Review: Kafka and the Doll

Kafka and the Doll
Author: Larissa Theule
Illustrator: Rebecca Green
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Ages 4-8

What would you do if you were walking through the park and stumbled upon a young girl who was crying because she had lost her favorite doll? Would you keep walking? Would you help her look for the doll? Would you stop and console the girl? Most parents would stop, turn the park over, and not rest until that doll was found [regardless of whether or not your own daughter was involved]. Watching a child’s reaction to a lost, treasured toy, is heartbreaking.

Kafka and the Doll, takes us into an imaginary world, inspired by the true tale of what Franz Kafka did in the Fall of 1923 when faced with such a dilemma. Kafka, when spotting the girl, noticed that she was inconsolable. This much, we know is true. We also know that he told the girl that the doll was not lost, but that she had left on adventures and would be writing to the girl. Of course, for the next few weeks, Kafka penned letters to the girl, from the doll, regaling her with stories of the doll’s travels.

What exactly happened during the encounter? What did the letters say? How does the story end? That’s where Theule fills in the gaps in a charming, simply told narrative. Green’s illustrations evoke a nostalgia for the 20s and the color pallette is sparse, evoking a waning Fall to Winter–signalling Kafka’s declining health and the doll’s eventual complete disappearance.

Theule gives the ending a #girlpower twist, acknowledged in the Author’s Note as “reflect[ing] the wide world of possible futures available to children (and dolls!) today . . . .” Fortunately, the future is yet unwritten, and our protagonist does indeed set forth (on a camel, at that!) to conquer it.

Kafka and the Doll (Support an Independent Bookstore)*
Kafka and the Doll (Amazon)*

My thanks to Viking Books for Young Readers for providing a Review Copy of this book. All opinions provided herein are my own.

More books for this Age Group can be found here.

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