cover image The Hollyhock Wall

The Hollyhock Wall

Martin Waddell. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-902-7

Real and imaginary elements overlap in a confusing mishmash in Waddell's (Good Job, Little Bear) tale of a girl who starts a garden in a cooking pot. When the seeds Mary plants sprout into tiny trees, she adds a piece of blue ribbon to serve as a stream and builds a bridge out of matchsticks, then paints flowers on the outside of the pot to create a ""hollyhock wall."" Next she shapes a clay figure whom she names Tom. That night, explains the author in overblown prose, ""somehow, some strange how, something strange happened....""--the first of several such refrains. Suddenly Mary finds herself within her lush garden, where Tom is now a living, breathing boy. The plot straddles reality and unreality as Tom returns to clay, then later becomes human once again--with no apparent logic--and Mary comes and goes from the garden. Mavor's (The Way Home) inventive and fetching fabric-relief art provides a more compelling juxtaposition of the actual and the fanciful. Her intricate tableaux of appliqu , embroidery and soft sculpture incorporate live flowers and greenery, miniature objects and pieces of lace and ribbon to create a startlingly convincing three-dimensional effect. Yet even the artwork fails to orient readers on this bewildering outing. Ages 4-8. (June)