The bookworm is a series of posts following a trail of vintage picture books, linking them by author, title, subject, or whatever else takes my fancy.
We start the bookworm trail with a book plucked completely at random from my shelves: Natasha’s New Doll by Frank Francis. I first came across this book just a few years ago, so it wasn’t one I remember from my childhood. I do think a lot of people remember it quite fondly though, as I’ve sold several copies in my little bookshop. It is out of print now, and copies are around, but fairly scarce.
The story is set in Russia and begins with Natasha’s father out chopping wood and her mother called away to her sick grandmother. So far so familiar.
Natasha is left alone in the house. But it’s ok, because her mother gives her a special doll to look after her. Obviously Natasha doesn’t just stay put, as that would make for a very boring story. Instead she wanders off to look for her father with only the doll and a couple of sandwiches. Inevitably, she gets captured by a witch who wants to eat her. I won’t give away any more of the plot, but suffice to say, alls well that ends well.
Natasha’s New Doll doesn’t really offer anything new on the well known fairy tales. It has a lot of the standard fare: lonely child, forest, evil witch, woodcutter. But it’s still a nice little story with quite sweet illustrations. Frank Francis sticks to quite a cold palette of blues, whites and purples for the most part, which really convey the wintery surroundings and the menace of the witch. Natasha is cleverly highlighted in all the pictures with her bright red coat, which naturally makes you think of Red Riding Hood.
It also has some nice themes about kindness and how good deeds are repayed. Natasha gives the neglected witch’s cat a sandwich, so the cat helps her escape. She also greases the rusty gate of the witch’s garden with butter, but when the witch tries to open it, the gate refuses. That's what you get for neglecting your house and garden. Be warned.
About the Author
Frank Francis was a Suffolk based writer and illustrator of children’s books. He produced several of his own titles, as well as illustrating for other authors. He was also a painter, and exhibited his work at the Royal Academy in 1997. I couldn't find a great deal of information about him, but you can see a couple of examples of his work here.
For more Picture Book fabulousness, go here
Details and Availability
- Title: Natasha's New Doll
- Author: Frank Francis
- Illustrator: Frank Francis
- Date: 1971
Out of print. You can find a copy in my bookshop here. Or search for a copy from Biblio via the link below. I do get a very small commission, but it would be much appreciated 🙂