When I first saw pictures of the Maru and Friends dolls on the My Doll Best Friend Facebook page and read the excellent review of Savannah at The Toybox Philosopher, my original impressions were that the dolls looked very beautiful, but were also a little, well, odd. Being a collector of soft-bodied 18 inch dolls for so many years has somewhat warped my view-point, I know. The Maru and Friends dolls have lovely faces, but their taller height (20 inches), lanky limbs and tubby little all-vinyl bodies seemed strange to me at first. Thankfully, a huge part of the fun of collecting dolls is revising our first impressions, which are often far from impartial. I’ve found my initial responses to a new kind of doll to often be based on prejudice against anything different than what I’m used to–embarassing to admit, but there it is. I’m happy to add that as I’ve expanded the range of my appreciation of dolls, I’ve gotten quicker at seeing beauty and charm in the differences and unique qualities that each kind of doll offers.
Anyway, it wasn’t long before I began to be captivated by the beauty and sweetness of the Maru and Friends dolls, despite their lanky proportions and what I thought might be awkward neck joints–and I soon found myself falling in love. My usual way of going about adding a new doll to my collection is to troll the internet for candid photographs of the doll(s) I’m interested in. I found there have been several good reviews of Maru (such a beautiful doll!) and the cute red-headed Savannah, but not so much of Jamie, the hazel-eyed curly honey-blond who was my immediate favorite. So I decided to buy Jamie to review. Oh my goodness. Little did I know where this would lead! I saw a comment somewhere about the Maru and Friends dolls that said something in effect: “For me, the only dolls in the world.” At the time I read this, I thought this was going a bit far. I have had Jamie for about two weeks now, and since opening her box there have been moments when I have seriously considered selling all my dolls and collecting only Maru and her friends from now on. I really love all my dolls, and I love the variety in my collection, but I have to say, I now know what that comment meant.
Opening the box that held my Jamie doll turned out to be the most special doll-opening experience I’ve had so far. I love opening new dolls: it’s exciting, but also a little scary, because there’s no way of knowing exactly what they’ll be like and whether I’ll really like them as much as I think I will. The perfect doll-opening experience has a lot to do with everything coming together: the time, the place, the doll, my expectations. But it also has a lot to do with how the doll is presented. I give Maru and Friends an A+++ for their beautiful, thoughtful packaging, which is as tasteful and lovely as the doll herself. This was a big part of what made this a truly special experience.
I could tell this was a special doll from the moment I opened the cardboard box in which she arrived.
This little card in its pretty transparent envelope made a big impression:
Talk about making the customer feel appreciated! What a beautiful phrase: “Made with lots of love, for hours of joy.” Wow.
I have to take a minute to rave about the beauty of the Maru and Friends doll boxes. In my opinion this is the most beautiful box I’ve seen so far (although Bonnie and Pearl runs a close second!). Orange is not my favorite color, but it is happy and sunny, and the flowers and lady bugs are so tastefully and simply arranged around the window area. The box material has a glossy finish too, which feels lovely. Everything about this doll, in short, said “high quality” and “attention to detail” even before I opened her up. Here are a few details from her box:
I really took my time opening this doll and just savored each moment.
I couldn’t get over how beautiful Jamie is. I kept staring and staring at all the details.
Finally I opened her box and removed the extra package of outfits I ordered with the her. It was wrapped in personalized printed tissue paper, another special touch:
When opened, this package revealed the outfits I ordered: the adorable ladybug pajamas (there’s definitely a ladybug theme going on here!), pretty spring dress, and priceless gingham shorts outfit:
Back to Jamie: here are some pictures of her in her box. She was tied in with ribbon, for which I’m so grateful! This seems to be a new trend in doll packaging shared by several of the main doll brands, and I am very much in favor of it! Jamie was held in quite securely and safely, yet the ribbon ties are so much easier to remove, and gentler on the doll as well as my fingers. She had a hairnet over her perfect face and hair:
After a little while I slipped the insert out of the box and continued to gaze at her in wonder and admiration.
I couldn’t get over the beauty of her eyes, the delicate painting of her eyebrows and eyelashes, and the minuscule little sprinkling of freckles across her nose:
Not only are her eyelashes individually painted, but there are light, shorter painted eyelashes in between each longer painted eyelash. Then she has real glued-on lashes as well!
Her arrival outfit too, which consists of a white quilted ski parka over white athletic pants and a jersey-knit blouse, is of the highest quality. Because I bought this doll in spring, this outfit hadn’t really caught my imagination, but it is so much nicer and cuter than I expected, and now I am looking forward to winter again when she can pull the plush-lined hood up around her face! I was struck by the detail of the zipper, the quilting, and the cute pom-poms.
Jamie also comes in pink snow boots, and includes the Blue Moon Over New York hardcover storybook, featuring the continuing story of Maru’s adventures in America (Maru is the central character in this series of dolls). I haven’t read the book yet, but it looks sweet. Also in the box was Jamie’s certificate of authenticity.
After savoring her perfection for a long time, I untied Jamie and brought her to life.
My husband can bear witness to the fact that I kept exclaiming over the beauty and quality of this doll at every point in this process. At this point I was particularly struck by the perfection of her glossy hair.
Jamie has the most beautiful-looking hair I’ve seen so far. The colors, highlights, softness, amount of curl, and especially the high shine, are truly divine. Here it is free of the hairnet:
It was so perfect I was almost afraid to touch it. In fact, at first I was actually wincing at the idea of giving a doll this exquisite to a child! I know that Maru and Friends dolls are made for children to play with, and that although they look delicate, they are made from sturdy vinyl. It’s just a little hard to believe this doll is appropriate for an eight-year-old when you see how beautiful she is.
Jamie’s hair is pulled back from her face with a small loop of stitches on each side. I am planning on removing these stitches so I can style her hair as I like, but it is a very pretty style:
I just love the warm, golden-honey color of her hair; it’s such a pretty shade of blond. I also love the amount of curl. Some of the Jamie dolls shown on the Maru and Friends website have really curly hair (perhaps this is what the first edition dolls looked like?). I love the amount of curl in my Jamie’s hair–just enough for beauty, without being so curly to make me afraid to play with it.
At this point I took Jamie’s ski parka off, since it seemed a bit warm for our mild May weather, and I posed her with two of my American Girl dolls, my custom hazel-eyed Caroline doll and my #24. I usually don’t compare dolls for the purposes of a new doll review, because I like to consider new dolls as individuals, and would rather save comparisons for a separate occasion, but in this case I was curious how much taller Jamie would look than a standard 18 inch doll.
You can see that the height and body proportions are quite different. Not so different, however, as to make me not want to play with her with my standard 18 or 19 inch dolls.
Notice the adorable embroidered flower applique on Jamie’s blouse. These little details are part of what makes her so special:
I was excited to try on the other outfits I bought for Jamie to wear. Maru and Friends has a diverse little range of outfits available for their dolls, and I thought some of them were exceptionally cute when I was looking at them on the website. But I was thrilled with how they turned out in person. The detail and quality are stunning! I also love that the styles are fun and different, without being too popular or trendy-looking.
In undressing Jamie, I found she takes the prize for the prettiest pair of socks ever to be hidden by pants and boots!
Also, her blouse closes in the back with real snaps!
Here is Jamie sans arrival outfit. She came in nice little undies:
Her body proportions seem more natural and her joint construction seems less odd to me in person than on The Toybox Philosopher’s review. I don’t actually find the hip joint area as distracting as I thought I would, and I really like her little torso. The way her joints are constructed actually gives her quite a range of poseability, which is a good thing! Her arms have a fairly significant bend at the elbows which gives her a very life-like look. Though her legs are long and unbent, they don’t seem too straight or unnatural to me (maybe it reminds me of the Barbies I played with as a child?). And I’m most surprised by how much I actually like the construction of her neck joint. I don’t find it at all awkward, actually, and I really enjoy tilting her head for poses.
Here are her little hands, which are just slightly different from each other (another nice touch that I’m really beginning to appreciate in dolls):
It’s hard to see the difference in the pictures, but it’s there (her fingers, especially the forefinger, are slightly more bent on her left hand than on her right).
And here are her pretty little feet:
Her feet are simple, but very pretty: small, delicate, with nicely sculpted toes, little arches, and even gentle ankle-bumps. The bottoms of her feet are flat, but her toes are lightly delineated.
My favorite outfit in the pictures was the “Fancy Shorts” outfit. I’ve just got to share the details on this outfit:
The outfit consists of a short-sleeved blouse and blue gingham jumper-style shorts. I adore gingham! I am so impressed with the beauty of this ensemble. Look at the pleats and embroidery on the blouse:
There is lace on the cuffs of the sleeves:
And the buttons on the shorts match the blouse:
One of the things I was most excited about is that this outfit closes with, that’s right, more snaps!
The inside of the waistband and the flaps of the (real!) pockets of the shorts are lined with satin, and the pleats are lined with contrasting gingham:
The outfit includes tall knee socks and the most adorable pink moccassin-style shoes:
Here is the complete ensemble on Jamie:
Jamie’s ladybug pajamas are also too cute for words, and I might add, they are my favorite pajamas ever for a doll (so far):
These too have wonderful details:
I love these pajamas. In fact, I want a pair just like them! Jamie seems to love them too:
I only wish slippers came with the pajamas (they are available, but they have to be purchased separately).
The last outfit I bought is the “Spring Bloom” dress and hat set, because it looks so May-ish:
This is such a pretty dress. The sandals are very cute, and so is the hat, though its a bit difficult to get–and keep–on Jamie’s smooth head. A little chin strap might possibly help this problem. I love the details on this outfit too; my only disappointment was that this outfit closes in back with velcro instead of snaps.
All in all, I am tremendously pleased with the Maru and Friends outfits and eager to collect more! I like almost everything in their collection, which is unusual for me.
Here are a few more close-ups of Jamie’s precious face.
She has a very pale flesh-tone, which does indeed resemble porcelain, as advertised, and is incredibly beautiful. She has a soft blush on her cheeks. Her eyes are a unique shape: long, lyrical almonds that reminds me of a cat’s eyes. Her irises are an amazingly realistic hazel, which is part of what drew me to her (I have hazel eyes, and I love dolls that have hazel eyes too).
She has a very cute little snub nose and an impish little mouth. Her neutral expression looks like it is just on the verge of a smile.
To me she has a thoughtful look, and seems like a quiet, observant sort of person–someone who might be a little shy, but funny once you get to know her.
I am delighted with Jamie’s beauty, poseability, elegance, accoutrements, and overall charm. She is a pleasant weight and very nice to hold, and she actually cuddles up nicely in my arms. 🙂 She is as poised and as graceful as a princess, but she is playful too. She strikes a wonderful balance between childlikeness and dollishness. I love dolls to be dolls, and there is something almost quaint and antique about her that is very satisfying and appealing. There is something storybook-ish about Jamie; she puts me in mind of the dolls Sara Crewe might have seen with her Papa while searching for Emily in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, as well the dolls in Tasha Tudor’s A Doll’s Christmas. At first Jamie seemed almost familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on whatever it was she reminded me of. Then I remembered these illustrations in a beautiful storybook called Becky’s Birthday by Tasha Tudor:
So I’ve named my Jamie doll Tasha, after the beloved children’s book author and illustrator. Tasha is a treasured family member here at A Doll’s Picnic, and I very much hope to have her friend Maru join our family sometime as well. This is the first doll I’ve owned who truly looks like she was made by an artist. I am in awe of her, and cannot recommend her highly enough. My only reservation is that I would hesitate to give Jamie to a girl younger than eight or nine, on account of her delicate curls. These dolls are sturdier than they appear, but they are so beautiful that it would be a shame to see them abused by a careless child. This is a doll that a loving child would treasure for years, and is certain to become a precious heirloom. In all, I am amazed and delighted by these exquisite dolls, and I hope Maru and Friends will be available to children and collectors for many years to come.