PPBF – The Doll

Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a gift upon arrival after a long journey? I think everyone appreciates that kindness, including the characters in today’s Perfect Picture Book.

Title: The Doll

Written By: Nhung N. Tran-Davies

Illustrated By: Ravy Puth

Publisher/Date: Second Story Press/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: refugees, kindness, paying it forward


Long ago, in a nearby land, there was a young girl whose eyes were deep-ocean blue, whose dimples twinkled like bright mischievous stars.

She was waiting.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl is welcomed to a new land with the gift of a doll, and then, as an adult, she welcomes another young refugee with that same doll.

Links to Resources:

  • Have you ever received a special gift? How did you feel? Draw a picture of that gift or write a thank you note to the giver;
  • The author arrived as a refugee from Vietnam. Learn more about that country;
  • The new arrival fled conflict in Syria. Discover more about Syria (information is all pre-war).

Why I Like this Book:

Based on the author’s own experiences as a Boat Person arriving in Canada from Vietnam, The Doll showcases two acts of kindness separated by decades.

When a young stranger gives a doll to a newly-arrived refugee, the girl feels welcome in her new home. Years later, after reaching adulthood and becoming a doctor, that refugee learns about the conflict in Syria and the suffering of the people there. She remembers how she felt fleeing Vietnam and arriving, with almost nothing, to Canada. She also remembers the kindness of a young Canadian who welcomed her with that special gift, and pays that gift forward, by regifting the doll.

I love how one gift changed the outlook and life of the unnamed main character, as she settled into her adopted country and grew up to become a doctor. I also love how such a kid-friendly object, the doll, symbolizes the kindness shown the main character and that she passes that gift along to a new refugee years later.

I think The Doll is a wonderful new picture book to share with children to show them the enduring power of one act of kindness.

A Note about Craft:

As noted above, The Doll is based on a true story, on events that the author experienced personally. Because she remembered her flight from Vietnam and the welcoming gift that greeted her upon arrival in Canada, I think Tran-Davies is able to demonstrate empathy in a particularly kid-friendly way.

Interestingly, Tran-Davies begins her story not from the perspective of the main character who receives the doll, but on the giver. She then recounts the main character’s gift to the new refugee decades later using parallel structure and even similar words. Also interestingly, the story takes place over decades, something that Tran-Davies manages by, I think, focusing on the two similar gifting scenes.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

5 responses to “PPBF – The Doll

  1. Thanks for sharing this book with your readers. I’ve been reading many PPBF posts and had trouble commenting last week ? maybe it was the week before, but I always love reading about new books!

  2. What a heartwarming story! I love true stories. This one is a real keeper!

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