The Doll People (Doll People Series #1)by Ann M. Martin, Laura Godwin, Brian Selznick
Annabelle Doll is eight years old-she has been for more than a hundred years. Not a lot has happened to her, cooped up in the dollhouse, with the same doll family, day after day, year after year. . . until one day the Funcrafts move in. See more details below
Annabelle Doll is eight years old-she has been for more than a hundred years. Not a lot has happened to her, cooped up in the dollhouse, with the same doll family, day after day, year after year. . . until one day the Funcrafts move in.
August 2000. It's not easy to write a good book about dolls. There are so many things to work out. Are the dolls "alive"? Is there consistency to their existence? How do they navigate outside their home? Martin and Godwin not only set up a realistic doll world but also provide a credible mystery. Annabelle and her Doll family have lived in the dollhouse, now owned by Kate, since it came from England several generations before. In 1955, Aunt Sarah Doll disappeared, and Annabelle, with the help of Sarah's journal, is determined to find her. The authors add a wickedly funny touch with the introduction of the Funmarts, a dollhouse family meant to placate Kate's little sister, who's always messing with the Dolls. The Funmarts are a brash, breezy family of plastic dolls who can't believe the Dolls don't have a microwave. Still, Anabelle and Tiffany Funmart become friends and are soon taking great risks to find out what happened to Aunt Sarah. The story gets a wonderful boost from Brian Selznick's pencil drawings, which include charming endpapers. He catches every bit of humor, especially when he's drawing those Funmarts.—Booklist
August 2000. Passed down from one generation to the next, the Doll family has lived in the same dollhouse, located in the same room of the Palmer family's house, for 100 years. While the world outside has changed, their own lives have notDwith two significant exceptions. First, Auntie Sarah Doll suddenly and mysteriously disappeared 45 years ago, when the Doll family belonged to Kate Palmer's grandmother. More recently, the modern, plastic Funcraft family has moved into Kate's little sister's room. Following the time-honored traditions of such well-loved works as Rumer Godden's The Doll's House, The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh and Pam Conrad's and Richard Egielski's The Tub People, Martin and Godwin inventively spin out their own variation on the perennially popular theme of toys who secretly come to life. By focusing on Annabelle's and Tiffany Funcraft's risky mission to find Auntie Sarah, the authors provide plenty of action and suspense, yet it is their skillfully crafted details about the dolls' personalities and daily routines that prove most memorable. Selznick's pencil illustrations cleverly capture the spark of life inhabiting the dolls' seemingly inanimate bodies. The contemporary draftsmanship frees the art from nostalgia even while the layoutDwhich presents the illustrations as standalone compositions as well as imaginatively integrated borders and vignettesDreinforces the old-fashioned mood of the doll theme. Doll lovers may well approach their imaginative play with renewed enthusiasm and a sense of wonder after reading this fun-filled adventure. Ages 7-10. (Aug. )—PW
Horn Book Guide, Spring 2001. Bothered that she hasn't seen her aunt Sarah for forty-five years, Annabelle Doll embarks on a search that takes her out of her protective dollhouse. She braves dangerous territory beyond the nursery to discover not only the answers to family secrets but also a whole new family of dolls. Black-and-white pencil drawings illustrate this lively addition to the doll-fantasy genre.—Horn Book
January 2001. Annabelle Doll is eight years old, as she's been for over one hundred years, and she's starting to find her circumscribed life stifling: she and her family are played with by Kate (or, without permission, by Kate's little sister, Nora) or they engage in mild and quiet diversions like singalongs when the humans are out or asleep. Things have changed, however, with Annabelle's discovery of the diary of her Aunt Sarah, who disappeared forty-five years ago, and with the arrival of a lively plastic doll family, the Funcrafts, whose daughter Tiffany becomes Annabelle's bosom friend. The two doll girls decide to find Annabelle's missing aunt, but on the way they have to deal with obstacles such as the household cat and the Dolls' long-simmering family issues that surround Sarah's disappearance. The dolls-come-alive plot retains its eternal allure, and Martin and Godwin make particularly entertaining use of the contrast between the dignified, handmade Dolls and the intrepid, happy-go-lucky Funcrafts. The plotting doesn't really justify the book's length, however, since the pacing is slow and indistinct; there's also some contrivance to aspects of the Dolls' life (the chronology doesn't quite account for some concrete details or family feelings). It's therefore not up to the standard of living-doll titles such as Waugh's The Mennyms (BCCB 5/94) and Griffiths' Caitlin's Holiday (10/90), but it's still a cozy and gently imaginative adventure, and its convenient chapter breaks add to its utility as a readaloud. Selznick's soft pencil illustrations thickly populate the pages in spot art and full-page views; while there's more visual similarity between the Dolls and the Funcrafts than readers will expect, the embracing design is cozy, and readers will particularly appreciate the inventive endpapers advertising each family of dolls. Review Code: Ad Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area.—BCCB
August 15, 2000. Little girls are in for a marvelous treat in this delicious fantasy that captures many of the rituals, fancies, and habits of girlhood with sweetness and honesty, while imparting gentle lessons about risk, self-fulfillment, and dealing with difference. Annabelle Doll lives with her family in their dollhouse in Kate's room: her family of Victorian china dolls had belonged to Kate's grandmother, and mother, and now belongs to Kate. Like the characters in Toy Story, the doll family has elaborate rituals for activity when the human family is asleep or occupied, and Annabelle's parents are extremely protective and fearful. They've all taken the Doll Oath to keep their lives secret and fear Permanent Doll State, when they would simply be inanimate at all times (Barbies never take the Oath, and are always inanimate, we learn). But Auntie Sarah has disappeared (45 years ago) and Annabelle, who's discovered her journal, longs to bring her back. Kate's pesky little sister Nora soon acquires a dollhouse of her own, and the Funcraft family, with their modern ways and funky plastic accoutrements, inspire Annabelle, who becomes best friends with Tiffany Funcraft. Tiffany and Annabelle form a private club, share secrets, and contrast their families in ways that will resonate with every girl who has ever wondered if her dolls talk to each other. In the end, they find Auntie Sarah and rescue Papa Doll from the fiendish clutches of the cat. The whole is fabulously illustrated by Selznick, whose pictures have a shapely richness that captures not only the sturdy tubbiness of the modern dolls, but the fragile rigidity of the Victorian ones. (Fiction. 8-12)—Kirkus
Read an Excerpt
It had been forty-five years since Annabelle Doll had last seen Auntie Sarah. And forty-five years was a very long time, especially for an eight-year-old girl.
The dollhouse, where Annabelle lived with her family, hadn't changed much over these years. True, tiny things had been added or had been broken or lost. A rug that had lain on the floor under the dollhouse had been taken away and never replaced. A pane of glass had fallen out of a bedroom window in the dollhouse, and the wallpaper in the kitchen had been painted over. But those were small changes.
The Dolls themselves had remained much the same, as well. Their china skin was a bit grayer, and their clothes were a bit more frayed, but otherwise they looked almost the same as they had the day Auntie Sarah was lost. In fact, the Dolls looked very much the same as they had the day they first arrived at 26 Wetherby Lane. However, they had once been a family of eight (if you included, as the Dolls did, the children's nanny as a member of the family), and now they were a family of seven.
Outside the dollhouse, in Kate's room and beyond, everything changed. Little girls grew up and had little girls of their own, people left the house and went to work or on vacations, things happened. History was made. But inside the dollhouse, not much happened, as far as Annabelle was concerned. The only important event in her entire, one-hundred-year life was that Auntie Sarah had disappeared.
But today, the second most important event had occurred: Annabelle had found something that had belonged to Auntie Sarah. No one knew she had found it. Not Kate Palmer. Not any of the Dolls. And keeping a secret in a house like Annabelle's was awfully hard. It might even be impossible, Annabelle thought, except for the fact that there was no one with whom Annabelle wanted to share a secret.
Chapter One: Annabelle Doll's Secret
Annabelle looked around the dollhouse nursery, feeling restless. "Bobby," she said to her brother, "let's play tag."
Bobby Doll was propped up in a corner by the stairway landing in the dollhouse. That was where Kate Palmer had left him before school that morning.
Do you think that's safe, Annabelle?" asked Bobby. "The Captain is right outside."
Annabelle didn't have a chance to answer his question. "No, it's not safe!" Mama Doll called from downstairs. Mama was standing on her head next to the fireplace, which was where Kate had left her that morning. It was a most uncomfortable position. "If you move around now, Kate might come home and see you. And Bobby's right. The Captain is just outside."
Annabelle looked out the side window of the dollhouse and saw the round yellow eyes of a cat staring back at her. She sighed. Why couldn't The Captain take a nap?
Annabelle flopped on her bed. She tried to remember where Kate had left her that morning. It was somewhere in the nursery. On her bed? Sitting on the floor playing with Baby Betsy? Calling to Nanny from the doorway? Annabelle got to her feet again and peered though the window. The Captain was just sitting there, staring in at the Dolls. When he saw Annabelle he licked his lips. Annabelle stuck her tongue out at him.
"Scat!" she called in her tiny doll voice.
"Annabelle, hush!" said Nanny.
Annabelle couldn't see Nanny, but she pushed herself away from the window anyway.
"This is so boring," she exclaimed. "My life is so boring."
No one answered her.
"Kate won't be home from school for ages!" she went on.
I am going to die from boredom, thought Annabelle. She flopped on her bed again. "Mama, can I ask you a question?" she called out.
"Is it a quick question?"
"I want to know how Auntie Sarah is related to us. Is she your sister, or is she Papa's?" Or is Uncle Doll your brother and --"
"Annabelle, that is not a quick question," called Papa Doll from somewhere.
And at that moment, Annabelle heard the Palmers' front door slam, heard Kate shout, "I'm home!," heard feet clattering on the stairs. The feet were somewhere near the top of the staircase when Annabelle remembered just where Kate had left her that morning. In a flash, Annabelle scooted across the nursery, and landed on Bobby's bed. By the time Kate ran into her room, Annabelle was propped against the headboard, her legs sticking out in front of her, her painted eyes staring ahead.
For the next three hours, while Kate did her third-grade homework, telephoned her friend Rachel, and tried to keep her little sister, Nora, out of her room, Annabelle sat on Bobby's bed and thought about her secret. Her secret was wonderful, and it was the only thing, that prevented Annabelle from actually dying of boredom.
Annabelle recalled the moment when she had made her discovery. It was during a night when Kate had closed the front of the dollhouse before she had gone to bed. She rarely did this, and when she did, Annabelle was delighted. It meant the Dolls had plenty of privacy during their nighttime, the time when the humans slept and the Doll family could move about their house. They could be a teeny bit less quiet, a teeny bit more free. Even The Captain, snoozing at the end of Kate's bed, couldn't harm them.
And since they would have more freedom than usual on that night, Mama Doll had said, "How about a sing-along, and then free time?"
"Yes!" Annabelle had cried. Sing-alongs were always fun, and free time meant time when the Dolls could go anywhere in their house, and do anything they wanted to do, within reason. "Remember," Papa often said, "never do anything you can't undo by the time Kate wakes up in the morning."
The Dolls had gathered around the piano in the parlor. Uncle Doll propped two tiny songbooks in front of him. One was a book of hymns. It had come from England a hundred years earlier with the Dolls and the house and the furniture. The other book had been purchased by Mrs. Palmer, Kate's mother, when she was a young girl and the dollhouse had been hers. On the cover of the book was a rainbow. Written across the yellow band of the rainbow were the words GREAT HITS OF THE SIXTIES.
"Let's sing 'Natural Woman,' " Annabelle had suggested.
"Yuck," said Bobby.
"Okay, then 'Respect,' " said Annabelle.
"R-E-S-P-E-C-T!" sang Bobby.
"Sockittome, sockittome, sockittome, sockittome!" Annabelle chimed in.
"How about a quieter song?" suggested Nanny.
The Dolls had sung song after song while Uncle Doll played the piano. Outside the dollhouse, Annabelle caught a glimpse of The Captain. He sat silently, listening to the doll voices. He could barely hear them, but they were there, all right.
The Dolls ended the sing-along after two choruses of "Bringing in the Sheaves" from the hymnbook. And then their free time began. Annabelle knew exactly what she was going to do. She wanted to examine the books in the parlor. And she wanted to do it privately. Lately, Kate and Rachel had talked of nothing but Nancy Drew and how she solved her mysteries. They had even read a couple of the mysteries aloud to each other, and Annabelle had listened intently. She wished she could be a detective like Nancy. And now she thought she might find something interesting on the dollhouse bookshelves. It was unlikely. But possible. Annabelle knew that most of the books on the shelves were not real. They were simply tiny flat blocks painted bright colors, with book titles written on one side in gold ink. But perhaps she might find a secret compartment in one of the shelves. Things like that were always happening to Nancy.
So Annabelle had begun her search. She started by removing the books from the shelves, one by one. Presently she discovered that some of the books were attached to one another. She could remove a whole block of books at once. This was interesting, but not very mysterious. Then she discovered that some of the books were, in fact, real, like the songbooks. She could open their covers and inside were teeny tiny pages with teensy writing: Classics of Modern Poetry, Oliver Twist. Annabelle read the eight-page story about the little boy named Oliver with great interest. Eagerly, she pulled out every book from the shelves. But the others wee pretend. She checked for secret compartments. Nothing. She stood on a stool and tackled the next shelf. Only pretend books. She stood on tiptoe and reached for the shelf above. And that was where she found Auntie Sarah's journal.
From outside it looked like all the other books in the parlor. It was dark green, with gold writing stamped on the cover. The title was My Journal. It was slightly fatter than most of the books, and contained dozens of pages as thin as onionskin, filled with spidery black handwriting and even some drawings
Annabelle stepped off of the stool and sat on the floor to look through My Journal. She opened to the first page. And there she found the words "The Private Diary of Sarah Doll, May 1955."
Sarah Doll. That must be Auntie Sarah, Annabelle had thought. She gasped. And when she heard the voices of Mama and Papa just outside the parlor she had shoved the book under the hem of her long dress.
"Annabelle," Mama had said, "let's have a bit of family time while we can still talk freely, and then it will be time to go back to our places. Kate will be up soon."
"All right," replied Annabelle. She had managed to scurry upstairs without anyone seeing the book, and she had hidden it under the covers of her bed. She knew that was dangerous. What if Kate, of all people, should find the book while she was playing in the dollhouse? But Annabelle couldn't help herself.
For the last week she had read the book in snatches, whenever Kate was gone or asleep, and Annabelle's family was in other rooms. Each time she read a few more pages she would close the book and once again place it under the covers, feeling restless. Annabelle was used to feeling bored. But not restless. Something was wrong with her life. Something was missing. It wasn't anything specific such as a hairbrush or a shoe. Annabelle didn't even think it was Auntie Sarah. Not exactly. It was...what was it? Was it possible to miss something you had never had?
Annabelle now sat stiffly on Bobby's bed, waiting for Kate to be called downstairs for supper. She thought about the last time the Dolls had seen Auntie Sarah. Annabelle remembered it as a day like any other, except that one moment Auntie Sarah was in the living room, and the next moment she wasn't. And she hadn't been seen since.
Annabelle thought again about Auntie Sarah's journal. Many of the pages were filled with drawings, mainly drawings of spiders. In some of the drawings Auntie Sarah had even labeled the parts of the spiders. Annabelle had read just a few of the pages of words, and this had taken her a long time because Auntie Sarah's crawly handwriting was hard to read. All Annabelle had learned so far was that daily life in 1955 had barely been different from Annabelle's life today.
Annabelle let out a sigh, hoping Kate wouldn't hear her. She liked having a secret. And she didn't. Because she had no one with whom to share it.
Text copyright © 2000 by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin
Meet the Author
Brian Selznick is the author and illustrator of the New York Times best-selling The Invention of Hugo Cabret, winner of the 2008 Caldecott Medal and a National Book nominee. He has also illustrated many other books for children, including Frindle by Andrew Clements, Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Mu oz Ryan, and The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, which received a 2001 Caldecott Honor. Brian lives in Brooklyn, New York, and San Diego, California.
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