It's a miniature version of the sort of old-fashioned house large families used to live in and spill out of -- a rambling dollhouse with lots of bedrooms and an attic.
Someone bought it for the Tenley-Friendship branch library at a garage sale, and the children's librarian, Eileen O'Connell is showing it to Jonathan Goeldner, 10, and Jamie Hunt, 9, who have just been recruited into the library's Saturday dollhouse workshops by their sisters.
"This staff has been working on it, putting in walls and plastering them. It was just a shell when we got it," says O'Connell. "As soon as we're finished, the kids are going to start decorating the rooms. This big room is going to be the parlor, and we're going to make it look like the parlor in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The kitchen is going to be the Ingalls' kitchen in Little House on the Prairie, and the attic is going to be from The Borrowers. Borrowers are little four-inch people, and if you're missing anything you always know they have it. One of the bedrooms will be Max's from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and one will be Colin's from The Secret Garden. That's a very English book and Colin is a very English little boy who's sort of an invalid so he spends a lot of time in his room. And there are lots of more bedrooms, so we'll use any ideas anybody has."
"What about Maurice?" suggests Jamie, and he and Jonathan giggle with delight at the very thought of it. Maurice is a character in a book called Maurice's Room by Paula Fox, and his bedroom is every boy's dream.
"He's got collections of everything in his room," explains Jamie. "Collections of magazines, collections of comics, collections of gerbils. He has the kind of room that if his Mom ever asked him to clean it, he'd have to put things on the walls!"
"They give us a lot of ideas," O'Connell says to an adult, tentatively reserving a room for Maurice. "And we don't push them, but a lot of the children are reading or re-reading the books we're talking about, so they know what the rooms should look like and what should be in them. We're making food from papier mache, and one of the things we made is a loaf of bread. Since the kitchen is supposed to be from Little House on the Prairie, they have to keep in mind that they can't make a pizza."
Since the big dollhouse is not yet in move-in condition, the kids are mainly practicing the techniques of furniture-making -- filling bookshelves cleared by the librarians with TV sets, tables, dressers, beds, even magazine racks.
"I made the antenna from a straightened-up paper clip," Amy Goeldner, 8, explains to a visitor to her section of the bookshelves. Her television, made from a matchbox, is not tuned to "The Brady Bunch," but by changing the inside part of the matchbox Amy can switch programs, to B.J. and the Bear" for example.
"Through the picture window of eight-year-old Ann Gramza's pretend house is a crayoned view of the ocean.
"It's supposed to be a beach scene," explains Ann. "This is going to be a real modern beach house."
The house has a beanbag chair filled with real beans, and the coffee table is a clear plastic box with real shells inside.
"I went to Stone Harbor, New Jersey, last summer and spent a dollar buying shells," she says.
"Remembers scale," O'Connell advises a group of kids who are working on miniature rugs, books and pictures. "People in dollhouses are really tiny. We're using the scale of one inch to one foot. These are pictures of Christmas cards from a Metropolitan Museum of Art catalogue. You can cut them out and frame them with cardboard. If you want a gold frame, use white cardboard and just color it."
Cathy Watts, 10, has another framing technique.
"I frame lots of pictures with buttons," she says. "You cut a round picture to fit the button and glue it inside."
Other kids are making rugs from cloth scraps and dollhouse-size books from matchbook covers. Sharon Henderson, 10, has made a magazine rack and is looking for literature to fill it.
"Cut out little pictures and paste them on cardboard," says O'Connell. "They'll be your magazines."
Wendy Hunt, 8, has already finished making a dresser out of matchboxes with tiny beads for the legs and knobs and is showing a younger child how to make dining room chairs and bendable straw legs. Jamie and Jonathan are using straws to make posters on a bed, which someone suggests they turn into a waterbed.
"Wow!" says Jonathan, but O'Connell discourages the idea and the boys make a mattress instead.
Ann has finished the rug for her beach house and is busy stuffing a chair with cotton balls when her mother comes to take her home.
"I wish it were that easy to put real furniture together," says her mother, admiring Ann's work.
"It's not easy, Mom!" protests Ann.