The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin – Review by Tammy Langeberg

doll peopleI have been waxing nostalgic lately.  Noticing how my nieces and nephew have grown up beyond their small insulated family world when we shared hours together.  I long for the days when their world revolved around spending time playing with dolls, telling stories in the dark, playing games, and talking.  Now our world has become laced with technology, busy-ness, and not enough real time spent with each other.

When visiting my niece in her new college apartment, I began reminiscing about the times we spent together when she was younger.  Molly is an avid reader and I hope I was influential in this quality.  We spent a lot of time at my local library and book stores finding books and sharing stories.  One of my best memories about Molly is finding the gem, The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin.   Yes, that Ann M. Martin who wrote the Babysitters Club series and the Newbery Honor award winning book A Corner of the Universe. I just adore this book.   It is a book that, I think, hasn’t received the recognition it deserves.

The Doll People starts with a mystery and a discovery.  Annabelle Doll, a china doll who has lived in the same dollhouse with her family for over one hundred years belonging to many generations of girls.  She is contemplating the long time disappearance of her Auntie Sarah after discovering her missing journal.   Forty-five years gone and Annabelle is itching to find out what happened to her.  However, there are rules – doll rules.  After taking the Doll Code of Honor, you cannot be caught moving or talking when people are nearby.  If you are, you become frozen for 24 hours in Doll State and there is the ever present threat of Permanent Doll State.  Annabelle’s parents are overly protective and do not like when she goes off on adventures outside of the dollhouse.  But Annabelle is determined to find out what happened to Sarah.   After a new modern family of plastic dolls moves in, Annabelle finds a friend and partner to search for Auntie Sarah.

Tiffany Funcraft and her family are very different than the Doll family.  They are made of plastic and come from a factory. They are modern while the Doll family is old-fashioned.  But together they become fast friends and budding detectives.  Using Auntie Sarah’s journal, they set out to find her while the household sleeps.   There are many adventures that follow with some twists and turns.  But in the end Auntie Sarah is found and Annabelle has made a lifelong friend.  The story ends with Kate, the current  Doll family owner, sharing a moment with her grandmother who also owned the dolls when she was young, wondering together if dolls do come to life.  Something I hope we all have pondered.

Now back to my point about reminiscing and how our lives are so much about technology and busy-ness.  I love that this story is simple.  It seems so many of our books are about complex dystopian worlds with life or death problems and nail biting adventures.  Don’t get me wrong I love me some Hunger Games or Uglies, but it is refreshing to read a book that one of the worst problems the characters face is being grabbed by the cat!  It reminds me of my childhood and reading The Borrowers or The Littles.  I so enjoyed the simplicity of the story and how the characters navigated through life.

I love that this book is about the secret lives of dolls.  I love that they hope and discover and take risks.  I love the mystery of Auntie Sarah and the adventures Annabelle and her friends and family have searching for her.  I love the relationships that develop throughout the book.   I love that I was able to share this book with Molly when she was about the age of Annabelle.  It resonated with both of us and we together enjoyed the adventure.   I love the delightfully enhancing illustrations done by Brian Selznick before his fame with The Invention of Hugo Cabret.   I love that my nickname came from the story.  Molly started calling me Auntie Tammy after reading the story.  Her sister, Abigail, couldn’t say Auntie, so I ended up with the name “T”.  It has stuck and often reminds me of this gem of a book.  I love that you have an opportunity to find a young partner to read The Doll People with and share what you think about the secret lives of dolls.

tammy lTammy Langeberg is a teacher librarian in Westminster, Colorado at Semper Elementary.  She has been an educator for 27 years and specifically a school librarian for 15 years.  She has some fun titles like National Board Certified Librarian, Colorado Children’s Book Award Co-Chair, and Highly Effective School Librarian, but her favorite one is school librarian.  She loves to talk books and technology with her over 400 students.  She found her passion for teaching and librarianship early in life when she used her parents’ Reader’s Digest books to make a library and forced her younger brother to play library with her.  Her Twitter handle is @SchoolTLDragon and she attempts to blog at: