Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Wonderful Paper Dolls of Tom Tierney

Back around Labor Day on a visit to downtown Smithville, TX, during a family visit I discovered a store where the owner is Tom Tierney. Turns out he does paper doll books for Dover. That is he writes historical and factual commentary for the dolls and costumes that he illustrates. The books are published by Dover Publications.

I bought a paper doll greeting card from a set that is no longer in publication and he graciously signed the card for me. We talked for quite a while, as it is a small town and everyone quickly becomes acquainted; and he is a charming, interesting man. He gave me a signed set of his paper doll series on classical Hollywood actresses. He signed them all for me as I stood there.

Mom and Dad came in and we all chatted. He is 81 so he and Dad connected.

One of his booklet sets is from the 2008 presidential campaign, which adds to his U.S. presidents and their families series. He has one booklet each for John McCain and his wife and then Barack Obama and his wife and daughters. I had hoped to get the Obama book eventually. It is $10.00. His books are sold internationally, so a signed copy will be a collectible, I couldn't help but think.

He told me that he tries to sign all books sold in his store if the customer wants him to.

I went back this past weekend and found that the campaign booklet was sold out, but I purchased the book of fashions worn to date by President Obama and his family. Since Tom was gone for the day, I left the booklet with his great-niece for my promised autograph. Today, I picked up the book and had a pleasant visit with both Tierneys. I figure that after I have enjoyed the booklet for a time, I will give it to my granddaughter.

What makes his books so special? First, they are beautifully illustrated. From what he said and from what I discovered when I looked him up online later, he was once a fashion illustrator in Dallas and then in New York. His drawings are historically and technically accurate. His series of booklets range from Grimm's Fairy Tales and Disney characters, periods of European and American history, international historical costumes, movie characters, pirates and their heroines and cohorts as depicted in the movies, Sherlock Holmes, European royalty, U.S. presidents and their families, and other iconic figures.

Then there are the narratives that are also historically accurate in Tom Tierney's History of Fashion Collection, being well researched. Teachers would find the booklets useful for history and social studies lessons. Interactive bulletin boards and models for worksheets are other teaching ideas. And think of the role playing and stimulus for creative writing such booklets could be used to generate.

I have an idea that using paper dolls to generate conversation would motivate students to read books about a topic. It might spark questions that students could research for reports. Definitely the illustrations make historical figures more concrete.

Now if I could only get him to do fairies and science fiction characters from the universes of my favorite authors, which are all those listed in my website estore. Imagine the richly sensuous or the highly practical fashions of Lee and Miller's Liaden Universe on the actual characters as glorious 8" tall paper dolls. And what about Pax from Elizabeth Moon's series set alongside the warriors of David Weber's and John Ringo's military space operas and Moon's spaceship heroes and heroines. One booklet of warriors, since they tend to wear the same thing each day. And what about the characters of the Okel Rel Universe by Lynda Williams?

These wonderful writers all describe world's so richly that one lives in the Universe for a time. Wouldn't you enjoy making the characterization more concrete? Don't you visualize the fashions of these characters as you read their stories? Would this make students grades 5-12 want to read the books?

I think I will mention this to my friends at Reading for the Future; at least I should mention it on the RFF page on Facebook or the new blog "Reading for the Future Reflections."

If you are ever in Smithville, TX, look for Tom-Kat Paper Dolls on Main Street. Or get paper doll books from Tom Tierney on

You can also order booklets on eBay from Tom-Kat Paper Dolls.

For a short bio of Tom Tierney's earlier careers, visit his website:


Lynda said...

Lovely encounter!

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