The Ticky-Tacky Doll


Written by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Harvey Stevenson

In The Ticky-Tacky Doll, Rylant tells us the story of a little girl, who like many of us and our students, are nervous to go to school for the first time. This little girl has a beloved doll that her Grandmama made for her from sewing scraps. The narrator explains, “It was ticky…because Grandmama had made it from sewing scraps. And it was tacky because pieces of cloth hung from it like soft bits of hair.”

The illustrative style in this text appears to be folk-like, much like the art of quilting and sewing. The pastel media is predominately from a blue-purple palette with accents of golds and reds. The illustrations support the text by providing additional information to the reader (as will be mentioned in the narrative below).
The little girl and her ticky-tacky doll are never too far apart, even a meal time.  Rylant’s poetically describes that the doll is “made from scratch like a buttermilk biscuit” which helps the reader understand the kind of home-made comfort this doll gives the little girl. At night, Rylant describes the girl and her doll sleeping underneath “quilts that reminded them of themselves.”  For the girl, perhaps it is because her grandmama presumably made her the quilt, and for the ticky-tack doll might quite literally be made of the same materials as the quilt  – the colors of the fabrics in the illustration reinforce this inference.

When is comes time for the little girl to begin going to school, she must part with her beloved ticky-tacky doll. To the little girl, leaving the ticky-tacky doll behind is comparable to leaving “her nose behind, or her two ears, or her eyes.”  I loved the following quote from Rylant about this event: “This is very sad, but it is the way of the world: When children go to school, toys are left behind.” Rylant really captures the essence of the child’s perspective. Using her typical convention of commas to create long, sentimental sentences, Rylant tells us of the despair this separation caused the little girl: “Her ticky-tacky doll was at home, watching out the window for her, and knowing this, the little girl had not use for food or numbers.”

The girl was not learning anything at school, and no one seem to know why…”But Grandmama knew….Grandmama had lived a long time and knew about loneliness and missing someone.” In the illustration that goes with this text, there is a small locket featured with the antiqued picture of an  young man inside. The reader senses that this is the person grandmama is missing so much, perhaps her husband who has passed away. Like a locket, which keeps a photograph protected, concealed, and close to someone’s heart, Grandmama devises a plan to help the little girl who is missing her doll so much by creating a miniature, pocket-sized ticky-tacky doll.  By keeping the little doll hidden deep in her backpack, the little girl could rest easy while at school just knowing it was there.


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