|Anna by Alice Darling for Madame Alexander (click the pictures to enlarge).|
I purchased Anna at retail in approximately1994. (The copyright date on her hang tag is 1993, so she probably entered the market a year later.) I was very much into artist dolls then and purchased many newly released African American dolls with reckless abandoned. Price was not an issue, well, mostly it wasn't because I had not yet established criteria for collecting and basically purchased what I liked, or what I thought I liked, and I liked and wanted Anna.
I still like her, but I grew to dislike her painted eyes. They are not very realistic looking. For years she has been on the top shelf at the back of the doll room collecting dust along with several similar dolls.
Earlier this month I received an email from fellow collector, Dawn Spears, with a link to an eBay auction for Anna. Dawn asked if I owned the doll on auction that had been inspired by a book because she is familiar with my Dolls with Books exhibit. My reply was, "I'll have to check." I thought I probably owned the doll but the name "Anna" did not ring a bell. I knew her artist, Robin Woods (aka Alice Darling) had made at least two dark-skinned dolls that use the same head and body sculpts as Anna, but I could not remember my doll's name.
|Anna gazes at the book that inspired her creation.|
The book, Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, was first printed in 1987. At the time I received the email regarding Anna and the book that inspired her creation, I did own the doll but not the book. I had no idea Anna's creation had been inspired by this book and had to learn more about this.
I did not have to look too far for the confirmation I needed. It was right on Anna's wrist hang tag in big bold letters, confirming that she is from the Read Me a Story series by Alice Darling. According to Anna's hang tag, "The dolls of 'Read Me a Story' are inspired by children’s love for stories and by contemporary children’s books. The dolls provide interpretations of story book characters who become friends to play with and love."
A paragraph on the wrist hang tag about Anna reads:
"Anna, whose name means 'grace,' is appropriately named. In a lovely book that tells its story with a poem, Anna frolics through the world of unfolding summer beauty. Anna is of the age where every growing thing is full of wonders to be uncovered. With unusual grace, the poetry of the book WILD WILD SUNFLOWER CHILD ANNA, celebrates the ability of children to see the world within the world we know."
My new-found doll knowledge prompted me to order the delightful book that inspired Anna's creation. Had I known about it, it most certainly would have been purchased when I purchased Anna. The book's illustrator, Jerry Pinkney, is described on the final page as: "a talented artist who has illustrated a number of children's books..." For previous illustrated books, "he was given the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration... He has also designed eleven stamps for the United States Postal Service..." (and probably more by now.)
While Anna the doll, is the three-dimensional character illustrated by Pinkney in the book by Carlstrom, another doll in my collection looks more like Pinkney's illustrations of Anna.
|Jerry Pinkney's Anna|
|Above is another illustration of Pinkney's Anna as she explores a field of beautiful sunflowers. The feet about the illustration are attached to a doll that looks more like Anna|
|Super Saucy-type doll by EEGEE, 1961|
*(In the past, many doll companies used the same molds, having purchased them from the same manufacturer. Dolls made by major doll companies were usually more popular than their sister dolls made by smaller companies. This is the case with my Super Saucy-type. With Ideal being a more prominent doll company, their Super Saucy was more popular than EEGEE's version. I am grateful to EEGEE for making a black version because I am not aware of a Super Saucy with dark skin by Ideal. Until I discover my doll's given name, I guess I'll call her Anna!)
Thank you for the heads up, Dawn, about Anna's book. As I indicated to you in my email subject line: "It's always good to learn something new."
With an original retail of $95, Alice Darling's Let's Play Dolls series can be found on the secondary market today for $25 to $40. Additional Let's Play Dolls by Alice Darling and other artists commissioned by Madame Alexander can be seen on Flickr where several scanned pages of ads and catalog pages appear.
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