A Tuesday Ten: Child’s Play

Even before Toy Story made its mark, there has long been a history of stories that feature toys that come to life.  I’ve pulled a particular thread of that here for my list.  All of the following fantasy stories have to do with dolls or dollhouses.  Let’s see how many you recognize.


Among the Dolls by William Sleator (Starscape, c1975)

Kicking this list off with a spooky favorite.  One of William Sleator’s early non-science fiction tales about a girl who becomes trapped in a dollhouse.  The dolls in the house do not mean her well, and she’s got figure out how to get out before she’s trapped forever.


The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright (Scholastic, 1948)

This one still pops up on library shelves despite the age!  A fantasy mystery where an old dollhouse hides the clues to a murder.  The dolls keep reenacting the crime scene night after night, and only their young witness can uncover the truth.


The Doll People by Ann M. Martin & Laura Godwin , illustrated by Brian Selznick (Hyperion, 2003)

A much more modern doll title by the well-known Ann Martin.  This book is the first in a series about toy dolls that come to life and interact with one another. Charming and adventurous, these are perfect for the child who has a love of the Toy Story movies and is getting into reading longer chapter books.  Also look for  The Meanest Doll in the World (2003) and The Runaway Dolls (2008).


The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh (Turtleback, c1993)

An unusual series about a family of life-sized rag dolls that secretly reside in a town in Britain.  After 40 years without detection, the secret of their existence might be at risk . . .  Also look for: Mennyms in the Wilderness (1994), Mennyms Under Seige (1995),  Mennyms Alone (1996(, and Mennyms Alive (1996).


Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (Puffin, c1946)

This 1947 Newbery Award Winner is a the charming story of a doll who finds she must survive the New England winter on her own when she’s left behind by her owners. Made of apple twig with a nut for a head, she’s a tough enough doll to get herself through the winter.


Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field (Aladdin, c1929) 

Our second Newbery on the list.  Hitty, or Mehitable as she first was named, chronicles the first hundred years of her life as a doll for many different owners.  A charming and inventive tale that’s still attracting fans.  One has to wonder if someone will take up the challenge of chronicling her next hundred years . . .


Amy’s Eyes by Richard Kennedy, illustrated by Richard Egielski (Harper Trophy, c1985)

An unusual story I’m still trying to get my hands on to read.  But it has to do with a young orphan girl who has a sea captain doll.  The captain comes to life and Amy turns into a doll herself.  The two of them go on adventures together.


The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (Harper Trophy, c1980)

A lot of books on this list probably will have more “girl” than “boy” appeal, but this classic title imagines that a boy’s action figures come to life when placed in a magic cabinet.  One of the mainstays of read alouds and reading assignments everywhere, this book is still going strong generations later.


The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone (Random House, 2010)

A more modern tale, this magical adventure isn’t about dolls come to life, but rather about kids who can shrink themselves down and enter the dollhouses on display at the The Dollhouse Museum in Chicago.  Based on a real place (I’ve been there!) I thought this adventure deserved to be included in the doll ranks.


Doll Bones by Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry, 2013)

Okay, okay, so technically I can’t prove this is a fantasy book–but we can’t prove it’s not either!  Three children on the cusp of leaving their childhood behind go on a wild quest with a creepy doll that appears to be possessed by a ghostly child.   This clever book is not out and out one thing or another, but it fits the list, to my mind.  Don’t miss this read, it’s one of the best of the year so far!

There’s my ten–what doll fantasy stories can you think of?

About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on August 13, 2013, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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