“The Doll People” by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin is the tale of the life of a porcelain doll named Annabelle. Although Annabelle doll is only 8-years old, she’s been “alive” for over 100 years, existing with her family inside their doll house at 26 Wetherby Lane.
Currently, Annabelle and her family are the possession of 8-year old Kate. Prior to Kate, they belonged to Kate’s mother, and to her grandma Katherine before that. Although the outside world has changed significantly during the past 100 years, nothing much in the Doll family’s life has, with the exception of Annabelle’s Auntie Sarah’s disappearance 45 years ago.
Annabelle becomes bored with her life, wishing something more would happen, when she discovers a diary written by her Aunty Sarah stashed away in the doll house. Intrigued, Annabelle starts to read it and becomes convinced that her Aunt is still inside the big people’s house. To the rest of her family’s dismay, Annabelle becomes determined to set off to find her aunt.
The reason the rest of Annabelle’s family is leery about her setting off outside of their doll house is because of the official “doll oath” that the Doll family took when they were created. In order to be a “thinking” and “alive” doll, not merely one who just exists as a play thing with no inner-thoughts, the dolls must agree to never do anything that risks humans seeing them outside of their normal stand-still doll state. The Dolls ARE allowed to talk and move, but they must return to the state that the humans left them in after the last play-session before they are discovered. The consequence of being seen breaking the oath results in “Doll State” where a doll is frozen for 24 hours. The consequence of being extraordinarily risky, putting the entire doll population in jeopardy, is “Permanent Doll State”: becoming an ordinary non-thinking, non-moving doll forever.
Annabelle musters up her courage and starts exploring the main house in search of her Auntie Sarah. During her first exploration, she discovers another doll family… a modern, plastic one named the “Funcrafts” who are meant as a birthday gift for Kate’s younger sister Nora. There is a girl named Tiffany in the Funcraft family who is Annabelle’s age and the two of them strike up a friendship. They form a club called “Society for Exploration and Location of Missing People” (SELMP for short), and are determined to solve “The Mystery of Auntie Sarah” once and for all.
How did Delia enjoy it?
I think at some point or another in a little girl’s life, she imagines what it would be like if her dolls come alive when she is sleeping, so “The Doll People” plays right into the fun fantasy. Delia enjoyed the mystery of the book, and there were many nights we both wanted to read more than one chapter. It’s hard to go wrong with Ann M. Martin (co-writer along with Laura Godwin). I was a HUGE fan of The Baby-sitters Club series growing up, so it’s fun for me as a mother to discover children’s books I haven’t yet read by her. “The Doll People” is complete as a stand alone book, but there are two more adventures with Annabelle and Tiffany that we will certainly be checking out: The Meanest Doll in the World and Runaway Dolls.
There are enough fun illustrations from Brian Selznick in this book to keep children younger than Delia engaged in this story, I think, so I’d recommend this book to children ages 5 and up!