Category: Children’s Books

A Doll Named Jesse Rose

I wrote this for Molly when she was eight, mostly while waiting in the carpool line. She has been in love with both clothes and dolls since she was a toddler. She loves clothes themselves; the colors and textures, the history behind them; the statement a garment might make about a person (or a doll.) Molly particularly liked old fashioned rag dolls when she was eight, so this little story is about a doll who gets passed down through generations, and eventually acquires

A flour sack dress, a little red apron
a blue Christmas dress and a dress for vacation,
a party dress with satin and lace,
a play dress to wear all over the place,
a nightgown of white and shoes of brown leather,
and a fuzzy pink coat to wear in bad weather.

A Doll Named Jessie Rose

 There once was a time in America called the Olden Days, when families traveled west in wagons covered by fabric and pulled by horses. They came to find land in the west, and when they arrived, they built homes and farms on the land. They called it “settling.”

In one of these families, there was a little girl named Susanna. Susanna wanted a doll for her birthday more than anything in the world. Folks who settled did not have much money, and there were not many stores, so little Susanna did not have many toys. But she had this: a mother. Susanna’s mother was very loving, and very clever. So she made Susanna a doll.

She used strips of old muslin for the little doll’s body, and light brown yarn from an outgrown sweater for the hair, which she braided and tied with lavender ribbons she had been saving for a special occasion. Two black buttons from an old coat made happy, shiny eyes.

From the lining of the pocket of an old pink dressing gown, Susanna’s mother cut small circles for cheeks, and with a single strand of her best red thread, she sewed a small smile.

Now Susanna’s birthday was just two days away, but it was late summer, and there was much  work to be done canning the fruits that had grown in the summer garden, and planting fall vegetables. Susanna’s mother simply didn’t have time to make the doll a dress. “I’ll do it later,” she said with a sigh, hiding the little doll in her sewing basket. But Susanna also had this: a big sister.

This sister, Abby, was old enough to use a needle and thread, and she wanted to give Susanna something for her birthday too. So, when her chores were done, by the light of a candle, Abby took scraps from an old flour sack and made the doll her very first dress. It was white, with faded red stripes, and a little red apron to match.

On the apron, as a finishing touch, she sewed a small rose, because it was Susanna’s favorite flower. Then she carefully put the doll back in the basket, blew out her candle, and went to sleep.

Oh how Susanna loved her present! Never, never had she had a toy so beautiful and wonderful, of her very own. Not just a toy, but a friend with shining eyes.

“What will you name her?” her mother asked, smiling fondly. Susanna thought a moment and decided on Jesse, for she had heard that name in a story long ago. But, seeing the tiny pink rose stitched on the apron, she said, “No, wait: I think I’ll call her Jessie Rose.”

And so it was decided.

Susanna grew up, and Jesse Rose remained her favorite toy. She was played with in the corn fields, and in the pumpkin patch, and in the wagon on the way to town. And Jesse Rose sat faithfully by Susanna’s side when Susanna had measles, and lay in her bed for two weeks with fever. Jessie Rose, in her little red dress, was a loyal friend.

But all little girls must grow up, and Susanna, of course, did just that: she grew up , and had a little girl of her own, and named her Becky. And guess what? Becky loved dolls too. One day Becky’s mother said, “Here is my favorite doll: my mother made her for me when I was your age, and my sister, your aunt, made her little dress.”

Becky loved Jessie Rose. Susanna had taken good care of her, and the little red apron was only a little bit faded. As she handed her to Becky, Susannah said this: “Give her a name she already knows: be sure to call her Jessie Rose.”

Becky played with Jessie Rose every bit as much as Susannah did. Becky had only brothers, so she pretended Jesse Rose was a beloved sister, telling her stories and playing with her in the cornfields, because Becky’s daddy was a farmer like her grandpa had been.

Things were changing in Becky’s time: it was a new century, and train tracks ran across the prairie, so a little girl and her family could travel from one state to another. Becky was going to see her grandparents, who lived in the place where her mother grew up: a place called Boston. She would be spending Christmas with them.

Just days before the trip, Becky asked her mother if perhaps they could make Jesse Rose a new dress, to wear for Christmas. “Let’s make two dresses!” her mother replied, because her mother still loved Jessie Rose very much, and loved Becky even more. So, together, Susanna and Becky took some scraps of deep green velvet, and cut out a Christmas dress for Jessie Rose. It was the softest thing that Becky had ever touched, and her mother showed her how to carefully make small stitches in the sleeves and hem. When it was finished, they tied a white ribbon at the waist to brighten it up.

“It’s a lovely dress for Christmas, but it’s too fancy for the train trip,” Becky said. She looked in the scrap bag, and found some blue calico with tiny rose colored flowers. Carefully, all by herself, Becky cut out a little dress and stitched it together just in time for their journey. Now Jessie Rose had

a flour sack dress and a little red apron,

a green Christmas dress and a dress for vacation.

It was a lovely trip, and from that day on, Becky visited her grandparents in Boston every Christmas, until she was all grown up. (For she grew up, too, as all little girls do.)

Some hard times fell Becky’s home inKansas: dust storms came, every day for months and months, and the crops were bad. No one played with Jessie Rose, and no one went outside to play at all.

But Becky married a kind doctor and moved to a place calledVirginia, where the summers are hot and the winters are cold, and Jasmine blooms in the spring. She had one child: a little girl with nut-brown curls, and she called her Katie-Lynne.

Katie-Lynne was an only child, without a single friend her age to play with on the whole street. So one day, her mother, Becky, opened the old trunk that had been her mother’s, and had traveled from Boston to Kansas and then to Virginia, and took out her beloved doll for Katie to play with, saying, “Give her a name she already knows: be sure to call her Jessie Rose.”

Jesse Rose became Katie-Lynne’s most favorite toy: more than the expensive china dolls on her shelf that were too nice to be played with; more than her rocking horse or jacks or tin soldiers; Jesse Rose was a friend. Jesse-Rose played with Katie-Lynne under the magnolia trees, went to church in a fancy carriage, and sat on-top of the piano while Katie had her lessons.

One day, there was to be a party, for Katie-Lynne was turning eight years old. Katie-Lynne said to her mother, “Mamma, I do love Jesse Rose’s little apron and dresses, but do you think we could make her a party dress, to make her feel special and new?”

Of course Katie’s mother knew how to sew, because she had make Jesse Rose the blue dress with roses, and watched her mother make the soft velvet dress long ago. So together, they made Jesse Rose a beautiful party dress, out of pink satin that shone in the light, and cream colored lace. It was the most beautiful dress Katie had ever seen, and when she put it on Jessie Rose, she was just sure she saw the little doll’s eyes twinkle. Now Jesse Rose had

a flour-sack dress and a little red apron

a green Christmas dress and a dress for vacation

and a party dress with satin and lace.

Many birthdays came and went, and Katie-Lynne grew up, too. She became a teacher, and moved to a place calledCalifornia, where the sun shines nearly all the time, and thePacific Ocean crashes on the beaches. She had three children of her own: two little boys and a little girl, and she named the little girl Julia.

Julia was a spunky child: she liked to race with the boys, ride her bicycle, and climb trees. She had no time for tea parties and playing princess, so her mother didn’t know if she would want a doll. But one day Julia stayed home from school, sick, without her brothers to play with and with nothing to do. “Would you like to see my old doll?” her mother asked, pulling Jessie Rose out of the trunk. “Be gentle with her; she belonged to my mother and to her mother.”

“Oh…” Julia whispered, “she’s wonderful!” For even though she’d never loved dolls before, there was something about Jesse Rose’s sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks that made her instantly love the little doll.

“You may keep her,” Julia’s mother said, smiling, “but give her a name she already knows: be sure to call her Jessie Rose.”

Julia spent the whole afternoon, and many more, playing with Jesse Rose, pretending she was the patient while Julia took her temperature or wrapped her arm in cloth like a cast, for Julia wanted to be a doctor like her grandfather.

“Mother,” Julia said one day, “Jessie Rose’s little dresses are great; I especially like the soft green velvet one, and the pretty pink satin. But she needs a play dress to wear on regular days–one that isn’t old, and isn’t too fancy.”

So together they made Jesse Rose a play dress, in yellow checked gingham, with a small pocket. An on that pocket, Julia stitched a tiny red rose, just as Abby had stitched one for her sister Susanna long ago. Now Jessie Rose had

a flour sack dress and a little red apron,

a green Christmas dress and a dress for vacation,

a party dress with satin and lace,

and a play dress to wear all over the place.

Julia did grow up, as all little girls do, and she became one of the finest doctors in all of Virginia. She had no daughters of her own, but one of her brothers, who was a grown up now, had a lovely little girl named Grace, who loved and admired her Aunt Julia very much.

Grace lived in the west, in a state called Colorado, where the mountains stretch up to the sky and the air smells like pine trees. One year, for her birthday, Grace got a package in the mail, from her wonderful aunt: it was a darling doll, with clothes of her very own. And in the package was a note, telling Grace that this very special doll belonged to her grandmother, and great grandmother, and great-great grandmother. At the end it read: “Give her a name she already knows: be sure to call her Jessie Rose.”

Grace took Jesse Rose hiking in the mountains, and on picnics in the meadows near her house, where she would weave wildflowers into garlands for Jesse Rose’s hair, which was very soft and delicate now. Grace made Jesse Rose a soft night gown from an old flannel sheet, and fashioned some small leather shoes, so Jesse Rose wouldn’t get her feet dirty on their adventures, for the doll was getting a little too delicate to put in the washing machine! Now Jessie Rose had

a flour sack dress and a little red apron,

a green Christmas dress and a dress for vacation,

a party dress with satin and lace,

and a play dress to wear all over the place,

a night gown of white, and two shoes of brown leather.

When Grace grew up, as all little girls do, she had one daughter, a lovely child with bright blue eyes, and named her Molly. Molly could not run and jump and skip like many other children, so she had time to learn to sew and knit and paint and play the piano with great skill. When she was just six years old, her mother gave her Jesse Rose, to be her friend and companion. Of course she said, “Give her a name she already knows: be sure to call her Jessie Rose.”

Molly was given the little trunk, with all the beautiful little clothes, and she said to her mother, “These are wonderful, but there is one thing she needs that she doesn’t have: a coat!” It is cold in Colorado in the winter time, so Molly took her smallest, best knitting needles and her softest, brightest blue yarn, and made Jesse Rose a warm jacket that fit over her dresses. Now Jesse Rose had

a flour sack dress and a little red apron,

a green Christmas dress and a dress for vacation,

a party dress with satin and lace,

and a play dress to wear all over the place,

a night gown of white, two shoes of brown leather,

and a blue knitted coat to wear in bad weather.

When Molly finished the coat, she laid it over Jessie Rose’s lap and went to bed. As Jesse Rose drifted off to sleep, she thought of that first little flour sack dress that Susanna’s mother had made her back in Kansas, with the Rose on the pocket that Abby had sewn, and how they had played in the corn fields on the Kansas prairie. She thought of the soft green velvet dress that Becky had made her for that Christmas, and the blue calico she’d worn the very first time she ever traveled, and how big the streets of Boston looked. She thought of Katie-Lynne and the pink satin party dress she’d worn while they played under the Jasmine trees, and she thought of  Julia and the yellow-checked dress she’d worn while they played in the California sunshine. She thought of Grace, and the care she’d taken to make her some little shoes to wear while they played in the Colorado wildflowers, and dear Molly, who was sleeping beside her, and who made her the lovely blue coat.

One nice thing about dolls is that they live nearly forever, and as Jessie Rose drifted off to sleep, she dreamed of all the little girls who had loved her, and she couldn’t wait to see who would love her next.

Victoria and Jane

Victoria and Jane lived in the same neighborhood
on the very same street,
just three houses apart.

They were very
best
friends.

Victoria’s room was purple and red,
her two favorite colors,
but she called them violet and crimson.

Victoria had a whole trunk full of dress-up clothes:
ball gowns
and capes
and wings,
and a tiara with genuine rhinestones.

Victoria liked to play pirates,
or ship-wrecked-in-the-jungle,
and she liked to make up plays where she was the princess,
being rescued from a tower on a cliff.

She liked to have leftover lasagna for breakfast, and her mother sometimes let her.
On her peanut butter sandwiches,Victoria liked apricot jelly,
or bananas and honey,
or marshmallow fluff,
or raisins made into a happy face.

She also liked five-alarm chili, and Aunt Sissy’s Cajun jambalaya with sausage,
and coconut macaroons,
and she liked her soda as fizzy as possible.
Victoria liked to swing on her tree swing standing up, and ride her purple bicycle no-hands
while trying to count to ten without wobbling.

At singing time at school,
Victoria liked to sing loud, and see how many people noticed.

Mrs. Summerbee down the street said, “That Victoria is a real firecracker.”

Jane’s bedroom was blue.
It was the very softest shade of blue that she liked best,
with small roses on the wallpaper.
The quilt on her bed was the same shade of blue, to match, and she kept them nice and neat,
with just the smallest bit of white sheets peeking out,
just the way she liked.

Jane had a collection of china horses,
and a dollhouse that once belonged to her grandmother.
The people in the dollhouse were handmade, and sometimes
Jane liked to pretend they were real.

Jane liked buttered toast and fruit for breakfast, and if it was oatmeal day,
she liked a pinch of cinnamon on top,
but just a pinch.

Jane did not like food that was squishy or spicy
or unusual,
she kept her hands on the handlebars of her bicycle at all times,
and at singing time, though she had a lovely voice,
she sang very,
very
softly,
so she would not be noticed.

Victoria and Jane liked to play cowgirls;Victoria would round up the steers and ride her mustang through the prairie
whooping and hollering.

Jane would be the cook.

When they played  Broadway Show,Victoria would be the leading lady,
and the dancers,
and the Chorus.

Jane worked the spotlight.

And when the two friends painted pictures together,
Victoria liked to paint a fiery sunset over the rainforest,
or a city full of skyscrapers and shiny speeding cars.

Jane liked to paint daisies
or a single,
beautiful
bird.

One day, Victoria and Jane’s teacher, Mrs. Witherspoon, announced that the school was going to have a talent show. Any student who wanted to could perform on the stage, all alone or with a friend.

Victoria was ecstatic.

“I can’t decide,” she told her mother, “if I should tap dance, or twirl a baton, or sing and play the harmonica.”

“You could do something with Jane,” her mother suggested.

But Victoria preferred to work alone.

Jane told her mother, “I can’t decide what to do for the talent show,” and her mother said, “Maybe you and Victoria would like to perform together…?”
But Jane had ideas of her own.

The night of the show
their parents waited while Linda-May Peterson sang “O Solo Mio”
and Billy Parker tried to break dance,
and the Williams twins recited the last scene of Julius Caesar.

Then it wasVictoria’s turn.
She burst onto the stage and stirred the audience up with a lively rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In” on the harmonica,
while tap dancing
and  twirling a baton.

When she finished,
the audience went wild.

Then it was Jane’s turn.
She walked quietly out onto the stage,
cleared her throat,
flexed her fingers,
and played a little melody she’d written herself.
It was simple and lovely and pure; and she called it
“Jane’s Noctourne.”

The last note was so sweet, it brought a tear to the principal’s eye.

When she finished,
the audience went wild.

They both left the stage with second place ribbons
(Hector Hamsworth won first place with his magic show, because he made a hamster disappear,)
and they all went out for ice cream.

Victoria got choco-bubble-mint with rainbow sprinkles.

Jane got plain vanilla
with a single,
perfect
cherry on top.

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