What is it about the lives of dolls? Kids love thinking about what their dolls do when they are alone, away from the prying eyes of their owners. And who hasn't had a little chat with a doll or stuffed animal at some point? I know I have.
Ann M. Martin, Laura Godwin and Brian Selznick (hot on the heels of his Caldecott win for The Invention of Hugo Cabret) collaborate on the third episode of their Doll People series in The Runaway Dolls. Opening with 12 pages of detailed pencil drawings, Selznick draws the reader right in. The same sense of fun and derring – do permeate the plot as Annabelle Doll, the tiny dollhouse heroine of the two previous books, finds a mysterious package, puts all of doll – kind in jeopardy with her rash decisions and runs away from her beloved family. This series is the perfect bridge between short chapter books and longer books like Harry Potter, which, though thrilling, can bog down young readers. Though the subject matter might seem a tad girly, the intrigue and suspense will grab boys and girls. The new doll in this installment is baby Tilly May, who has been lost behind a cabinet, in her original packaging, for more than 100 years. As it turns out, Tilly May is the long – lost baby of the Doll family. She has spotty knowledge of the modern world because she has listened to a "fing called the radio" for years and years. Her charming mispronunciation of the "th" sound is just one her adorable traits. Tilly May's wide-eyed curiosity just about drives her sister crazy, but it will bring chortles of amusement and recognition to any reader who has a younger sibling.
Martin and Godwin craft a complicated story with many characters that is still a breeze to follow. Though we all know that everything will turn out fine in the end, the story has enough twists to keep the pages turning. This is an old-fashioned tale with new-fashioned fun—I wish I had some children left at home so I could read it aloud. Maybe I'll find a doll or a teddy bear who'll listen.