The Doll People – Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin, 2000

Picked up as a library discard – I really wanted to like it because the doll story is a favorite genre of mine (Racketty-Packetty House, Hitty, etc.), and the illustrations by Brian Selznick are terrific. Alas, it’s weirdly slow and ultimately unsatisfactory. If I could put my finger on exactly why I have a feeling it would help me with my own writing. The characterization is just OK, but with a better plot and better pacing I don’t think that would be crucial. Maybe it’s a kind of telling-not-showing–getting caught by the cat or seen by a human and going into “Doll State” don’t feel very momentous, and we hear a lot about hours spent looking for the McGuffin (Aunt Sarah, a doll missing for 45 years) without getting a sense of how that time was spent. Then the actual finding and rescue happen promptly and smoothly. Is it partly that everything is too fleshed out, compared for example to the Narnia books and their economy of words? Maybe especially with children’s books the author needs to leave most of it to the imagination. The one great touch is the contrast between the old-fashioned dolls and their new neighbors, the Funcrafts–again mostly due to Selznick’s depictions.

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