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Authors: Thomas Meehan


BOOK: Annie
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Published by the Penguin Group

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A Penguin Random House Company

First published in the United States of America by Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. 1980

This edition published by Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2013

Copyright © Thomas Meehan, 1980

Lyrics from “Tomorrow,” © 1977 by Martin Charnin and Charles Strouse,

appear by permission of the composer and lyricist.


Tribune Content Agency, LLC. All rights reserved.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting
writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.


Meehan, Thomas.

Annie: an old-fashioned story

Summary: Unexpected sources help a spunky orphan in the

search for her parents who have been missing since 1922.

[1. Orphans—Fiction. 2. United States—Social life and customs—

1918–1945—Fiction.] I. Noonan, Julia. II. Title.

PZ4.M4892An 1980 [PS3563.E3] 813'.54 [Fic] 80-16335

Puffin Books ISBN 978-0-698-13947-3


This book is for my children, Kate and Joe, now all grown up, as well as for a pair of little girls, Emma Van Brocklin and Sasha Berman


Title Page






















Originally, years and years ago, in 1924, Annie came into the world as the eleven-year-old heroine of a comic strip called
Little Orphan Annie.
Created by an Indiana cartoonist and writer named Harold Gray,
Little Orphan Annie
became immensely popular among America's comic-strip readers and had been appearing in the pages of newspapers all over the United States for forty-eight years when I first found myself involved with it, in 1972, probably way before any of you reading these pages was even born or dreamed of.

Involved with it, that is, when a friend of mine, Martin Charnin, a director and lyricist of Broadway musicals, asked me to collaborate with him in turning
Little Orphan Annie
into a musical for which he'd write the lyrics and I'd write the book, while another friend of his, Charles Strouse, a Tony Award–winning Broadway composer, would provide the music. At the time, I was a writer of comic short stories and articles for a variety of magazines, especially
The New Yorker
, but even though I had been more or less stagestruck all my life, I'd never before written for the theater. So I was both excited and slightly anxious about the prospect of writing the book of the musical we at once decided to simply call
rather than
Little Orphan Annie.

I should explain that the so-called book of a musical (also known as the libretto) isn't actually a book like the one you're about to read, at all, but is instead the script of a play—that is, it is the full-length story of the musical told in spoken dialogue, written with blank spaces in each scene where suggested songs and/or dances would later be inserted, like raisins in raisin bread. Upon agreeing to write the book of
, I first went to the archives of the
New York Daily News,
a paper with offices on East Forty-Second Street that had been featuring
Little Orphan Annie
in its pages since its beginning, and spent several hours on several consecutive days reading all forty-eight years—daily in black-and-white and in color on Sundays—of the comic strip. And guess what? In all of those years of
Little Orphan Annie
I could find no coherent central story that I felt could be the basis of a Broadway musical. Somewhat discouraged, I went back to my partners, Martin and Charles, and told them that three characters were all I had come up with of use to us in creating the musical—the poorest little girl in the world, the richest man in the world, and a dog named Sandy. In short, I told them, I'd have to make up my own story. And I did.

I first decided that the story should take place in New York, which the comic strip didn't, because for us three New Yorkers, it was the city we knew best. In 1972, when I began writing
, Richard Nixon was president, the nation was mired in the unpopular Vietnam War, and there was a widespread feeling all across the United States that the federal government wasn't much interested in the welfare of the common American people. So, with the 1972 state of the nation in mind, I decided to set
back in time in another period of deep crisis in the country, the Great Depression in the year 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt first became president. I even also came up with the idea of making Roosevelt a character in the musical.

I'd settled on a place and time in which to set the musical, but what was to be my story? One of my all-time favorite writers has always been Charles Dickens, the brilliant nineteenth-century British author of such classic novels as
Oliver Twist
David Copperfield
Great Expectations,
A Christmas Carol
, to mention but a few of his vastly entertaining and heartrending books. And it struck me that Annie, being a poor and cruelly treated orphan, was a kind of twentieth-century American version of a Dickens character and that I could write a more or less Dickensian book for
. Dickens was, above all, a master storyteller, and I noted that just about every one of his novels begins with a mystery that is ultimately solved in the last pages of the book. What was my mystery to be? A foundling, a two-month-old infant, Annie, is left on the steps of an orphanage with a broken silver locket around her neck and an unsigned note pinned to her baby blanket saying, “Please take good care of our little darling. Her name is Annie and we love her very much. She was born on October 28th. We will be back to get her soon. We have left half of a locket around her neck and kept the other half so that when we come back for her you will know that she's our baby.” That is the mystery with which
begins. Who left her at the orphanage? Was it, as Annie grows up to believe, her mother and father? But when are they actually coming back for her? Are they, as Annie asks in song in the opening scene of the musical, “Maybe far away or maybe real nearby”? When we first meet Annie in the show, eleven years have gone by since she was left at the orphanage, and deciding that her mother and father aren't coming for her after all, she runs away to try to find them on her own. Annie's quest to find her missing parents and the ultimate solving of the mystery are what form the narrative spine of both the book I wrote for the musical and its later incarnation now as the novel you're about to read.

When I completed my first draft of the book of the musical and showed it to Martin and Charles, I was delighted that they were basically pleased with it. They had, however, one major problem—it was far too long and would result in a musical that would last for around three and a half hours, whereas the optimal length of a Broadway musical is usually thought to be slightly over two hours. So I set about cutting scene after scene out of
until I got it down to the proper length. When
opened on Broadway in the spring of 1977, I'm happy to say that it was a huge hit, winning the Tony Award as the Best Musical of the Year as well as six other Tonys, including one given to a lucky me for Best Book of a Musical. And in the years since 1977,
has of course been playing in productions not only all over America but also all over the world. But I nonetheless always missed the many scenes I'd had to cut from my original first draft of the musical, and then one day I suddenly shouted to myself, “Eureka, I've got it!” If Dickens can write a novel about an orphan boy like Oliver Twist, I can write a novel about an orphan girl, Annie, and include in it a narrative version of all the scenes I was forced to cut from the musical. For the first time, the story of Annie as I'd imagined it so many years ago would be told in full! If you've seen
onstage or in one of the movie versions that have been made from the musical, there's still a lot you've never known about Annie. Until now, as you turn the pages to Chapter One. I hope you enjoy reading this book
as much I enjoyed writing it. Onward!

Thomas Meehan
May 27, 2013


g ago. The still and dark early hours of the morning of the first of January 1933. A light snow was falling in the chill, deserted streets of downtown New York. Time slowly passed, and then the wintry quiet was broken by the clanging of the bells, tolling four a.m., in the steeple of St. Mark's in the Bowery.

A couple of blocks from the church, on St. Mark's Place, in the second-floor dormitory of the New York City Municipal Orphanage, Girls' Annex, an eleven-year-old girl stood alone at a frosty window. Shivering in a thin white cotton nightgown, she listened to the tolling of the bells as she watched the snow swirling downward in the light of a streetlamp. From time to time, she looked yearningly one way up the street and then the other way down. She was waiting for someone to come for her. To take her away from the orphanage. But no one came. Thin, somewhat short for her age, the girl had a slightly upturned nose and an unruly mop of straightish, short-cut red hair. But her most striking features were shining blue-gray eyes that seemed strangely to reflect at the same time a deep sadness, irrepressible joy, and a sharp intelligence. Her name was Annie.

In the cold, drafty dormitory, the other girls—seventeen of them—had long been asleep, mumbling and occasionally crying out in their dreams as they turned restlessly in narrow beds under scratchy, drab army blankets. But Annie had been awake all night. Earlier, trying to fall asleep, she'd been kept awake by the street sounds of New Year's Eve revelers—shouting voices, drunken singing, the honking of car horns, and the raucous blowing of noisemakers. Long after midnight, though, when all had grown quiet on St. Mark's Place and the snow had begun to fall, Annie still hadn't been able to sleep. And at last she'd got up from her bed to stand at the window, to keep a silent vigil through the snowy night, to wait.

For as long as she could remember, Annie hadn't been able to sleep on New Year's Eve. Because New Year's Eve marked the anniversary of the night eleven years earlier, when she'd been left as a two-month-old baby in a tan wicker basket on the front steps of the orphanage. Someone had rung the doorbell and then run off into the night. Annie had been wrapped in a faded pink woolen blanket and had been wearing a broken half of a silver locket around her neck. And there had been an unsigned note pinned to the blanket. “Please take good care of our little darling,” the note had read. “Her name is Annie and we love her very much. She was born on October 28th. We will be back to get her soon. We have left half of a locket around her neck and kept the other half so that when we come back for her you will know that she's our baby.”

Because she'd been left at the orphanage on a New Year's Eve, Annie had gotten it into her head that somehow her mother and father would come back to get her on another New Year's Eve. So, each year, while other children counted the days until Christmas, Annie instead counted the days until New Year's Eve. But year after year, she'd been disappointed. Her father and mother hadn't come for her. And now it seemed pretty certain that they weren't coming for her this year, either. As the snow began to fall more heavily now, Annie sighed and rubbed her eyes to keep from crying. “They said they loved me and were comin' back for me—it's in my note,” whispered Annie to herself in the dark. “Where are they? Why haven't they come for me?” Annie clasped the broken silver locket that hung around her neck, always, night and day, and squeezed it tightly to her breast.

“Mama, Mama, Mommy!” The littlest of the orphans in the orphanage, six-year-old Molly, had wakened from a nightmare and was crying out for her mother. But Molly's mother had died two years before, in a car accident, and her father had been killed in the same crash. So although she was an extraordinarily beautiful child, Molly was an orphan whom nobody wanted to adopt. An orphan like all of the other girls in the orphanage. Except Annie. Annie was different because
had a father and a mother. Somewhere. “Mama, Mommy!” cried Molly again, waking up the girls in the beds around her.

“Shut up,” shouted Pepper from the next bed.

“Yeah, can't nobody get any sleep around here,” grumbled Duffy.

“Mama, Mommy!” screamed Molly again.

“I said, shut your little trap, Molly,” said Pepper, getting angrily out of bed, picking Molly up, and shoving her down on the floor. At fourteen, Pepper was the oldest and the biggest of the orphans, a pug-nosed rapscallion with a face full of freckles and long, tousled hair that was even redder than Annie's.

“Ahhh, stop pushin' the poor little kid around,” said July. “She ain't done nothin' to you.” Twelve years old, the sweetest of the orphans—if not exactly the prettiest—July had received her name because, simply enough, she'd been abandoned as a baby at the orphanage on the Fourth of July.

“She's keepin' me awake, ain't she,” Pepper snapped back at July.

are keepin'
awake,” said July.

“You wanna make somethin' out of it?” said Pepper, walking over to July's bed.

“Oh, the Jack Dempsey of the orphanage,” said July, and in a moment she and Pepper were rolling on the floor in a shrieking, punching, hair-pulling fight that woke up eight-year-old Tessie in her bed at the far end of the dormitory.

“Oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness, they're fightin' and I won't get no sleep all night,” whined Tessie, a pale, frightened girl with blonde pigtails, a thin beaked nose, and scarcely any chin at all. “Oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness!”

Annie had been silently watching from the window. But now she stepped forward and broke up the fight between Pepper and July. “C'mon, you two, cut it out and go back to bed,” commanded Annie, pulling the fighting girls apart.

“Aw, nuts to you, Annie,” muttered Pepper, glowering as she stomped back to her bed. But Pepper didn't try to pick a fight with Annie. Although she was a good deal smaller than Pepper, Annie was recognized by all the orphans as the toughest among them. Even Pepper was afraid of her. The smartest of the orphans, too, and their acknowledged leader, especially in their never-ending battles with the headmistress of the orphanage, Miss Agatha Hannigan.

“Pepper started it, Annie,” said July, “pushin' Molly down.”

“I know,” said Annie, patting July on the shoulder. “But you gotta go back to sleep, all of you.”

“Okay, Annie,” said July, climbing back into her bed as Annie went to comfort Molly, who was still crouched on the floor. Kneeling beside Molly, Annie pulled the child into her arms.

“It's all right, Molly, Annie's here,” said Annie, gently stroking Molly's long, black hair.

“It was my mama, Annie,” said Molly, tears streaming down her flushed cheeks. “We was ridin' on the ferryboat and she was holdin' me up to see all the big ships. And then she was walkin' away, wavin', and I couldn't find her no more. Anywhere.”

“It was only a dream, honey,” said Annie, drying Molly's eyes with the sleeve of her nightgown. “Now, you gotta get back to sleep. It's after four o'clock.”

“Annie,” said Molly, “read me your note.”

“Again?” said Annie.

said Molly.

“Okay, Molly,” said Annie, and from the battered wicker basket under her bed—the same basket in which she'd been left at the orphanage and in which she kept her few belongings—Annie took out the note and started to read it aloud by the pale light that slanted in from the streetlamp outside. Annie had folded and unfolded the note so many times that it was nearly falling apart. It was written in a round, feminine hand on a square of pale-blue cardboard. “Please take good care of our little darling,” Annie began. “Her name is . . .”

“Oh, no, here it comes again,” groaned Pepper. In the years that they'd been together in the orphanage, Annie had read her note aloud to the orphans an average of perhaps two or three times a week. “Her name is Annie,” said Duffy in a mocking, singsong voice. A tubby thirteen-year-old with a pudding face and scraggly blonde hair, Duffy was Pepper's best friend. “She was born on October twenty-eighth,” Duffy went on. “We will be back to get her soon.” And now all the orphans began laughing at Duffy's rendition of the note. All, that is, but Molly and Tessie. “Oh, my goodness, now they're laughin' and I won't get no sleep at night,” whined Tessie. “Oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness.”

Annie angrily stood up, put her hands on her hips, and faced the laughing girls. “All right,” said Annie, “do you wanna sleep with your teeth inside your mouth or out?” Silence. Everyone, including Pepper, lay quietly back down in bed. Annie finished reading the note and then, folding it with great care, put it back in her basket. Now Annie picked Molly up and carried her to bed. She tucked the little girl in under the covers and kissed her lightly on the forehead.

“Good night, Molly,” whispered Annie.

“Good night, Annie,” said Molly. “You're lucky, Annie, I dream about havin' a mother and father. But you really got 'em.”

“I know,” said Annie softly. “Somewhere. Some-where.” In a few minutes, Molly and the other orphans had fallen back to sleep. But Annie still couldn't sleep. And she went again to the window to look out on the falling snow. At the window, she drifted into a waking dream about her father and mother. They were maybe real nearby, she thought, or maybe far away. Her father, she knew, was a big, strapping man who laughed and smiled all the time, and who'd pick her up in his arms, give her a big bear hug, and whirl her about the room. He was a lawyer, or maybe even a doctor, who helped poor people. And her mother was a kind, gentle woman with golden-blonde hair who played songs on the piano and sewed even better than a professional dressmaker. She'd made dozens of beautiful dresses for Annie. The dresses, all the colors of the rainbow, were hanging in a closet, waiting for the day when Annie came home. Annie and her parents lived in the country, in a vine-covered house on a hill. There was a broad front lawn, and from the porch, you could see for miles across green meadows to a distant winding river. On summer afternoons, Annie, her mother, and her father, the three of them together, would walk across the meadows to the river and have a picnic of deviled eggs and lemonade while they watched swans gliding by. In her room in the house, Annie had a canopy bed and a three-story dollhouse and a red-and-white hobbyhorse and . . . A horse-drawn milk wagon came clattering around the corner of St. Mark's Place, waking Annie with a start from her reverie. She'd heard the sound of the milk wagon outside the window in the early morning ever since she could remember. Annie began thinking back now on all of her long years in the orphanage. And almost none of her memories of those years were happy ones.

BOOK: Annie
9.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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