Thursday, March 5, 2009

Do Children Still Read Raggedy Ann?

Raggedy Ann Dolls are very popular in America and I suspect they have traveled to other countries spreading their good cheer. When I was a child I didn’t have a Raggedy Ann doll but I had Raggedy Ann and Andy books written by Johnny Gruelle (1880–1938). Yesterday at the local SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) benefit shop, I found two Raggedy Ann books. Worth Gruelle, Johnny Gruelle's son, did the illustrations for this Raggedy Ann and the Golden Ring book. Here’s how the story starts:

“Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy were walking through the deep, deep woods in search of more adventures. The sunshine streamed down through the branches of the evergreen trees in ribbons of golden light and the birds sang and twittered happily in the leafy branches.”

Hey, that’s just how I felt the other morning when the sunlight broke though the clouds in between drenching deluges. I would that more children had woods to walk in and that play in nature in general was safely possible. Do children still read Raggedy Ann and Andy?
The stories are very fanciful, reliant on magic and imagination, dolls coming to life at night and wandering around with elves out in the woods where they find soda fountains and silver cups for their thirst and tinfoil wrapped chocolates for treats. Many of the illustrations capture changing moments of light, dark trees silhouetted against night skies that touched me with a longing to see glory and mystery. Standing in the benefit shop, thumbing through from one illustration to another, I re-experienced the outdoor nooks where I did so much of my childhood reading. I loved to hide under the shade of the willow trees on a plank that crossed the creek, my feet dangling in the water if the day was hot. Then in the empty lot next door I had a wooden perch in one of the apple trees.
I’d sit reading in the trees surrounded with the smell of the delicate pink and white spring blossoms or later in the summer, taste the apples hanging all around me.
Reading the Gruelle Statement of Ideals
I realized how the bright and wonderful pictures, the smiling doll faces, the magic and fun of dolls playing when folks aren’t looking, had brought those good hearted intentions of the Gruelles through to me as a child and that today I was getting another dose

of the sunny cheer that's still bound in the pages of Raggedy Ann’s stories. Thank you Mr. Gruelle and family.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As I child I had neither the dolls nor the books, but I discovered both when I had my own children. Our books were vintage, from a garage sale probably. The Raggedy Ann and Andy stories were so much fun to read aloud! I even taped myself reading some of them and still have them. This post made me think to dig out those tapes and share them with my grandchildren.