________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number . . . .February 17, 2017


The Doll’s Eye.

Marina Cohen.
New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), February, 2017.
198 pp., hardcover, $23.99.
ISBN 978-1-62672-204-1.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Cate Carlyle.

***1/2 /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



That’s when it hit her-she was the only Jackson in a house of Crenshaw’s. Why did her mother have to change her name when she married Ed? She’d never changed it when she’d married Hadley’s real father, the father Hadley had never known.

Hadley let go of the sill and turned. She yelped as ice-cold fingers gripped her ankle and yanked.

Her legs came out from under her and her arms spread wide to cushion the fall. She landed with a huge thunk on her behind. A cloud of dust exploded from beneath her. She coughed and sputtered, waving at the air. Her ankle was caught in the spokes of the old tricycle.

“Weird,” she muttered, pulling herself free from the steel trap. She could swear the tricycle had been clear on the other side of the room. She was certain she’d felt a hand. She reached to rub her ankle. That’s when she saw it.

Her flailing hand must have snagged one of the old sheets, because there on the floor, uncovered and glaring at her with its Cyclops eye, was a house. A dollhouse. An exact replica of the house she was living in.

Voices rushed up the stairwell. Hadley didn’t want anyone to know she was spying. She got to her feet and rushed toward the steps, leaving the dollhouse exactly where she’d found it. Only when she glanced over her shoulder and took one last look, she couldn’t escape the feeling it had found her.


Hadley, 12, has been forced to leave her city apartment and move into an old house on Orchard Drive with her mother, her mother’s new boyfriend Ed, and his six-year-old son, Isaac. While the other three love their home and enjoy spending time together, Hadley sulks inside, longing for her old life in the quirky apartment in the city and her best friend, Sydney. Hadley’s mother has embraced Isaac as her new son, but Hadley resents his intrusion into their life and the loss of private time with her mother. Although her strange bug-loving new friend Gabe keeps Hadley company, he could never replace Sydney or Grace, their kooky apartment neighbour. One day, seeking a better vantage point from which to spy on the others playing in the backyard without her, Hadley ventures into the attic of the old house and discovers a glass eye and a dollhouse replica of the old Orchard Drive home. When Hadley can’t stop thinking of the unique dollhouse, she brings the house and family of three dolls into her bedroom along with a glass doll’s eye she pocketed in the attic. Once the dollhouse is in Hadley’s room, life starts to take a macabre turn and spiral out of control. Althea de Mone, the kindly old “Granny” who lives above the garage, befriends Hadley, but she is definitely not who she seems; Hadley’s limbs start to numb then disappear and reappear in thin air; and the dollhouse and its inhabitants seem to take on lives of their own. Frustrated with her new family reality, Hadley wishes on her dolls that Ed and Isaac had never come into her life. When Hadley wakes up to a reality in which Ed and Isaac are no longer part of her life and she is now living with the creepy control freak father she never knew, she deeply regrets the wish and its chilling results.

     In a first person narrative running parallel to Hadley’s story, and set in a dual timeline in the mid to late 19th century, another little girl is living in the house on Orchard Drive with her papa, her ailing mother and their German caregiver, Frau Heinzelmann. Displaced from her beloved Boston, this little girl finds solace playing with the doll that bears her likeness and with her lovely dollhouse, a replica of the Orchard Drive home. She spends her days listening to Frau Heinzelmann’s German folk tales of spirits and kobolds. Frau Heinzelmann describes how kobolds, house spirits, like to stay hidden, “but if you catch one, it might do as you please. Perhaps tidy your room for you. Or polish your shoes. Or grant you a wish.” Fascinated with the idea of a kobold in her house, the girl spreads syrup in front of her dollhouse and catches the kobold. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned when the kobold grants the girl’s selfish wishes. While the granting of the wish allows her to return to Boston, her mother does emerge from her sick bed and her father does return home from working away, none of these events occur in the way the girl had envisioned. And all are granted at a horrific price, the price of one of the girl’s eyes.

     The Doll's Eye, a suspenseful read for fans of horror, will delight young readers looking for a scare. Marina Cohen masters the dual timeline and weaves the two stories together through character and setting. The descriptions of the kobold, the creepy Granny and the seemingly haunted house on Orchard Drive could leave some young readers awake at night, and The Doll's Eye is not for the faint of heart. While this reader became engrossed in the fast pace and suspense, eager to see how both stories would ultimately conclude, Cohen’s ending came as an eerie surprise. There is definitely the obligatory “be careful what you wish for“ directive, but all is not resolved with a happy ending here. The final disturbing chapter will leave readers clamouring for a sequel.


Cate Carlyle is a librarian at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, NS.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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