Virtual Children's Books Exhibits


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On the Boardwalk


11.  Bertha Upton.
Florence K. Upton, illustrator.
The Golliwogg at the Sea-side.
London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1908.

When the excellent rail service of late Victorian England made it easy to get away for a day or an extended period, children's books began depicting the pleasures of a holiday at the beach.The Uptons poked gentle fun at day tripping in this picture book about the excursion the Golliwogg organized for his friends the Dutch dolls, Sarah Jane, Peg, Meg, Weg, and Midget.

The girls (as they are known) drive the poor Golliwog crazy by taking so long to pack that the group nearly misses the train to Sandyville-by-the-Sea. Standing on the shore in their new bathing costumes, the girls are secretly terrified of going into the cold water. Once they get over the fear of being tumbled by the waves, it's so much fun splashing around that they stay out too long and get sunburned.

A mother/daughter team of collaborators, Florence (1873-1922) drew the pictures and her mother Bertha (1849-1912) wrote the story in doggerel verse around them. The Uptons' thirteen books about the globe-trotting dolls were issued between 1895 and 1909, around the same time Beatrix Potter was producing her little books. Wildly popular for some decades, public librarians began weeding the Uptons from collections in the early 1930s because the Golliwogg perpetuated an offensive racial stereotype of the black minstrel. There's a very thought-provoking history of this particular character on-line at Ferris State University.