Annabelle Doll is one hundred years old – but she’s been eight for all of those hundred years. She is a doll, part of an entire doll set bought a century ago and passed down from girl to girl in a large family. Her life is mostly the same every day. The only major change happened fifty years ago, when her Auntie Sarah disappeared. The most excitement stems from periodic hair-raising adventures when Nora, Kate’s little sister, “borrows” the dolls as part of her rambunctious play. But then two things happen: Annabelle finds her Auntie Sarah’s journal, and Nora gets a set of plastic play dolls for her birthday.
Tiffany Funcraft is very different from Annabelle doll: where Annabelle is cloth and fragile ceramic, Tiffany is all plastic, and subsequently has a much higher risk threshold.But the two of them become instant best friends, and together they set out to unravel the mystery of Auntie Sarah’s disappearance and – if possible – bring her home.
The idea that dolls have a secret life in which they come to life whenever their owners are safely out of the way is a belief that almost every child harbors at least briefly. Here the concept is taken to new heights by authors Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, and supplemented by gorgeous illustrations by the very talented Brian Selznick. At first I was worried that the book was going to be a half-hearted attempt at a story, barely a notch above the sort of books that become #408 in a series, all of them almost identical. What I actually found in the book was a well-written story peopled with characters that have distinct personalities. I would recommend this book to a wide audience, since it contains both adventure and introspection – all at the level of the average third grade reader.