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The Paper Dolls

paper_dollsJulia Donaldson, Rebecca Cobb (illustrator)
Age 5-7

A little girl makes some paper dolls with her mother’s help. She names and plays with them constantly, having all sorts of adventures including escaping danger from a dinosaur, tiger and crocodile. Holding hands, the paper dolls escape all of these dangers until they meet the ultimate threat – a pair of scissors! Cut to pieces, the only place the dolls can fly is into the little girl’s memory along with many other very special things. And then, years later, she is able to teach her own daughter to make paper dolls too.

A lovely story with beautiful illustrations about imagination, memory, and links between generations which will give you lots to talk about and do.

Watch a trailer which animates the beginning of the story


Share the story

Read aloud
Read the book aloud pausing when your child would like to talk about what is happening in the story or pictures. Pause when the boy cuts up the dolls. What would children like to happen next?

Join in
When children become familiar with the story they could join in as you re read it with the paper dolls’ song and the words of the dinosaur, tiger and crocodile eg ‘I’m coming to crunch you!

Talk about the story
Talk about the different dolls and the names for them, what might each of them be like?

Can you spot the butterfly slide on every page?

Talk about the boy cutting the dolls up. Why might another child (boy or girl) do something like that?

Talk about how the little girl might have felt at different points in the story

Share memories; what special things (toys, places, or people) do children remember or which nice things would they like to remember when they grow up? Talk about your own childhood memories. Did an adult teach you to make something special?

Watch the story
The author, Julia Donaldson reads the story and talks about it here.


Things to make and do

Samantha tells us about sharing the book and our activity ideas with her daughters.

‘Both my girls (aged 6 and 8) really enjoyed The Paper Dolls. It is a tender, partly rhyming and comfortingly repetitive tale that is easy for children to remember and recite back - it was a real winner with my two.

My eldest daughter enjoyed reading it out to us herself and using the repeat of the dolls’ names in a rhythmic way which sounded nice. The book is not without its emotional challenges, and my youngest in particular was a bit upset when the paper dolls were destroyed. Although the dolls’ destruction was a shock, it does teach young children about loss, how ultimately nothing lasts forever and how all things change which is a valuable life lesson to take away. Her favourite part was the scene in the girl’s imagination where the dolls live again and as she rather poignantly said; “the granny is keeping them safe.” 

In response to the demise of the dolls, both my girls made their own paper dolls, the eldest from a book where they could be cut out and designed, and my 6-year-old made her own jellyfish versions! (She has a particular interest in jellyfish, the reasons for this are known only to herself!)’


Make paper dolls
Help your child make a chain of paper dolls. You could follow the instructions on the video link or webpage or use the pictures in the book to guide you so that some dolls are wearing trousers and some dresses. Your child could then decorate and name them, making sure each one is special and different.

Make your own story
Children could make up a story with their own paper dolls – perhaps their dolls will be in danger from a scary animal attack. You could play the story together using a toy or improvised glove puppet (oven glove perhaps?!) for the imminent danger to the dolls.

Make a story book
You could help your child write their paper doll adventure story in a zig zag book and then they can illustrate it.

Make a memory box
Using a shoe box children can put in a few special things, objects, photographs and drawings. They could decorate the box to make it look special with wrapping paper and label it ‘my memory box’. Encourage your child to tell another member of the family about their memory box and what is inside. This would be an opportunity for older family members to share memories with your child too.

Find out more

Find out about the record breaking longest chain of paper dolls made in 2013 here

Maybe you could make a really long chain of paper dolls too! Maybe some friends could help.

Read more books by author Julia Donaldson here

Titles with activities on LoveMyBooks are:

The Gruffalo

Room on the Broom

The Snail and the Whale

Tyrannosaurus Drip

What the Ladybird Heard


Read more books by Rebecca Cobb here 


The Something

Missing Mummy

Aunt Amelia