Monday, February 9, 2015

Favorite Doll Books

Back in September of 2014, I was asked to speak to our local doll club.  At that meeting, I shared some of my favorite doll books that the girls and I have found through the years.  Since I did a bit of work researching and summarizing each of the books, I thought it would be fun to share that information with you here.  This post has actually been waiting in draft form since October or so.  Since I was hoping to get a few posts scheduled to publish during my break from active blogging, I thought it was a great time to share this one with you. :)

For this topic, I purposely only choose books that were about actual dolls who were really alive in some way.  In other words, I didn't choose books like the Magic Attic or American Girl series, where the book is about a human girl (such as Samantha or Molly or Caroline) who had a doll fashioned after her.  I hope that makes sense.

Most of these are fun little obscure books, not necessarily award winners.  However, every book I chose for this post had something special that I enjoyed.  I hope through this post you and/or your kids will be able to find some fun new treasures for your family library. :)

Beneath each book, I've included a list of the main characters.  Some of the characters have brief descriptions, while others are simply listed.  I decided to keep the lists as they were (especially since it's been a while and I couldn't remember specific details about each character).  I suppose if you're curious about the characters I didn't describe, you'll just have to read their books! ;)

Henriette, The Story of a Doll
Written By: Tracy Friedman

Originally Published: 1986

Summary: Set shortly after the Civil War, this story focuses on the adventures of a French doll who goes on a quest to find her mistress's granddaughter.

-Henriette: the doll who goes on a long journey to find the little girl she belongs to.
-Amanda: a young orphaned girl who is separated from her only relative.
-Amanda's Grandmother: an elderly woman who wants nothing more than to be united with her granddaughter, but feels she is too old and her plantation too run down to raise her the way she needs to be raised.

Unique to This Story: This book covers the perils a doll might face when traveling a great distance without a human.  It's a story I discovered as a young girl, and I instantly fell in love with brave Henriette. :)

You can find it on HERE.

Hitty, Her First Hundred Years
Written By: Rachel Field

Originally Published: 1929

Summary: A personal account from a little wooden doll's perspective of her first 100 years of life and all of the things she experiences.

-Hitty and many others ;)

Unique to This Story: This story is told from Hitty's perspective and is written in the style of a memoir. It features all sorts of mishaps and adventures that Hitty goes through during the course of her life.

You can find it on HERE.

Raggedy Ann Stories
Written By: Johnny Gruelle

Originally Published: 1918?

Summary: Raggedy Ann is the beloved rag doll of a little girl named Marcella (based on Johnny Gruelle's own daughter). Together with her other friends from the nursery, she has all sorts of adventures and learning experiences when Marcella is away or asleep.

-Raggedy Ann
-Raggedy Andy
-The Camel with the Wrinkled Knees
-Uncle Clem
-The Indian Doll
-The French Doll

Unique to This Story: The sweet, innocent adventures of Marcella's playthings in her nursery (usually when she is away) remind us of the way we always imagined our dolls to be when we weren't looking. The stories have special poignancy because of the death of the real Marcella.

You can find many of Johnny Gruelle's Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy books on HERE.

The Doll Hospital
Written By: James Duffy

Originally Published: 1989

Summary: Alison is an eight-year-old girl who suffers from a serious illness. She starts a doll hospital, and with the help of her older brother and her faithful companions Nettie, Boodles, and Denise, cares for dolls with all sorts of illnesses and injuries.

-Alison: The main character who regularly talks to her dolls and toys (and they talk back).
-Charlie: Alison's fourteen-year-old brother who serves as the doctor for the doll hospital.
-Nettie: Alison's rag doll who is outspoken and opinionated.
-Boodles: Alison's stuffed dog.
-Denise: A French doll who is given to Alison by a friend of her brother. Denise is the first doll in need of medical assistance. Her illness is what gives Alison the idea for the doll hospital.

Unique to This Story: In this story, the dolls suffer from real illnesses like measles. Unlike many other doll stories, in this one the dolls can communicate with Alison and even talk to her older brother. However, from the writing style it could also be interpreted that Alison is imagining everything (I choose to ignore that possibility). ;) Through helping the dolls with their illnesses, Alison is able to face her fears about her own illness.

You can find it on HERE.

The Doll House Caper
Written By: Jean S. O'Connell

Originally Published: 1975

Summary: A family of dollhouse dolls play an integral part in catching some robbers who have come to the house to steal the family's belongings.

-Mr. Dollhouse
-Mrs. Dollhouse


Unique to This Story: The children in the family are all boys, so there are some hilarious references to the way boys play with dollhouses. In this book, the dollhouse is only brought out around Christmastime. Also, the dolls are not able to move by themselves until the humans are in bed.

You can find it on HERE.

The Doll People Series
Written By: Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin

Originally Published: 2000

Number of Books in Series: 4

Summary: Annabelle, a miniature antique doll, lives in a dollhouse with her family, wondering about her Aunt Sarah who went missing years ago. Annabelle's life changes forever when she meets Tiffany Funcraft, a plastic dollhouse doll purchased for the younger girl in the house.  These books recount the two dolls' adventures and the beginning of their wonderful friendship.

Dollhouse Dolls:
-Annabelle Doll
-Bobby Doll
-Auntie Sarah
-Uncle Doll
-Mama Doll
-Papa Doll
-Baby Betsy

Funcraft Dolls
-Dad Funcraft
-Mom Funcraft
-Tiffany Funcraft
-Bailey Funcraft
-Baby Britney Funcraft

-Grandma Katherine
-Mr. Palmer
-Mrs. Palmer
-Kate (third grader)
-Nora (preschooler)

Unique to This Story: The author's explanation of why dolls don't move when we're around is particularly clever (Doll State and Permanent Doll State).  The Dollhouse dolls have a gigantic baby doll instead of a doll in their scale because the wrong one was ordered for them, but they love her anyway.

These books feature fantastic, detailed artwork on inset covers, showing the order catalogs for the dolls featured in the stories. They also have very funny passages contrasting the way older girls and younger girls play with a dollhouse (“rancher family”).

You can find The Doll People books on HERE.

The Doll's House
Written By: Rumer Godden

Originally Published: 1947

Summary: A unique family of dollhouse dolls, belonging to two sisters, wants nothing more than a home. When they end up with a beautiful dollhouse, it seems like a dream come true...until they meet the doll that comes with it.


-Mr. Plantaganet: The father of the dollhouse, still dealing with a traumatic past.
-Birdie Plantaganet: The mother of the dollhouse, a celluloid doll who is a bit of an airhead.
-Tottie: An antique wooden doll, the daughter of the dollhouse.
-Apple: An adorable plush doll, the little brother of the dollhouse.
-Marchpane: A haughty antique doll who feels that the Plantaganets have taken her house from her.

Unique to This Story: Mr. Plantaganet's emotional issues are hilarious yet perfectly understandable considering the way he started his doll life. All of the dolls have unique personalities that make them lovable and memorable. The story also has a part that might be a bit difficult for younger readers, demonstrating the sacrificial love of a mother.

In this story, the dolls often talk to the humans, but it is implied that the humans can't hear them.

The conflict between the doll family and the snooty Marchpane is resolved very cleverly.

You can find it on HERE.

The Lonely Doll Series
Written By: Dare Wright

Originally Published: 1957

Number of Books in Series: Unknown; at least 9

Summary: The adventures of a little cloth doll and the stuffed bears that come to live with her.

-Mr. Bear
-Little Bear

Unique to This Story: Dare Wright's beautiful photography that captures Edith and the bears in the act of the story. ;) Her pictures lend an incredibly believable quality to her stories.  Edith was a customized 22” Lenci doll from the 109 series released in the 1920s. Source here:

You can find many of the Lonely Doll books on HERE.

The Story of Holly & Ivy
Written By: Rumer Godden

Originally Published: 1958 in “Ladies' Home Journal” (just the text)

Summary: A Christmas Doll and an orphaned girl both get their Christmas wish: each other.

-Holly-a sweet little Christmas doll in a toy shop window.
-Ivy-a lonely orphaned girl.
-Mr. Blossom-the toy shop owner.
-Abracadabra-a rather spooky stuffed owl who is also at the toy shop.
-Peter-Mr. Blossom's helper.
-Mr. Jones-a friendly policeman.
-Mrs. Jones-Mr. Jones' wife, who is particularly wishing for a child this Christmas.

Unique to This Story: A sweet story about a Christmas doll and a little orphan girl who need each other, and the events of one special Christmas that bring them together.  Barbara Cooney's beautiful, wistful illustrations are an enchanting addition to the book.

You can find it on HERE.

When the Dolls Woke
Written By: Marjorie Filley Stover

Originally Published: 1985

Summary: A little girl named Gail inherits a family dollhouse, and with the help of the dolls in the dollhouse, she discovers the secret to her family's long-lost fortune.

-Gail Aldrich-the little girl who has inherited the dollhouse from her family
The Dollhouse Dolls
-Sir Gregory: The father of the dollhouse dolls, made of bisque (as is the rest of his family).
-Lady Alice: Sir Gregory's wife.
-Maribelle: Sir Gregory and Lady Alice's daughter.
-Tommy: Sir Gregory and Lady Alice's son.
-Baby Winky: The baby girl in the doll family.
-Becky: A cloth doll who is the maid.
-Martinique: A wooden doll purchased by Gail's great-great grandfather on one of his voyages.

Unique to This Story: Much like “The Doll People”, the dolls in this story have been handed down through generations, so there are many references to the trials of being passed to some children who are careless or wild, as well as the trials of being older dolls and having one's clothing and home fall into disrepair.

In this story, the dolls are capable of anything their young mistresses imagine (for instance, if the girls pretend they can cook, the dolls have the ability to cook).

Throughout the book, there are curious references to the dolls “vapors”, which are used to express feeling or emotion.

You can find it on HERE.

I hope this post encourages you and your family to look for some fun, new reading material! :)


Natasha Marie said...

These are some of my favorite doll books! Especially Hitty, the Raggedy Ann and Andy books, The Doll's House (I named my dollhouse dolls after them), The Lonely Doll, Holly and!

My mom hunted down lots of doll books for me when I was little and a few she found were...

"Floating Island" (a doll house being sent somewhere gets shipwrecked and the dolls have adventures:).

"Mademoiselle Doll" (I think that's the title) is about a doll during the Revolutionary war. I can't seen to find it anywhere online, unfortunately.

"Memoirs of a London Doll" is also a good one.

I enjoyed this post a lot! Thanks for reminding me how much I loved/love those books:)

Jan said...

Loved this post!! :-). I loved Memoirs of a London Doll too, Natasha!! I actually found my copy in this little out-of-the-way bookstore while on vacation a couple years ago. I loved it.


Anonymous said...

Dear Beastsbelle,
When I was growing up, I absolutely loved stories about dolls, especially dolls that came to life or were sentient in some way. Even though I'm an adult now, I still like to pull out my old books and reread my favorite parts if I've had a bad day. So it was a lot of fun going through your post and seeing how many books I had read or recognized. I was thrilled to find The Doll Hospital on your list. Although I haven't read it since grade school, I still remember how much I enjoyed that book. When The Dolls Woke was another favorite of mine, but did you know that Marjorie Filley Stover wrote a prequel to this story titled Midnight In The Dollhouse. I didn't realize there was another book until I stumbled across a copy in a thrift store years ago. It is definitely worth seeking out if you enjoyed the original. I was also happy to see that you had two Rumer Godden books on the list. However, The Doll's House is probably my least favorite of this author's 'doll' books. My favorite Rumer Godden story featuring dolls is a less well known book called Home Is The Sailor. The plot is difficult for me to sum up succinctly, but it involves a family of dolls living in a dollhouse who over the years have lost some of their doll family members. I will also tell you that it has a very happy ending. My second favorite Rumer Godden work would have to be Miss Happiness And Miss Flower, which is about two Japanese dolls. There is also a sequel to Miss Happiness And Miss Flower called Little Plum, but I didn't enjoy that one as much. Before I sign off, I'd like to leave one more recommendation. Although best known for The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, author Frances Hodgson Burnett also wrote a charming story about dolls in a dollhouse called The Racketty-Packetty House.
Thank you for the trip down memory lane.
Sincerely, Treesa

Aileen said...

The Doll People books sound very interesting. I might check them out. Thank you for introducing me to these books.

Farrah Lily said...

Great ideas! I will have to see if our library has any of these. :)

Anonymous said...

When the dolls woke is actually the sequel to one of my favorite childhood books, Midnight in the Dollhouse. It's the story of the doll family's first mistress, and how they got their house.

J said...

I L-O-V-E-D Miss Happiness and Miss Flower! I had no idea that there was a sequel. Thank you anonymous!

Nina said...

I love The Doll People! I've read it a few times. And the Story of Holly and Ivy is another one of my favorites.

Anonymous, I love Midnight in the Dollhouse! It may have to be one of my favorite books of all time. It's so well-written, and I just love the story.

Happy reading!:)

Mark Patraw said...

Wow, I had absolutely no idea that there were so many children's books written about living dolls! Many of these sound quite interesting--I should browse the shelves of the children's sections of the two closest local libraries and see what they have in this vein.

I've read quite a few nonfiction doll and dollhouse books over the years but nothing like these. The two closest things that I can think of that I have read are The Indian in the Cupboard and a short story by Stephen King, “Battleground”, involving a tin of army men that come to life to take revenge upon the professional assassin who terminated the owner of the toy company that made them.

I also found it refreshing that you chose to write about a different aspect of toys/dolls than you usually do.

Grace said...

I just want to mention first, that I LOVE this blog! Second, I have always loved to read along with my love for dolls and as soon as I saw this post it made me feel so warm and fuzzy! I just want to mention a novel that I always loved to read when I was little called "Amy's Eyes" by Richard Kennedy. It's about a little girl in an orphanage who has a doll that comes to life and all the adventures that follow including a ship sailed by dolls that are brought to life and her becoming a doll. It's fantastic!

beastsbelle said...

Hi everyone! I've been enjoying hearing all of your thoughts on this post. I'm so glad you've been enjoying it! :)

Since I had a little spare time today, I thought I'd stop by and respond to some comments. :)

Natasha Marie, it sounds like we have a lot of the same favorites. :) Thank you so much for sharing about the other books. I'm going to have to look for those! :D

Glad you enjoyed the post. It's always nice hearing from you! :)

Thanks, Jan. Glad you enjoyed it. :) It sounds like I need to find "Memoirs of a London Doll" for myself! ;)

Hi Treesa! I'm so glad this post was enjoyable for you! :) Like you, I still love reading these books as an adult. It reminds me of what it feels like when you're a kid and your dolls and toys feel real to you. ;)

I hadn't heard about the prequel to "When the Dolls Woke", but several of you have mentioned it, so I think I'll have to look it up! ;)

I'd also love to find some of the other Rumer Godden books you mentioned. I love her writing. :) And I had no idea that Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote a doll book, too! My girls and I love "A Little Princess" and "The Secret Garden"!

Wow, I have some book shopping to do! ;)

beastsbelle said...

I'm moving on to a second comment since Blogger doesn't like me posting really long ones. ;)

You're welcome, Aileen. The Doll People series ranks among my top favorite doll-themed books. They're very cleverly written, and are fun books to read aloud with your kiddos. :)

I hope you find some of them, Farrah Lily! :) I've found a lot of these in thrift stores and things, too, so you might check there after the library if you find some you like. :)

Hi Anonymous! It seems like several of you enjoyed Midnight in the Dollhouse. I'll have to check it out. :)

Hi J! I'm eager to read these books too! :)

Hi Nina! Glad you enjoyed some of these, too. :)

Hi Mark! :) I'm glad I was able to introduce you to these books. I hope you're able to find some of them. :)

I thought about including "The Indian in the Cupboard", too, but at the last minute decided to stick to books about dolls in particular (as opposed to figures). I remember really enjoying "The Indian in the Cupboard" as a kid, though. :)

I know I tend to get stuck in a rut with the types of posts I do, so I was definitely looking for a fresh angle for this post. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

Thanks so much, Grace. Glad you're enjoying the blog. :) "Amy's Eyes" sounds really fun. I'll have to find that one, too!

Thank you so much to everyone who left information about your own favorites. My reading list just grew! ;)

Kailey Hopkins said...

I have got to read some of these. I'm only 12, so I haven't heard of any of these, but they sound interesting!

mystrygirl87 said...

What a fun list you've put together--I definitely read a lot of these growing up! I'll reinforce the reccomendations for Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, and Midnight in the Dollhouse.

Troy said...

I had forgotten about The Lonely Doll. Came across a copy many years ago and thought it was charming.

Several of these sound good enough to track down. Thank you for the recommendations!

beastsbelle said...

Hi Kailey! I hope you do try some of these. :) I'm sure you'd love them!

Hi mystrygirl87! Glad you enjoyed the post. I'm definitely adding Miss Happiness, Miss Flower, and Midnight in the Doll House to my list of books to find. I can't ignore so many good recommendations! ;)

You're welcome, Troy! I always love sharing good books! ;)