The Last Straw, by Margaret Baker, for Timeslip Tuesday


The Last Straw, by Margaret Baker, is a lovely little vintage (1971) time travel story.  It starts with a fire that engulfs the London home of the three siblings who are the main characters.  Rose, Guy, and Bell are saved by their quick thinking baby siter, but their parents, finding the house on fire when they get home, are injured trying to get in to save them.  With no handy relations to take the kids in while the parents are in hospital, the baby siter comes to the rescue again, arraigning for them to be paying guests at her parents small farm in the south west.  

It is winter, with little to do, but exploring up in the attic one day Bell is thrilled to find a dusty straw doll (she is grieving the loss of all her own dolls in the fire).  This is no ordinary doll--she is alive!  The kids take this in their stride remarkably well, accepting a talking straw doll without question.  Bell names her Poppy...and the adventures begin.

Talking is only the start of Poppy's magic.  She is a creature of an old harvest ritual, once made anew every year but now almost forgotten.  But she still has power, and she takes the children away from winter into summers years and years gone by.  Their first trip is to the farm as it was in World War II, the second to Victorian times, and though in the later there is some tension when Poppy is lost to them, there is never real danger.  The kids they meet in the past knew Poppy in their own times, and she took them on much wilder adventures, but this group of kids has only mild adventures.  But then they ask Poppy to take them to the future, and what they see dismays them badly.  

Does Poppy have enough of her old harvest magic still in her dusty straws to change what is to come?

I find that Baker doesn't quite hit emotional tension quite hard enough to be brilliant, sometimes coming close enough to be frustrating but not quite getting there.  That being said, I am enjoying working my through her books (though the ones that interest me most are hard to find.  I am annoyed that they did not come my way when I lived in the Bahamas as a child in the 1970s, with a small school library full of this sort of book).  But be that as it may, even at this point in life I found this one a pleasant summer-full read,  just what I needed in this past weekend's cold snap!


  1. Oh, this looks delightful. If I read only what my heart desired, I would only read vintage books!

    1. Truly vintage books are often (when they aren't horribly racist/classist/sexist) very soothing!

  2. I don't think I've come across this author but it is amazing the happy feeling that comes when I see that little Puffin on a book!

    1. I have a few of her books, including Castaway Christmas, which you would be welcome to borrow next time our paths cross!


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