Kafka and the Doll by Larissa Theule and Rebecca Green

Hello, Larissa Theule! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate Kafka and the Doll. When I finished reading it the first time, I said WOW out loud, turned back to the first page, and read it again. Wow! When did you first learn about Franz Kafka and Dora Diamant’s encounter with the little girl who loved Soupsy with her entire heart?

Larissa: A number of years ago a friend sent me a link to an article about Kafka and the little girl in the park and said, “You should write this book.” My friend has a discerning eye so I clicked the link, read the anecdote, learned that no one in the U.S. picture book market had published a take on it yet, and immediately contracted a researching-writing fever.

Scenario: A bookseller at Once Upon A Time Bookstore asks you to fill out a shelftalker about Kafka and the Doll. There is enough space for 260 characters.

Larissa: In Kafka and the Doll, Franz Kafka and Dora Diamant meet a little girl in a park in Berlin. The girl is crying because she’s lost her doll. Kafka says the doll isn’t lost but traveling. For three weeks he writes letters to the child from her doll and through the power of storytelling helps heal her wounded heart. Inspired by a true story.

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Rebecca Green’s illustrations are perfect. I knew early on that the simultaneous story lines would make the layout difficult, but Rebecca makes it look easy. Her Kafka is dapper, animated, and kind, her child and doll are complex and sometimes funny, and the subtle shifts in color are not only gorgeous but also serve to keep the reader oriented. One of the things I appreciate most about the illustrations is the way they communicate the sweetness of the story while also leaving space for the underlying sadness—the little girl’s, but also Kafka’s. He was sick with tuberculosis at the time and died a year later. Rebecca validates the broad range of emotions and holds them in balance.

Soupsy is the name of the traveling doll. She likes food and adventure, isn’t afraid of a challenge, makes mistakes, makes friends easily, and experiences an emotional arc of her own.

Picture books are entire worlds of emotion and information that remain in us long after the covers close.

Story is powerful magic with real world impact.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how to say my name. Theule is pronounced TOO-lee, like the roof rack.

Look for Kafka and the Doll on March 9, 2021. 

Inspired by a true story, Kafka and the Doll recounts a remarkable gesture of kindness from one of the world’s most bewildering and iconic writers. In the fall of 1923, Franz Kafka encountered a distraught little girl on a walk in the park. She’d lost her doll and was inconsolable. Kafka told her the doll wasn’t lost, but instead, traveling the world and having grand adventures! And to reassure her, Kafka began delivering letters from the doll to the girl for weeks.

The legend of Kafka and the doll has captivated imaginations for decades as it reveals the playful and compassionate side of a man known for his dark and brooding tales. Kafka and the Doll is a testament to living life to the fullest and to the life-changing power of storytelling.


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