Abby is a little girl who has just finished first grade. Her brother comes home from school for summer vacation and brings a birthday present — a dollhouse with boxes of furniture and dolls, even a miniature laptop computer. Thus begins Abby and the Secrets of the Dollhouse, part of The Good News Series.
Interestingly, Abby is not clued into the dollhouse’s secrets although the reader is. Abby is concerned with having a good summer vacation and tells the reader all about the people in her neighborhood. One elderly neighbor moves away, and a family moves into her house. They have a little girl named Maggie who becomes Abby’s best friend. Among Abby’s other neighbors are crabby Mr. McGruder who doesn’t allow roller-skating on the sidewalk in front of his house, and his wife, who does. Mrs. McGruder is always pleasant; Mr. McGruder seems to be the only crank in the neighborhood.
The story is told partly with Abby as the narrator and partly through Abby’s journal entries. For some reason, the first paragraph in Chapter Nine is told in the third person, followed by a journal entry, and ending as a first person narrative. Chapter 10 also begins in the third person, slips into first person, then back to third. This bit of schizoid style makes it seem like the book was written from one perspective, then edited to another, but not completely.
Abby chronicles her last day of school, birthday, baseball games, and visits to Mrs. Livingston, the neighbor who moved. Her brother sets her dollhouse up on a table in her bedroom and she and Maggie decorate it. The next morning, all the furnishings had been moved. Abby suspects her younger brother was playing a trick on her, but he wasn’t.
When Abby is sleeping, the dolls in the dollhouse wake up. They were not happy with the way Abby redecorated their home and moved everything where it “should” have been. The little dolls are a family, and their laptop computer enables them to time travel. The young sister and brother do just that, going back in time to 28 A.D. (Some Biblical scholars would argue with that choice of year), and visit the Sea of Galilee the day after Jesus calmed the stormy waters. They meet witnesses to the event who describe the details. Soon their laptop battery is low and they have to return to their time and the dollhouse.
Chapters 12 and 14 through 17 are told in the first person by Max, the little boy in the dollhouse (Chapter 13 is a journal entry). Chapter 18, the final chapter, returns to the third person view and ends with a journal entry. Abby and the Secrets of the Dollhouse is not difficult to follow, but the inconsistency in narrative view distracts from the story. The book was intended to be read by adult and child together, which leaves keeping things straight to the adult. Again, it’s an easy task, but unnecessary if the story had been told in the first person by Abby and Max, or if the chapters about Abby had been entirely third person, switching to Max in the first person.
I like the idea of the dolls having a life independent of their owner (though a little creepy) and using the time travel device to visit a time when Christ was living. However, the ancient story was not presented as carefully as the details of Abby and her life in her neighborhood. Instead of having the dollhouse children witness events, they are told of them by another witness, which negates the need for time travel. The story would have been more effective if the time travelers actually traveled to a time and scene worth witnessing.
At the end of Abby and the Secrets of the Dollhouse, Abby does have some suspicions about the dollhouse. Since this is identified as “Book One,” I expect that Abby will learn more about its residents in future installments. In its present form, it is actually two stories; one about a little girl and the people and events in her neighborhood, and one about time-traveling dollhouse siblings.
Bottom Line: Would I buy Abby and the Secrets of the Dollhouse? No. Although the storytelling in the chapters about Abby are enjoyable, the Biblical lesson delivered felt incomplete and unsatisfying.