Racketty-Packetty House was in a corner of Cynthia’s nursery. And it was not in the best corner either. It was in the corner behind the door, and that was not at all a fashionable neighborhood. Racketty-Packetty House had been pushed there to be out of the way when Tidy Castle had been brought in, on Cynthia’s birthday. As soon as she saw Tidy Castle Cynthia did not care for Racketty-Packetty House and indeed was quite ashamed of it. She thought the corner behind the door was quite good enough for such a shabby old doll’s house, where there was the beautiful new one built like a castle and furnished with the most elegant chairs and tables and carpets and curtains and ornaments and pictures and beds and baths and lamps and book-cases, and with a knocker on the front door, and a stable with a pony cart in it at the back.
Queen Crosspatch is the fairy in charge of Cynthia’s bedroom, the tiny unseen witness to an enormous injustice in the dollhouse world. For, the laughing, loving, kindhearted members of the Racketty-Packetty household are being scorned and shamefully neglected, while the haughty, sharp-tongued gentry in Tidy Castle are doted on.
The fairy queen tells us this tale in order to unveil the secret world of fairies, and their hidden workings on behalf of agreeable persons. “If you are conceited or ill-tempered yourself, you will never know a Fairy as long as you live,” she explains, in response to a public who is apparently skeptical of the fairies’ existence.
And the Racketty-Packetty crew do need rescuing. Aside from the shabbier and shabbier appearance of the house and each of the dolls, and despite the fact that goodnatured Peter Piper has managed to win the heart of the lovely Lady Gwendolen, plans are in place to burn — yes, burn! — Racketty-Packetty and all its contents! A true princess is coming to visit, and Cynthia wishes to rid her room of that embarrassing eyesore in the corner! Can Queen Crosspatch and her band of fairies save them from this impending doom?!
This short story by the author of A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, was written in 1906 as part of a collection of tales about the Fairy Queen. It was republished on its 100th anniversary with charming new illustrations by Wendy Anderson Halperin. It’s an old fashioned story, with the quaint, story-teller voice strongly present. The antics of the comfy, homely dolls have a bit of slapstick to them, and antiquated items such as antimacassars and mustard plasters appear. Yet the same themes of class division, injustice, authenticity, and love reaching across barriers that we find everywhere from Jane Austen to The Help
emerge in this wisp of a story, and children feel these things deeply.
Halperin’s illustrations are sweet and whimsical, exactly as they should be. Predominantly, there are small cameos of the dolls, the furnishings, the fairy activities, done in detailed pencil and tinted in rose. There are a number of full page illustrations as well which exude charm and playful delight.
Definitely not for everyone, but for little girls who love imaginations with dolls and tiny folk, this is a pleasant story. Read it aloud to ages 5 and up.
Here’s the Amazon link: The Racketty-Packetty House: 100th Anniversary Edition