HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Mystery of the Secret Dolls
Author: Vicki Berger Erwin
Publisher: Apple, 1993
ISBN-13: 978-0606054898 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0606054898 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0590444125 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0590444123 Paperback
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Erwin, Vicki Berger. Mystery of the Secret Dolls (published in 1993 by Apple Paperbacks, a trademark of Scholastic Inc., 730 Broadway, New York City, NY 10003). A girl named Bonnie, who lives in St. Louis, MO, goes to Callaway, a town somewhere in the south, to spend her summer vacation with her two great aunts, Nell Boone and Molly Snyder, as her father had often done when he was a child. Nell, a doll maker, is trying to open a doll museum with dolls made by family ancestors. Molly used to run a restaurant in town but had to close it so Nell would have the money for the museum. Bonnie meets Marc Allen, a boy about her age, who is visiting for the summer with his grandfather Ben Allen, the town’s doctor. She also meets Lynette, an African-American girl who lives with the great aunts. Bonnie’s goal is to write a family history using Aunt Molly’s recipes, but Aunt Nell wants her to incorporate the dolls too.
Lynette’s hope is to find a long lost cache of African-American dolls which she has been told were made by one of her ancestors and modeled after slaves. In the process, the three children stumble upon a portion of a local Underground Railroad route. However, somebody is trying to sabotage the museum by stealing and other acts of vandalism. Will they find the hidden dolls? Who is trying to stop Aunt Nell’s work? Will anyone get hurt? And will the museum ever open? There is one reference to smoking, and a few euphemisms (darn, omigosh, geez) occur. However, in addition to the suspenseful element of mystery, mention is made of slavery, the Underground Railroad, and the Civil War, so readers will learn a little about history too. Some sadness is found in the surprise ending, but everything finally works out all right. The story should appeal to all middle grade children, both boys and girls.