The Doll People starts with an interesting premise: What do our toys and dolls do when we aren’t around? In this book, they have a very active life, playing, reading, eating, cleaning and enjoying their family time. The Doll family has been living in a 50 year old dollhouse complete with parents, children, nanny, aunt and uncle all in Victorian style clothing with a lifestyle to match. They are quite content except for the disappearance of Aunt Sally, who has been gone for many years. Her husband, Uncle, has never been able to get over her disappearance, and wonders if they could have done more to bring her home. The dolls, though static whenever around humans, do get around quite a bit, living an active family life in their dollhouse. They don’t venture out, however, for fear of being seen by a human, thereby putting themselves in “Permanent Doll State”, meaning they will never again be animated, or for fear of the cat, Captain, capturing them and sticking them into a pile or a corner from which they will not be able to escape. The little girl, Anabelle Doll, has a more adventurous streak, and likes to venture out from her home, causing a great deal of concern to her parents. Anabelle is also fascinated by her missing Aunt Sarah, perusing Sarah’s journals for clues to her disappearance. Sarah seemed to have a fascination with spiders, and Anabelle wonders if that may have had something to do with her disappearance. Meanwhile, a new family has joined the household, The Funcrafts, with their modern plastic house complete with pool and bbq. The Funcrafts and the Doll family begin to visit with each other and the girls, Anabelle Doll and Tiffany Funcraft become close friends. The girls begin to explore the house, looking for Aunt Sarah.
This book moves incredibly slowly. Until at least ¾ of the way in, there is no action at all. Additionally, there is nothing meaningful happening up until that time. What could be a story about toys, growing up, imagination, etc. is nothing but a factual and dry account of this doll family, doing nothing at all but existing. The actions of Anabelle do shake things up, and the eventual discovery of Aunt Sarah rewards Anabelle’s stick-to-it-iveness and general pluckiness, but even that discovery is so bland as to be almost unnoticeable. The contrast between the older dolls and the newer dolls is also not really explored in any meaningful way, which could have been very interesting. I was really bored and disappointed by this book and couldn’t think of anyone to whom I would recommend it.
I would not use this at a library by my own choice. If I were compelled to do so, I would maybe do a display of dolls and dollhouse books and include this in that group. I think that this book is really of such a low quality that the only people I could imagine enjoying it would be those who are already interested in this genre of dolls and dollhouses.
Growing up, I had two handmade doll houses which I played with for hours on end. I think they are magical toys, and this book certainly works on that belief. The doll’s in Kate’s doll house are alive, but no human knows. They have been passed down for several generations within the family and are as beloved now as they were then. It’s a perfect life for a doll house doll, except that Annabelle has the secret desire to go out and explore beyond the doll house, to find her lost Auntie Sarah Doll, and perhaps to make friends with the new doll people who moved in to the next bedroom down the hall. Illustrations by Brian Selznick, which are always awesome. This was a great read aloud. It had my daughter, aged 5, gasping and giggling in all the right spots. In fact, to quote her after one very exciting chapter, “I have to remember to breathe!” A great quiet read for an older child too.
[Review of the book Doll People]. Goodreads. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/9950354-newbury-town-library-youth-services
[Review of the book Doll People]. Books For Your Kids. Retrieved from http://www.books4yourkids.com/2008/08/doll-people-by-ann-m-martin-laura.html