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First-Ever Illustrated Biography of Legendary Doll Maker Annalee Thorndike

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Have you heard?! The first-ever illustrated biography of Annalee Thorndike is about to be released! Are you on our waiting list? Behind the Smile: The Story of Annalee Thorndike is a must-have for collectors and documents the legacy of the American artist.

About the Book

It’s a once-upon-a-time story of a young girl with a spirited, wildly creative streak who began sewing cloth dolls in her childhood bedroom. She would hand paint their faces and hand dye the felt fabric. Her homespun creations were infused with whimsical smiles, creative poses, and intricate details. Each doll would have its own story to tell. Through grit and determination, Annalee Thorndike would take her hobby and go on to become one of the most-loved and collected doll makers in the world.

Behind the Smile: The Story of Annalee Thorndike is the first-ever illustrated biography of the legendary doll maker. Her story is a tale of self-sufficiency, live-free-or-die resiliency, and a life-long passion to create. Her dolls would define her life, and many say that each of her dolls is in some way a reflection of the woman herself and her playful personality.

Annalee Thorndike began making dolls as a child in Concord, New Hampshire, in the 1920s. Her passion to create was Inspired by her artist mother and the many creative people she associated with, but at its core was her vivid imagination. She was blessed with dexterous fingers, a love of design and color, and a quicksilver temperament and curiosity. She was only four or five when she began playing with fabrics, lace, colored pencils, and paper to design dolls. Her dreams of making dolls would lead to a life-long career. The dolls she created are recognized as among the most-collected and loved dolls everywhere. She would also, along with her husband Chip, build a successful company that would become both a tourist destination as well as one of the largest employers in New Hampshire. Today that company continues to share her legacy with new generations of doll collectors.

Annalee dolls are known for their felt fabric, whimsical and mischievous faces, and creative positioning. Made for collectors and decorating around the home, Annalee fashioned her dolls from everyday life and the simpler times she knew in rural New Hampshire. They also reflect her wicked sense of humor. Her early dolls were about occupations, sports, and hobbies and then expanded to include her now-famous mice and elves. These little critters became a staple in the holiday and seasonal decorations for millions of people. For many people, Christmas isn’t Christmas without an Annalee Santa. Full of character and whimsy, all Annalee dolls celebrate the best of life with a smile. As Annalee herself said, “If you smile, someone else has got to smile back.”

Annalee was passionate about perfection,” said Gracie Blackey, who was personally trained by Annalee Thorndike and is currently lead designer at Annalee Dolls. “She was a whippersnapper. But she had standards. All her dolls were like her children and she loved all her children. They were a reflection of her and her thought process.”

Blackey, along with Annalee’s son Chuck Thorndike and daughter-in-law Karen Thorndike, share their personal stories about working with and creating dolls with Annalee throughout the book. The book also features remembrances from notable collectors. The heart of Behind the Smile, however, is Annalee herself. Many of the book’s stories and anecdotes are derived from numerous interviews with Annalee Thorndike and the Thorndike family during the 1980s through the early 1990s. All this information sat untouched and unedited in the Annalee Dolls offices for more than 25 years before being culled together for this book.

Behind the Smile: The Story of Annalee Thorndike is a full-cover, 160-page hardcover coffee table-style book with dust jacket. The book features rare photos of Annalee and her family as well as hundreds of her most memorable dolls. It is a fascinating story of imagination and whimsical smiles made real by an endless supply of perseverance. “Keep going till you find your way. That was Annalee,” Blackey said.

Annalee Thorndike’s life could be described as a picture postcard of 20th century life in America. Today, more than 85 years after she created her first dolls, Annalee dolls are still making people smile and have become a heart-felt tradition shared among the generations. Behind the Smile: The Story of Annalee Thorndike explores that legacy through tales about Annalee’s creative influences, her idyllic youth, her life as the wife of chicken farmer, her design process, and how she made a difference as a woman navigating the male-dominated business world.

Available Individually or as an Exclusive Collectible Set!


Like her unique and easily recognizable dolls, Behind the Smile: The Story of Annalee Thorndike will enchant you and leave you smiling.

Behind the Smile: The Story of Annalee Thorndike is available at the Annalee Gift Shop, 339 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith, NH 03253 or online at Annalee.com. Plus, don’t miss an extra special exclusive elf this holiday season! Only 250 of the 8in The Magic is in the Smile Elf will be available with a copy of the first-ever Annalee biography. This limited edition design was cerated in the original style of Annalee’s first elves with a wool blend felt and featuring rare faces drawn by Annalee herself!

Unique for Collectors This Holiday Season!

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