Paper Dolls Don’t Have Hearts (Shannon Woodworth)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Paper Dolls Don’t Have Hearts by Shannon Woodworth, a middle-grade poem that tackles issues of self-image and body dysmorphia.

Annie Jones has just started at a new (high?) school, and feels intimidated by the growing and changing of her fellow classmates. Whenever Annie compares herself to older girls, or even her own friends, she feels inadequate: hair too short, body too curvy, eyes too big, etc. She begins to change her diet, eating less and less and even skipping a piece of her own birthday cake. Sensing that something is wrong, her mother sits her down and encourages her daughter to open up. Annie explains that she wishes she could draw herself as a paper doll, making all the changes to her appearance that would help her feel confident. Her mother understands, but points out that a paper doll wouldn’t have Annie’s spirit or her talents or all the qualities that make her truly unique and special; after all, paper dolls don’t have hearts.

Heartfelt. Inspired by her own experiences with ED, Woodworth infuses this middle-grade tale with gentle, empowering poetry that feels genuine. However, while the language is sincere, the rhymes themselves are often clunky and uneven, losing the rhythm and meter with too many or too few syllables per line. The illustrations are similarly pedestrian: line and shade drawings that give a visual basis for Annie’s journey yet lack texture and depth throughout. Lastly, the length and subject matter are best for middle-graders, not baby bookworms; JJ lost interest very quickly. I also would have loved to see some resources provided in the backmatter for readers struggling with ED who may not have an immediate support system like Annie did. An earnest and meaningful effort from a freshman indie creator with a worthy message, yet it simply lacks finesse. Perhaps not Baby Bookworm approved, but worth a read for those who might be struggling.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

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