cover image How Raggedy Ann Got Her Candy Heart

How Raggedy Ann Got Her Candy Heart

Johnny Gruelle. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81119-7

These first two installments in the My First Raggedy Ann series, abridged for younger readers from tales Gruelle originally wrote and illustrated for his housebound daughter Marcella, differ significantly from each other. In the first, a sweet but slow tale, Raggedy plays a largely passive role as Marcella's doll, who falls into a can of paint. The housepainter takes Raggedy Ann home to clean her up, and his wife sews on her famous red candy heart proclaiming ""I love you."" The second, livelier tale has a more fanciful spin, giving Raggedy Ann and Andy identities more akin to children than playthings. The title is a bit misleading, as the book's key action derives from a bespectacled wooden horse who leads Ann, Andy and a flannel camel on a mission to recapture Ann's doll pal, Babette, from a band of pirates. Mayhem erupts as the thieving band's tent collapses around them, and Ann seizes the chance to rescue Babette. This scenario brings on the books' funniest lines: when the horse promises to give each pirate a lollipop if they pledge to reform, two acquiesce immediately, announcing ""I'll stop being a pirate and be a plumber"" and ""I'll stop and go into the garage business."" Palmer alters the moods of her cheerful, if somewhat cutesy, artwork to match each story: she gives the first book a more realistic feel (though the constantly smiling human characters resemble actors in a 1950s sitcom), while creating a more whimsical aura in the second, effectively intensifying her palette to introduce the vivid pirate crew. The uninitiated will likely warm up to Raggedy Ann and her pals, yet these titles aren't likely to claim nearly the longevity of their predecessors. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)