Archive for November 17th, 2010

The Popover Family

Among the many things I like are books about dolls and their houses (and their people). The Popover Family is such a book, a collection of short stories arrayed as a novel, telling of their many adventures. Comforting adventures with much love and friendship with a dash of excitement. Like many vintage books (this is from 1927) the language is delightfully dated. I’m also inordinately fond of decorated endsheets. Like these:

popover family endsheet

What I find particularly charming about the Popover Family is that fully half the family are improvised dolls. The mother and daughter are regular manufactured dolls; the mother is said to be “a little china doll” and the daughter is stated to be “a little girl doll” which might indicate she’s a bisque doll. But Father Popover and Baby Popover (whose long name is Loo-Loo) are improvised, that is, made of found or as is currently fashionable upcycled objects.

“Mr. Popover was a clothes-pin, tall and slim and brown. His head was small, but his legs were long, and of them he was very, very proud.”

“Baby Popover was a chubby glass bottle, smooth and long and round. He wore a little white cape and a white pointed cap tied over the cork that made his head. He lay in a little wooden cradle, as snug as could be, and he was never so good and quiet as when someone was rocking him to and fro.”

the popover family

As you can see from the above illustration, there are also fairies in this book. Only in one story but that story is rather atypical for a fairy story, involving a domestic crisis wherein the Fairy Queen’s baby won’t stop screaming unless she holds him so she can’t dance at the ball. Mother and Loo-Loo Popover come to the rescue, the crisis resolved and a jolly time is had by all.

There is a decided emphasis on the power of the imagination in books like these. As an example, look closely at their house.

popover family dollhouse

There are no internal doors, no stairs, and overall a general disregard for having things be in the same scale. So the imagination takes over and then anything, anything at all becomes possible. Tea parties with a feast of crumbs, midnight rides on a mouse named Brownie, and a baby who gets colic after his head came off in the bath and he filled up with water. And that is truly magical.

My copy of The Popover Family is battered and worn, the binding is loose, there are copious pencil marking on the text and it’s missing one of the four illustrations (the last, which I think might be of when Santa visits). I love it just the same.

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