Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Goldie the Dollmaker


A few years ago, my mom sent me her collection of M.B. Goffstein books: Brookie and Her Lamb, Two Piano Tuners, and Goldie the Dollmaker. The last one has always been a favorite.

Goldie is an orphan of indeterminate age. Her parents were dollmakers, and she has continued the business, only Goldie's dolls are much more in demand than her parents' creations ever were. Goldie carves each doll out of wood with movable joints, and then paints the doll with attention and care throughout the day:

Then she painted a little gleaming black eye on either side of the doll's nose and finally, holding it firmly arund the waist with one hand, Goldie smiled and smiled into the doll's eyes in the friendliest, sweetest way, and she painted a smile right back to herself on the little doll's face.

That smile was why shops could not keep Goldie Rosenweig's dolls in stock, and that smile was why there were more orders for her dolls than she could fill... Bcause the truth about that smile was that it was heartbreaking.


Goffstein's spare pen and ink drawings convey Goldie's loneliness as she longs to be friends with Omus the carpenter (who doesn't understand Goldie's connection to her dolls and her thirst for beauty), and her joy when she finds an exquisite lamp that far exceeds her income but which she can pay for in dolls. Omus' reaction to Goldie's purchase of the lamp unleashes Goldie's despair, but Goldie finds grace and new hope in the dream she has about the creator of the lamp.

While Goldie the Dollmaker is a children's book, the nuances of the story resonate with me far more as an adult than they ever did when I was younger. I would recommend this story (which is out of print, unfortunately) to anyone who has ever created something into which so much of the self has been invested, and been casually dismissed. I would also recommend it to the person who sees the beauty in simple things. However, I would not recommend it to someone thinks dolls are for sissies. That would be a fruitless endeavor.

You may find a complete bibliography of Goffstein's books here. At this time, it appears that they are all out of print. I wish you well in finding the books through your library systems. Don't forget about Interlibrary Loan, too!

P.S. I just found this photo of a Goldie the Dollmaker doll on a Japanese website called Rakuten:

10 comments:

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Ooh, thanks! I'm going to do a Goffstein library search later then... (Clown of God is currently waiting for me at the library -- you're an excellent library-trip book source, you know.)

TadMack said...

Wow --
It occurs to me that not reading fiction for many years -- and then starting out reading YA -- means I missed a lot of picture books when I was a kid, too. You have a prodigious knowledge of cool little books.

Lone Star Ma said...

That sounds wonderful! I hope to find it.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

I saw you had recommended this for me over at goodreads; thank you! I've been looking for it for awhile (it's also recommended by dollmaker Gail Wilson), with no luck. But I did just put a Goffstein book on hold (Our Snowman--do you know it?). And I love picture-book inspired dolls and softies, especially the handmade ones. So nice!

Saints and Spinners said...

Anamaria: The used bookshops have the paperback version readily available (but expensive for a paperback). I've placed a hold on Our Snowman-- I've never seen it! I think at one point we had the Schubert book, but it's not among the books my mom sent out.

LSM: Let me know when you come across it!

TadMack: It's actually pretty cool to discover picture books as an adult. You find out which ones really are classic.

Jules: Let me know what you think of Clown of God! I believe Ruth Sawyer has a version of it in one of her Christmas books.

victoria thorne said...

Utterly over the moon to see the Goldie doll!

You have just made our day-week-month! Huge M.B. Goffstein fans, we are, at art.books.children.

Thank you! Love the whole post, doll and all!

Dia said...

I also LOVE Goffstein's books - & Goldie is a favoite!! In another life, I drew paperdolls, & traded for a sweet little doll carved by a southern doll artist - her 'Alice' (in Wonderland) that so reminded me of Goldie!
I gifted her to another Seattle storyteller/ songwriter, Harper Karen Bruner!! (Don't know if she's still there, this was in the early 90s) when she assisted me in a Reiki Class.
I passed the link to this post on to another dollmaker - Cynthia Toy (!!! how could she do anything BUT make dolls??) http://thefairiesnest.blogspot.com/ who had posted about some of HER favorite doll books/characters!

Do you know the book 'Just David?' by Pollyanna author, Porter - also a LOVELY book (no doll, but lots of music) ....

Saints and Spinners said...

Hello Dia, fellow Goldie fan,
Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I am fond of the great Cynthia Toy, but know Karen Bruner only by name (Seattle Storytellers' Guild). I really need to get out more. Thanks for the Just David recommendation. I will look it up. Do you know Rumer Godden's doll books? They are bittersweet. The collection Four Dolls has one of my favorite stories, Impunity Jane, about a doll who lives in a boy's pocket.

Mitchell Geller said...

I wish I'd found this blog 5 years ago!
I have an MA in children's lit from Simmons, and 40 years ago (almost) I had written a very long and important term paper on "Goldie." Since then I have given the book to mew friends whom I have come to love; I must have bought about 8 copies (used) over the years. (Kept signed first for myself) I als o wrote an analysis of Goffstein's underrated first YA book, "The Underside Of The Leaf."
BTW, the first book I ever checked out of a library, with my first card at my towns B & G library, was Rumer Godden's "The Mouse Wife."
In my 20s I had a long pen pal relationship with Ms Godden, whom I finally met in the flesh 10 years before her death at 90. I adore the doll books, esp. "The Doll House" and "Miss Happiness and Miss Flower." It is nice to know there are other aficionados out there.

Saints and Spinners said...

Hi Mitchell, I don't know if you will see this, but thank you for commenting and sharing your experiences with these books that we both really enjoy. I'm glad you got to enjoy a penpal friendship with Rumer Godden.