Elizabeti’s Doll

by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Illustrated by Christy Hale

  • publisher and date: Lee & Low Books, 1998
  • genre: realistic fiction
  • age/grade:ages 4-8

Synopsis (from www.bn.com)
When her new baby brother arrives, Elizabeti decides she needs a doll that she can care for the way her mother cares for the new baby. After looking around the village, Elizabeti finds the perfect doll to love. She names her Eva. When Mama changes the new baby’s diaper, Elizabeti changes Eva’s. When Mama sings to the baby, Elizabeti sings to Eva. And one day when Eva turns up lost, Elizabeti realizes just how much she loves her special doll. For children adjusting to a new sibling, this story is perfect.

Author’s Perspective: (from:www.answers.com) Stuve-Bodeen went to Tanzania as a Peace Corps volunteer after graduating from the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. Her experiences in Africa inspired the setting and characters for her first picture book, Elizabeti’s Doll, as well as a series of other books that follow Stuve-Bodeen’s likeable young protagonist: Mama Elizabeti and Elizabeti’s School.

Literary Elements:

Character – The main character, Elizabeti, longs for a doll of her own so she can take care of it the same way  her mother cares for her baby brother.

Theme – Siblings, family traditions, responsibility, African traditions, responsibility.

Curriculum Connections:

  • Great read aloud! Use to introduce the Elizabeti series.

Web Resources:


School Library Journal (from www.bn.com)

K-Gr 2-Elizabeti doesn’t have a doll and yet she wants to take care of a baby all her own, just like Mama takes care of the new baby. So she finds a rock, kisses it, and names it Eva. Like her friend Rahaili, readers may at first laugh at such an idea, but they will soon be won over. The text is original, clever, and consistent in its respectful treatment of Elizabeti’s notion. As the rock is compared to the real infant, it actually takes on a personality so that when it’s lost, having been mistakenly used for the fire pit, it’s clear that no other rock can take its place. Once found, Eva is quickly cleaned off, hugged, and soothed with a lullaby. This story takes place in Tanzania, and lifestyle differences, such as how a baby is carried in a kanga cloth and the way that food is cooked in a separate hut, are an integral and unobtrusive part of the text. The mixed-media illustrations are intimate and remain focused on the girl and her family while also giving a sense of place. Bright cloths and patterned dresses add a touch of color to the splattered backgrounds painted in dry desert tones. This book is a splendid celebration of life and the power of a child’s imagination.-Martha Topol, Traverse Area District Library, Traverse City, MI

Publisher’s Weekly (from www.bn.com)

In an impressive debut, Stuve-Bodeen warms the heart and hearth with this sweetly evoked tale inspired by her experiences in the Peace Corps. Set in a Tanzanian village, the story tells of Elizabeti, who watches her mother care for her new baby brother and longs for a little one of her own to cuddle. She has no doll, so instead she looks around for a suitable “baby” and soon finds a rock that’s shaped just right. Carefully mimicking her mother, she bathes, feeds (her doll is “too polite to burp”) and changes “Eva,” and when doing chores ties Eva to her back “with a bright cloth called a kanga,” just as her mother does. Downcast when Eva is misplaced (her sister accidentally uses the rock for the cooking fire), Elizabeti finds her special doll in time to sing her to sleep. Stuve-Bodeen’s well-balanced prose strikes just the right tranquil, gently humorous tone. She lovingly delineates the mother-daughter relationship, and offers a rare, intimate view of another culture while sounding a universal chord. Hale (Juan Bobo and the Pig), meanwhile, deftly captures the story’s mood in softly shaded mixed-media illustrations, juxtaposing brightly printed motifs in African fabrics against an earthy, sundrenched palette. The artist is equally adept at conveying close-up portraits with a full emotional range as she is a village scene of Elizabeti carrying a water jug atop her head. A little slice of perfection. Ages 4-up. (Sept.)


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