Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book helped me through one of the hardest times in my childhood.
Long story, but when we emigrated from Canada to New Zealand, we shifted around a little bit before moving to the Eastern Suburbs of Auckland. At school, once the novelty of having a foreigner in their midst wore off, I just didn’t fit in. My determination to hold on to my Canadian accent didn’t help. My sisters, both younger than me, shed their accents easily, but I stayed awkward and out of place.
So this story really resonated with me. Like eight year old Nona, no one asked me if I wanted to go. (although I didn’t understand the huge distance we were going – my memory is that unlike Nona I was quite happy about it) Nona is quite desperately homesick for India as well as bewildered by strange English food and customs and while her aunt, uncle and two older cousins are reasonably sympathetic, seven year old Belinda is a brusque bully. But Nona’s world changes when the girls are sent two secondhand Japanese dolls from the States (the third doll is missing from the parcel) The other girls aren’t interested, so Mother says Nona can have both dolls and so Nona’s learning journey begins. Miss Happiness (glass half full personality) & Miss Flower (glass half empty and the glass will never, ever be full again!) can communicate with each other and they watch with increasing hope, as Nona makes friends and learns about Japan and it’s customs, so she can give her dolls a home they can love. But unfortunately one person isn’t happy…
I was 10 years old again and cried right through this. I strongly recommend that you hold out for one of the older editions illustrated by Jean Primrose;
– the delicate charm of Primrose’s drawings add so much to this story and I gather that newer editions don’t have instructions on how to make the doll’s house (whyyyy???) I hope the new books at least show all the work and background detail that went into this book and how many people helped to bring it together.
To the joyless PC brigade who say cultural misappropriation – very sorry but there are children like me who don’t fit into a neat & tidy box. Please allow me a happy childhood memory from a more innocent time. 🙂