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Book Review: The Doll People, by Ann Martin, Laura Godwin

13 Jun

268917Genre: children’s fiction (ages 8-12); adventure

Plot Summary: Annabelle Doll is 8 years old.  She’s been 8 for more than a hundred years and lives in a dollhouse with her family—all antique china dolls, of course.  Every day is a repeat of the same, until Annabelle discovers the journal of her missing aunt who has been gone for fifty years!  Then, the Dolls meet a new family of modern, plastic dolls.  Together Annabelle and her new friend Tiffany decide to look for Auntie Sarah.  Where could she be?  Can they manage to find her and bring her home safely, avoiding the Palmers’ cat and Permanent Doll State?

My Book Review:  Years ago, my family and I listened to “The Doll People” on audiobook while we worked in the garden together.  It will be a fun memory that will stick with me.  The narrator, Lynn Redgrave, was engaging and could make wonderful voices for all the characters.  We laughed at the Funcrafts and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next in the story.  Recently, I decided to read the actual book for myself.  Again, it was a wonderful story, but I have to admit that listening to it for the first time was the best ever.  I would highly recommend the recording of this!  (You can listen to an excerpt here.)

The book itself is a delightfully creative story, complete with the cutest illustrations!  It reminded me of the ‘golden age of children’s literature’ that was written around the 1950’s-1960’s.  The reader (or listener) is introduced by imagination to the world of living dolls.  What would it be like to be a hundred year old doll?  Life around Annabelle changes and grows, yet she remains the same year after year.  She doesn’t even have any other real friends her own age.  One could imagine that this would get quite boring for any little girl!

21345f37257f105b0489a4dca543321dThe only big change in the last hundred years has been the disappearance of Auntie Sarah, which fuels the main plot of the book.  A side plot is the arrival of a modern dollhouse.  How would an antique family of dolls fair in meeting a family of modern plastic ones?  The results are hilarious!

There are some interesting observations I had while reading.  Surprisingly, Annabelle doesn’t really change by the end of the book, since she is the catalyst for change in her family’s unhealthy coping system.  What I don’t like is that the grownups in Annabelle’s family were so weak that when Annabelle announces she will take a stand to look for Auntie Sarah …they let her instead of doing the dangerous deed themselves.

But I think they learn in the end.  The Doll Family as a whole changed their personality a little.  In the beginning, the Dolls tended to be quite fearful and overly cautious.  They took unnecessary precautions and lived in isolation.  While the Funcrafts were naiive and careless, they did introduce more color and fun into the Dolls’ lives.  By the end of the book, we see the two families starting to balance each other out.  Papa Doll doesn’t wait quite as long to announce the coast is clear, and the Funcrafts have learned a thing or two about playing with cats.  They need each other to live more fully.  I guess this speaks to the benefit of community!

This is a great read aloud book for the family.  Or, find the audio version and enjoy listening on a car trip.  I even heard that this was turned into a musical, so maybe you’ll be able to find a local college doing a production of it.  I was thrilled to discover that there are three more books in “The Doll People Stories Series” (#2- “The Meanest Doll in the World”; #3- “The Runaway Dolls”; #4- “The Doll People Set Sail”).  I will definitely be reading those in the future!  Don’t pass these up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on June 13, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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