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Book Review: Goddesses Paper Dolls
Title: Goddesses Paper Dolls
Publisher: Dover Publications
Writer/Artist: Renee McElwee
Pages: 16 Plates
I admit it: I have a weakness for beautiful children's books. Okay, not a surprise to those who follow this blog. While I usually gravitate towards picture books, I recently began to venture out into activity books. A few months back, I discussed some of the best coloring books out there for Pagan children. Turns out, there is also a wonderful paper dolls book for Pagan kids, too.
Goddesses Paper Dolls by Renee McElwee features sixteen Goddesses from pantheons around the world. An Apsara (India), Iduna (northern Europe), and Bastet (Egypt) grace the cover. Inside are full-color, highly detailed dolls of each of the above Goddesses, as well as Brigantia (Britain), Erzulie (Haiti), Inanna (Sumer), Ix Chel (Central America), Konohana Sakuya-Hime (Japan), Kupala (eastern Europe), The Morrigan (Ireland), P'an Chin-Lien (China), Rhiannon (Wales), Sarasvati (India), Saulé (The Baltics), Themis (Greece), and Yemaya (western Africa/South America). Though I am not a devotee, I find the tattooed Ix Chel and and mermaid-tailed Yemaya particularly compelling.
Each doll comes with at least one costume change and several headdresses. In the case of some of the figures, that allows for dual usage. For instance, placing the lioness head atop the Bastet doll transforms her into Sekhmet; Erzulie can be either Erzulie Freda (beauty, seduction, glamour) or Erzulie Dantor (solemn protector of women and children); and Themis can become Nemesis, wheel in one hand, sands of time in the other.*
The Goddesses are all depicted in vibrant full color, with culturally-appropriate costumes and iconography -- mostly. Bastet's cat ear headdress, while still stunning, looks like something out of cosplay. And in a few places, McElwee uses quick visual cues that may not be historically accurate, but which help to get the Goddess' character and area of interest across to young children. For instance, while the Apsara is shown in a dancing pose and Rhiannon has a white colt sitting at her feet, Iduna carries a bundle of daffodils while a fawn relaxes at her side, and Yemaya's gown depicts the phases of the moon.
Unlike many other paper doll books on the market, which have flimsy paper and poor binding, Goddesses Paper Dolls is well-constructed. The paper is heavy duty, with no bleed-through of the images. My only caution to parents is that the images are not perforated. So get out your scissors!
Actually, come to think of it, this book presents a great opportunity for an adult/child activity. The dolls can either be playthings or the images to grace a child's first altar or shrine.** Let the child pick out the doll/s, and have the adult cut them out; if necessary, they can be affixed to cardboard or thick construction paper. Though the dolls are beautiful as-is, children might want to add their own personal touches to the figures, such as dried flowers, sequins, glitter, and so on.
I am totally tempted to buy a second copy, so I can do precisely that!
Kudos to McElwee for depicting so many "lesser-known" Deities. Here's hoping that Dover releases another edition, so that she can tackle even more Goddesses. I would love to see what McElwee would do with Flora, Mbaba Mwana Waresa, Sedna, Seshat, or Spider Woman.
Highly recommended to teachers and librarians and parents, as well as kids at heart everywhere.
*I leave it up to the individual to argue the soft polytheism/hard polytheism implications.
**Or both? How many kids want to take their Apollo or Thor idol along to the amusement park so the God can have fun, too?
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