July 27, 2011

The Calico Critter Hotel






This is my dollhouse that I mentioned the other day! It’s a bit of a beast. I think my parents ordered it as a kit and then a carpenter friend of theirs put the thing together. I’ve had it since I was seven, and I’m considerably. . . older than seven now, so let’s just say that I’ve had the dollhouse for a Very Long Time! I gave it to Julia Christmas before last, right before she turned four. I worried I was giving it to her too early, but I felt like, Hey I might get hit by a bus (Yes, this is the way I think.) and by gum, I’m giving it to my daughter.

To be honest, she doesn’t play with it all that much unless I sit down and play dollhouse with her. I don’t mind that she’s not super crazed about it. It’s so monstrously large that we kind of view it like it’s a piece of furniture.

It’s been painted, wallpapered, re-painted and re-wallpapered and what was once a pretty spiffy specimen of elegance has become somewhat. . . vintage, shall we say. (Or charming? I used to laugh when I saw that word used when we were looking to buy a house. The word “charming” and “vintage” usually meant rundown and not-in-good-shape.) The wood on the roof is warping somewhat, the floors are sagging and the teeny tiny little cut-out Holly Hobbie pictures I put on the walls when I was 9 are faded. But I still get a thrill out of arranging everything and seeing my old bits and pieces of décor and furniture.

Passing on this dollhouse, as well as passing on a few of my books that I read when I was Julia’s age, have produced some of the most incredible feelings I’ve had as a parent. I almost cried the first time I read her my favorite book from my preschool years. I didn’t know those experiences would be so emotional!

The dolls you see in it are mine from when I was little. The Calico Critters are Julia’s; she’s way more into animals than I ever was. When we play dollhouse, the play usually consists of the children being naughty and the grandma doll threatening them with no cake. Hear that little critters? No rubber Japanese eraser cake for you!

Speaking of naughty, my favorite dollhouse related story of all time is Beatrix Potter’s ‘The Tale of Two Bad Mice’.



I can’t imagine that most of you are unfamiliar with this classic tale, but if by chance this one has passed you by, the story basically is about two mice who throw a hissy fit when they discover that the food and other items within a dollhouse turns out to be. . . made of plaster. (Julia was fascinated with this wording. ‘What’s plaster?’ I told her it was kind of like plastic. That seemed to satisfy her!)

Then the two mice (Tom Thumb and Hunca-Munca) get all rock-star attitudey and trash the place. It’s hilarious. I love this story so much! Eventually remorse does kick in (after stealing a bunch of stuff) and the mice do kind things for the dollies to make up for their acts of Supreme Naughtiness.

If you think, Oh Beatrix Potter. Too prim, too twee, not fun – You’re wrong! Her books are a riot; this lady had a great sense of wicked humor.

SOMEDAY, I hope that this audiocassette is reissued as a CD – actress Claire Bloom’s narration of Beatrix Potter stories is the best version you’ll ever hear.


Got any dollhouse stories you care to share? Any tales of bad mice?

13 comments:

  1. I loooove your dollhouse... er... dollmansion! My daughter also loves The Tale of Two Bad Mice. The first time I read it to her she was about 20 months old. She was a very sensitive child and she burst into tears when Tom Thumb smashed the ham with the fireplace poker. She was inconsolable, even though I tried to explain that the mice weren't so naughty... and even powered through to the end so she could see how it turned out. Fortunately, she wanted to read it again the next day and was no longer traumatized the second time around, but I felt awful! ;)

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  2. Oh that is too funny! (and so sad! Poor little muffin.) I think my kiddo was super pleased to read about someone other than her acting up.... :) Isn't it funny what makes kids freak out? We just saw 'Winnie the Pooh', sweetest movie ever -- well Julia managed to get scared by the imaginary creature, the Baksun, or whatever it was called. She had to sleep with us that night! I couldn't believe it! ~Melissa

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  3. I remember Calico Critters (or some similar animal miniatures) from when I was little! I'm so glad to see kids are still playing with them today. I never realized it before, but they really would be perfect for acting out some Beatrix Potter stories!

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  4. You know, I think these toys were launched in the late '80's so they missed ending up in my early childhood :) -- they are just the CUTEST and I never even knew they existed until I had my daughter. And what a great idea to use them to do little Beatrix Potter plays!! Even the clothes are just perfect! ~Melissa

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  5. Wow, that is an awesome dollhouse. I am pretty darn jealous.

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  6. Thanks Abbey! I'm so happy you stopped by! ~Melissa

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  7. How tall would you say the rooms are, they look like a good room height for the critters!

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    1. Hi! the rooms are about 8 and half inches tall. great size for critters and regular doll house dolls, but too short for Barbie sized dolls.

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  8. I really love your doll house as well as Julia’s Calico Critters. They are both cute. But I just wonder if these Calico Critters are safe for children aged 4 since calico Critters are quite small.
    EliteToyStore.com

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    1. Thank you! I think you would have to use your best judgment and knowledge about whether your own kiddo would be able to handle these toys at age 4. My daughter began playing with her Calico Critters at age 4 and didn't have a problem.

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  9. Your house is gorgeous! I love it.

    I got my daughter a few Calico Critters recently. They're naked and filthy now. LOL Perhaps I will try again soon. ;)

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    1. i gotta do up this house and restore it to its former glory!!!!

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