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Vol 2/3, Issue 4/1                               WINTER 2003/2004


Index ||| Welcome ||| Mailbag ||| About the Editors ||| Collecting News ||| Profile of a Collector ||| Profile of an Artist ||| Doll in the Spotlight! ||| Doll Care Basics ||| Resources ||| FAQ ||| Closing Words


By Debbie Garrett


The dolls spotlighted in this issue of Black Doll E-Ezine are dolls that were manufactured as a result of storybook characters and those that were manufactured with books.  



                                    GWTW  Mammy &  Prissy Dolls by World Dolls and Madame Alexander             NASB Topsy, Composition Topsy, Vinyl Topsy, and Topsy-type compo

The most popular vintage storybook characters that resulted in dolls include "Mammy" and "Prissy" from the book, Gone with the Wind (GWTW).  Several dolls have been manufactured to represent these dolls.  Another early storybook character was "Topsy" from Uncle Tom's Cabin.  The Nancy Ann Story Book (NASB) Doll company as well as several composition doll and vinyl doll makers manufactured dolls named "Topsy."  

Mint in Box NASB "Topsy" (courtesy of Margy Crowl)

The NASB Doll Company also manufactured a 5-1/2-inch, Black doll named "Mammy," but both their "Topsy" and "Mammy" dolls are identical.  The above picture is a beautiful, hard plastic, mint in box NASB, with wrist tag, "Topsy."  The earlier NASB dolls were bisque; the latter ones were hard plastic.


Left:  1936 Beloved Belindy book courtesy of Dan and Marie Dusek of Country Bear Antiques - Tyler,Texas and

Right:  1930s Little Black Sambo made by the WPA workers (see text below)

Other early storybook characters that evolved into 3-dimensional  dolls include "Beloved Belindy," "Little Black Sambo,"  and "Little Brown Koko."  "Beloved Belindy" is the mammy for the characters Raggedy Ann and Andy  in the popular Raggedy Ann and Andy storybooks by Johnny Gruelle.  Made of cloth, the first Beloved Belindy dolls were marketed in 1926 and look very much like the character in the storybook.  


1942 Little Black Sambo book, reproduction Little Brown Koko doll and dog Shoog, 1953s Little Brown Koko book

"Little Black Sambo" is the main character in the storybook of the same name by Hellen Bannerman.  It is unknown when the first "Little Black Sambo" dolls were made, but documentation exists that one version was made in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.   

Likewise, "Little Brown Koko" is the main character in the storybook series of the same name along with his dog, Shoog.  Patterns to make a cloth "Little Brown Koko" doll and his dog are known to have been circulated via magazine advertisements in 1940.  


                                                                AnnaBelle Doll kit                                             DollMaster's Exclusive Annabelle                              Magnolia Doll Kit              

The white, wooden doll, Hitty, represents the main character in the book, Hitty, Her First Hundred Years."  Hitty, a traveling doll, has a black friend, AnnaBelle from Africa.  A Dollmaster's exclusive,  AnnaBelle by William Raikes is "a charming [8-inch] all-cherry wood doll with carved black hair and painted shoes and socks. She’s jointed at the shoulders and hips for posing" and includes a costume wardrobe that includes three dresses, pinafore, silk jacket, bonnet, and undergarments.  AnnaBelle is also sold as a doll kit that includes the complete doll and material to sew her dress.   There is also another dark-skinned friend of Hitty from India, Magnolia, carved of mahogany, and also available as a kit.   



"Cassie of Tar Beach," "Amazing Grace" doll and paper doll, and "Madison Loving Books"

Many modern dolls have been manufactured with books.   These include "Cassie of Tar Beach," created for the main character in the award-winning book Tar Beach, by African-American writer and artist, Faith Ringgold.  Included with the 14-inch, cloth doll, "Cassie," is a miniature copy of the book, Tar Beach. The book was awarded the 1992 Caldecott Honor Book, the 1992 Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration,  the New York Times Best Illustrated Book, and Parents' Choice Gold Award for Illustration.  "Amazing Grace" is a modern 11.5-inch, cloth doll based on the character in the book, Amazing Grace, by Mary Hoffman.  The character, Grace, is an amazing girl who can do anything!   There are also "Amazing Grace" paper dolls.    "Madison Loving Books" from the now discontinued vinyl doll line, "She's Like Me," is a curious little, 9-in doll and comes with her very own hardcover book, Loving Books Curiosity.  A faux copy of Anne of Green Gables as well as a pair of doll eyeglasses for reading purposes are included with "Madison Loving Books."

The Baby-Sitters Club "Jessi"

In 1993, Kenner manufactured dolls to represent the characters in the Baby-Sitters Club book series.  The doll created to represent the lone African-American character, Jessica Ramsey, also known as "Jessi,"  is to this day still very elusive.  The 19-in, Jessi doll came with the book,  Baby-Sitters Club Starring Jessi Ramsey! by Ann M. Martin.  


                               Mini "Addy" Doll, "Addy Paper Doll," " Saba"  doll and book, Magic Attic "Keisha"                Hopscotch Hill School doll, "Skylar"

The American Girl 18-inch, vinyl doll, "Addy,"  (not pictured) has several storybooks written by African-American writer, Connie Porter. There is also a mini, 5-in Addy doll and book, and  there are Addy paper dolls.   The Pleasant Company, the creators of the American Girl doll line, has also created two new doll lines, which include two Black dolls with books:  Girls of Many Lands, "Saba," a 9-inch, all-vinyl doll that represents an Ethiopian girl at age 12 comes with the book, Saba Under the Hyena's Foot by Jane Kurtz.   "Skylar,"  of the Hopscotch Hill School, 16-inch, poseable, vinyl doll line  has a level 2 book named for the doll,  Bright, Shiny Skylar.  This book is perfect for children who are beginning to read independently.    Similar to "Addy" is 18-inch, vinyl "Keisha" from the Magic Attic Club line, who has several adventurous storybooks.   

"Willie Pearl" and "Mae Ella" and book Willie Pearl:  Under the Mountain

"Willie Pearl" and "Mae Ella" are 19-inch. vinyl with cloth bodied dolls that represent characters from the award-winning Willie Pearl book series written by Michelle Y. Green.  The Willie Pearl book series is about the real-life adventures of the author's mother, Willie Pearl, and her best friend, Mae Ella.  Set in a Depression-era, coal-mining town in Kentucky, among its awards, the first book in the series, Willie Pearl, is used as core curriculum for fourth grade in the Compton, California school district.   

"Here Comes Niya"

Another book and doll based on a real person is, Here Comes Niya, written (the book) for the K-3 age group and manufactured (the 24-inch, vinyl and cloth doll) by Darla Davenport-Powell (the real Niya's mother).  

"Willie" and "Tillie" of Sarah's Gang

From Sarah's Attic is the Sarah's Gang doll line which includes 11-inch, vinyl dolls,  "Willie" and "Tillie." Their accompanying booklets are respectively titled:  Open Your Heart to Love through Respect and Open Your Heart to Love through Sharing.  


These are only a few of the vintage and modern dolls that represent storybook characters or dolls manufactured with storybooks.   We know that dolls alone can be educational for children as well as adults, but those with books provide an added educational plus. 

This article was inspired by the Charm City Doll Club's recent library doll exhibit: "A Doll and a Book Make a Good Pair." Thank you, Cheryl Bruce, for mentioning the exhibit.

If you would like to have Black Doll-E-Zine spotlight a specific doll for the next (and final) issue of our publication, please emal Deb at