspapers that line the walls and three-to-a-bed sleeping conditions fade, ceding to the clan's Christmas observance. McKissack's story shines as well, homing in on the most straightforward language to convey realistic but difficult situations: Christmas always came to our house, but Santy Claus only showed up once in a while. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
Copyright 2007 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.
Starred Review, Booklist, September 15, 2007
"Parents looking for books on sharing will find this an appealing exploration of the subject, teachers seeking picture books set during the Depression will find many details that bring the period to life. A gentle lesson that plays into the spirit of the holiday."
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2007:
"Full of humorous dialogue and scenes of realistic family life showing the close bonds within the family. Pinkney's watercolor illustrations are masterful, as always..." - Kirkus Review