Review of ‘Lady Hollyhock and Her Friends’ by Margaret Coulson Walker

Have you ever considered making a toy pig out of a lemon and some matchsticks? Margaret Coulson Walker did, and invented many other things besides, out of humble materials such as corn husks, peanuts, clay pipes, gourds, yarn, tissue paper, acorns and more.

Drawing of pigs made out of lemons and matchsticks.

Published in America in 1917 with charming (or creepy) illustrations by Mary Isobel Hunt, the aim of this book was to inspire children to make their own toys and use their imaginations. In the introduction, she says that children are more interested in homemade items than in finished toys bought from the shops, which I think may be true.

Drawing of a cucumber with a monocle and matchstick limbs.

The descriptions and images of these dolls are accompanied by poems and even music. They are linked together by a narrative about the West children, who create and play with the dolls, eventually eating them (if edible) or burying the disintegrated ones. Some of the dolls (not pictured) display racist stereotypes but were no doubt very normal for the context and era.

Drawing of a gourd with a weeping face on it.

Part of my random Project Gutenberg reads. Definitely the weirdest one yet.

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