Written and Illustrated by Mini Grey
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
That summer night, for the first time, the toys were left outside.
The plot in a nutshell: A group of toys shares a story
The toys, left outside for the first time, look up at the sky in wonder. To pass the time (and calm the toys who are frightened), the WonderDoll tells a story about a similar group of toys left outside who are visited by a spaceship. The spaceship beams the toys aboard and a space creature, called The Hoctopize, greets them. He is looking for Cuddles, his lost toy. The Hoctopize shows them a room filled with lost toys that he has collected during his search for Cuddles. The toys tell the Hoctopize that he needs to return all the lost toys and they help him do it. Then he cries, missing his Cuddles. The toys throw him a party to cheer him up and then they float back down to their home. WonderDoll stops telling the story because it’s dawn and they know they will be found soon. The other toys ask if the story has a happy ending and she says that The Hoctopize will find his Cuddles, in the last place it looks, because that’s where things always are.
Author/illustrator Mini Grey gives us a fun and quirky ‘story within a story’ featuring main characters who are toys who get to travel in outer space. I can’t imagine there are many kids who wouldn’t enjoy this concept. I love how Wonder Doll incorporates all the toys in her story and lists special qualities that she admires in each of them. On Ms. Grey’s website, you can print out space party hats like the ones the characters wear, which is really cute.
The illustrations telling the story cover most of the pages, with Wonder Doll and the listening toys providing commentary in the margins, so you can watch the progression of the toys as they go from afraid of their predicament to riveted by the story. As they wait to be rescued in the morning, Wonder Doll spies Cuddles sticking out from under a nearby bush and we see the Hoctopize beaming it up and hugging it close, bringing the promised happy ending and raising the question of what was real and what was fiction.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that a story, especially one that all your listeners can relate to, can make difficult time pass more quickly.