The Racketty-Packetty House, Francis Hodgson Burnett.
"Now this is the story about the doll family I liked and the doll family I didn't. When you read it you are to remember something I am going to tell you. This is it: If you think dolls never do anything you don't see them do, you are very much mistaken. When people are not looking at them they can do anything they choose. They can dance and sing and play on the piano and have all sorts of fun. But they can only move about and talk when people turn their backs and are not looking. If any one looks, they just stop. Fairies know this and of course Fairies visit in all the dolls' houses where the dolls are agreeable. They will not associate, though, with dolls who are not nice. They never call or leave their cards at a dolls' house where the dolls are proud or bad tempered. They are very particular. If you are conceited or ill-tempered yourself, you will never know a fairy as long as you live.
So begins the story of Meg and Peg and Kilmankeg, Peter Piper, Gustibus and Ridiklis. The Racketty-Packetty House is the story of a charming old-fashioned doll family, dolls so delightful that the fairy queen and her fairies love to visit, and of their adventures when their dilapidated racketty-packetty doll house is replaced by Tidy Castle and its noble residents who positively scorn the Racketty-Packetty family and their unfashionable neighborhood behind the door. I read this many times when I was a little girl, and remembered it as a lovely and sweet story, one of my very favorites, so I was delighted to see it in a recent Chinaberry catalog.
It's a perfect read-aloud: A wonderful story and lovely language, and it's nice and short for younger listeners. My fine young gents aren't particularly interested in dolls or fairies (though they're not uninterested either) and they loved the Racketty-Packetty family, especially Peter Piper. They were on tenterhooks after lunchtime reading yesterday, wondering whether Racketty-Packetty House would be taken to the trash heap and burned. The most charming part of the story is the way the Racketty-Packetty house dolls approach life. When Peter Piper's pant leg rips clean off, he's delighted because he can kick his leg so much more easily. When Ridiklis remarks on Tidy Castle's ten course meal, the Racketty-Packetty family decides to serve ten courses of turnips (all they have to eat), and they have so much fun at it that they certainly enjoy their meal far more than the Tidy Castle family. And best of all, one of their greatest delights is to join hands and dance in a circle into they fall down in a heap in giggles. There's romance and suspense, and a lovely ending. It's a story about making the most of things, and finding joy and laughter to be the very best things in life.
Read it for free: Racketty-Packetty House at Project Gutenberg, with the beautiful original illustrations.