From the Publisher
Praise for the Toys trilogy:
"This charming book makes ideal bedtime reading." —The Wall Street Journal
“A sure hit for reading aloud and a classic in the making.” —The San Francisco Chronicle
"Jenkins deftly penetrates the natural anxieties of childhood—the phobias, the insecurities, the self-doubts—without playing them down." —The New York Times Book Review
“Has the nostalgic feel of a children’s book from an earlier time—part Winnie the Pooh, part Hitty and part bedtime book. A perfect selection for family read-alouds.” —Bookpage
“A blend of Toy Story and the stories of Jonny Gruelle and A.A. Milne. Young readers will enjoy exploring the warm, secret world of toys.” —Kirkus Reviews
“There’s a heavy fragrance of A.A. Milne to the narrative, not just in concept but in style and in details such as Plastic’s fondness for Pooh-like “hums,” but the book has a cuddly sturdiness all its own.” —The Bulletin
"A timeless story of adventure and friendship to treasure aloud or independently. Wholly satisfying, this may well leave readers expecting to see the Velveteen Rabbit peeking in the bedroom window and smiling approvingly." —Booklist, Starred
"An utterly delightful peek into the secret lives of toys. Here is a book bound to be a favorite with any child who has ever adored an inanimate object." —School Library Journal, Starred
“You’ll love Lumphy, and StingRay, and Plastic. You'll laugh over their choice of birthday presents and hold your breath over Plastic’s encounter with the Possible Shark. Most of all, you'll never forget these three. I know I won’t.” —Patricia Reilly Giff, two-time Newbery Honor-winning author
Children's Literature - Leigh Geiger
When StingRay, a new plush toy, arrives in a box, just a little late for The Girl's birthday, he needs to learn to get along with all of her other toys. This may sound like the age-worn anthropomorphic tale of toys that come alive at night, but this is not like any other children's story you've ever read. StingRay deals with the usual problems will The Girl like me as much as the other toys? Will the other toys like me? But Jenkins quickly moves on to much more existential issues. StingRay learns that not all of the objects are "alive" only some toys and some bath towels are capable of conversation, others will never rise to this level. After The Girls throws up all over her favorite, but insufferable stuffed walrus, the toy is put in the washing machine with a towel named TukTuk. It is TukTuk who explains that, after coming out of the dryer, "it was n5othing but fluff and scraps. They threw what was left of him in the trash...but he was gone long before it happened." Jenkins doesn't dwell on the death of a favorite toy and she has made him a fairly unsympathetic character so this will not be traumatic for most young children. The story moves on quickly as the author is more interested in entertaining the concept of existence. The new toy, Plastic, who arrives for The Girl's next birthday asks "Why are we here? In this town, on this planet?" StingRay and friends struggle to answer this question, and eventually come up with a very emotionally satisfying answer. Reviewer: Leigh Geiger, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—In this follow-up to Toys Go Out (2006) and Toy Dance Party (2008, both Random), readers discover how the toys came to live with the Girl. StingRay arrives as a birthday gift and soon after meets Bobby Dot, a disagreeable stuffed walrus that makes her feel unwelcome. When the Girl becomes ill and vomits on him, Bobby Dot is thoroughly disgusted while StingRay feels it would be an honor to be "puked on" by the Girl. (The author devotes a whole chapter to this episode titled, "You Can Puke on Me.") An attempt to channel a common childhood anxiety about the dark through the toys may have adults answering some questions. StingRay loses her way in the dark (basement) and hears a scary rumbling noise (the clothes dryer); she imagines ghosts that "eat marine animals" or take them and make them slaves or an "axe murderer" who jumps around chopping things. The demise of the unpleasant Bobby Dot (he is accidently shredded in the dryer after the vomit incident) is taken in stride by most of the toys in the Girl's room, but StingRay is thoughtful about how quickly a life can be over. How Sheep came to lose her ear and the arrival of Lumphy and Plastic are also addressed in this story that shines with a message about the value of friendship.—D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH
Read an Excerpt
In Which There Is Nowhere Nice to Sleep
StingRay has missed the birthday party.
She didn’t mean to. It was her first party, first party ever in the world to be invited to—and she missed it.
She didn’t even know she was missing it. She didn’t know anything about the party until now, when it is already over.
She can tell the people are disappointed in her.
Here is what happened:
StingRay woke up. She had never been awake before, but she could hear a scissor scoring the top of a cardboard box above her head. A box from a toy company. StingRay was squashed in that box, inside yet another box wrapped in shiny blue paper and tied with pink ribbon. She woke with a feeling that she’d been waiting, asleep, for a very long time.
She dreamed while she slept: the same dream over and over, about a wooden crate filled with other plush stingrays, packed with flippers touching flippers, tummies touching tails.
It was a mellow, cozy dream. The stingrays were still. The sounds were muffled.
A dream of something like a family, StingRay thinks.
Though she isn’t entirely sure what a family is.
The word just came to her and she used it, inside her head.
I am an intelligent stingray, she thinks to herself. To just have a word come to me and to know it’s the right word. In fact, now that I consider it, I know a lot of things! For instance,
I know that I’m a stingray,
and that a stingray is an extra-special kind of fish,
and that blue is the very best color anything can possibly be,
and that people are people,
and kids are baby people,
and that a kid would probably like to play with me someday.
I know all this stuff without being told. It’s practically like magic, the knowledge I have. I hope the rest of the world isn’t too jealous of me.
The scissor scores the cardboard, and the wrapping is ripped off. Now StingRay comes out of her crispy nest of tissue paper and is pulled into the bright light of what she knows, just knows somehow, is a kitchen. White cabinets. A jar of spoons and spatulas. Finger paintings stuck to the fridge with magnets.
A kid smiles down at her.
StingRay smiles back.
“She likes me!” says the Girl. “She smiled at me!”
“That’s a nice pretend.”
“I’m not pretending. She really did smile,” the Girl insists.
The mommy kisses the Girl on her head. “Sorry it didn’t come in time for your party. There was a shipping delay, Grandpa said when he called.”
(A party? thinks StingRay. Was there a party?)
“Still, today is your actual birthday,” the mommy goes on. “The day you were born. So it’s nice to have a present on this day as well, isn’t it?”
(I missed a party! thinks StingRay. A party I was supposed to go to!)
“Her name is StingRay,” the Girl announces.
“Oh?” The mommy crinkles her nose. “Don’t you want to call her a real name? Like Sophia or Samantha?”
“Or maybe an animal name, like you gave Bobby Dot?”
(Who is Bobby Dot? wonders StingRay.)
“You could call her Sweetie Pie,” continues the mommy. “Or Sugar Puff. How about Sugar Puff, hmm?”
“Just StingRay,” says the Girl. “I like StingRay.”
. . . . .
Upstairs, the Girl’s bedroom has a high bed with fluffy pillows and a soft patchwork quilt. Atop the windowsill is a collection of birthday cards from her friends. There are shelves filled with books and games, puzzles and art supplies. A large ash–blue rocking horse resides in the corner. On the bed lie a plump stuffed walrus and a woolly sheep on wheels.
The sheep looks old.
Under the bookcase, StingRay can see several sets of tiny, sparkling eyes. She can feel them watching her. She can feel the eyes of the walrus, the sheep, and the rocking horse, too. But none of them is moving.
StingRay doesn’t move, either.
The house feels big. Too big.
There don’t seem to be any other stingrays here with whom to nestle. She longs for the comfort of her cozy dream.
The Girl sets StingRay on a low shelf and trots out of the room. She has a playdate.
When the family bangs the front door behind them and the toys can hear the rumble of the car starting in the driveway, the walrus galumphs himself to the edge of the bed, then hurls himself off. He executes a spectacular flip with a twist—and lands right side up.