Normally, one would wonder what a stuffed Stingray, a stuffed buffalo, and an entity called "plastic" would have in common. But in the quite abnormal world of the Little Girl's house, StingRay, Lumphy, and Plastic have become best friends and exploring partners. Together they search the house, increase their vocabulary skills, and face dangers (neighborhood dogs, the terrifying washing machine) together. Emily Jenkins's charming story, ably illustrated by Caldecott Award winner Paul O. Zelinsky, will convince you that a toy box can contain truly magical mysteries.
As delightfully quirky as its subtitle, "Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic"), this buoyant chapter book relays the adventures (one per chapter) of a trio of toys. As the tale opens, Lumphy (a plush buffalo), StingRay (a stuffed fish) and Plastic (who, in a quasi-mystery plot thread, discovers that she is a rubber ball) thump along in a dark backpack. The three worry about where they might be headed ("The Girl doesn't love us and she's trying to get rid of us!")-perhaps to the vet (who will poke them "over and over with needles the size of carrots") or to the zoo (where they will have to live "each one in a separate cage")-only to find themselves at school as the Little Girl's show-and-tell. Their humorous dialogue may feel to readers much like eavesdropping on the playground (when Plastic says of dental floss, "Maybe it feels nice.... You never know until you try," Lumphy replies, "I know without trying"). The omniscient narrator also chimes in with wry comments (e.g., a description of StingRay, "who sometimes says she knows things when she doesn't"). Supporting characters include a "bumpity washing machine" named Frank, who serenades a fearful peanut-buttery Lumphy through the wash cycle, and kind TukTuk the towel who helps Plastic in his self-discovery. Zelinsky's half-tone illustrations depict the most dramatic moment in each episode from the toy's eye-view. Together, author and artist take an entertaining look at identity, friendship and belonging. Ages 7-11. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Elizabeth Young
A smart, whimsical collection of stories that capture the imagination and inspire creative thinking. Read about the adventures of Lumphy, StingRay, Plastic, TukTuk, and an assortment of special toys in the Little Girl's room. Their antics in and out of the house begin with a frightening jaunt in a dark backpack that smells like a wet bathing suit. As the readers, we are invited into the enchanted world of three close friends. Just because they are toys does not matter, nor should it. What happens among the toysstays among the toys! Real people are not privy to their escapades, unless one reads about them later. Relationships among the toys are like those between people; for example, StingRay becomes jealous of Plastic when she is not invited to the beach. StingRay exaggerates the dangers of the beach and water in an effort to frighten Plastic, and hide her jealousy. It is not just the toys that have spunk. Even the washer and dryer have a few tales to tell, and a wise old towel eases more than one inquisitive toy's mind. This book is not for everyone, readers need a sense of wonder and a child-like innocence to fully appreciate Jenkins' offering.
Children's Literature - Karen Leggett
What delightfully cozy, warm and humorous stories about three friends who happen to be toys. It is not unusual in children's stories for stuffed animals and other toys to come alive when the playroom is empty, but Stingray, Buffalo and Plastic have particularly endearing personalities and they repeatedly have to cope with frightening situations and events. In the very first sentence, we find all three toys in a backpack that is "dark and smells like a wet bathing suit." They discover they are being taken to school to be "shown and told." Buffalo meets Frank the washing machine when he gets himself covered with peanut butter, Sting Ray tries to float in the bathtub in spite of her "dry clean only" tag and Plastic (who is a ball) has an encounter with a "possible shark" (a dog). Whether the stories are read aloud at bedtime, story time, or in front of a class, children will want to visit with these friendly characters again and again. Their stories are touching but also filled with quiet lessons of coping, character, and friendship.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-In this utterly delightful peek into the secret lives of toys, three beloved playthings participate in a series of small adventures. StingRay is a plush stuffed animal who enjoys acting the know-it-all. Lumphy is a tough little buffalo who doesn't mind the occasional cuddle. And Plastic (whose physical appearance is kept mysterious for quite some time) is a sensible bouncy ball. They are the best friends of a little girl and they deal with the world around them in their own particular manner. From meditating on the scary unknown (washing machines) to understanding what makes an individual special, Jenkins gives readers an early chapter book with plenty of delightful insights, well-thought-out details, and loving affection for her characters. Here is a book bound to be a favorite with any child who has ever adored an inanimate object. Zelinsky's beautifully detailed black-and-white illustrations are a lovely addition to this very special book.-Elizabeth Bird, New York Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A little girl has three toys who are best friends: Stingray, a stuffed stingray who claims to know it all, Lumphy; a daring and curious stuffed buffalo; and Plastic, a bouncing, red toy who has yet to find out her true identity. The three toys love the little girl, and life in her bedroom is fine and-usually- predictable, but when the toys go out into the wide world outside, almost anything can happen. Six stories, accompanied by Zelinsky's lively black-and-white illustrations, tell of their escapades and discoveries, including an eventful trip to the beach, the development of an intimate knowledge of the washing machine, the pitfalls of sleeping atop the bed and an understanding of the importance of birthdays. A blend of Toy Story and the stories of Johnny Gruelle and A.A. Milne, this is a solid collection that will serve as a good read-aloud, as well as a nice choice for young readers, who will enjoy exploring the warm, secret world of toys. (Fiction. 6-10)
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
Read an Excerpt
In the Backpack, Where It Is Very Dark
The backpack is dark and smells like a wet bathing suit.
Waking up inside, Lumphy feels cramped and grumped. “I wish I had been asked,” he moans. “If I had been asked, I would have said I wasn’t going.”
“Shhh,” says StingRay, though she doesn’t like the dark backpack any more than Lumphy. “It’s not so bad if you don’t complain.”
“We weren’t told about this trip,” snorts Lumphy. “We were just packed in the night.”
“Why don’t you shut your buffalo mouth?” snaps StingRay. “Your buffalo mouth is far too whiny.”
There is a small nip on the end of her tail, and StingRay curls it away from Lumphy’s big square buffalo teeth.
Plastic usually hums when she is feeling nervous. “Um tum tum—um tum tum—tum—tiddle—tee,” she trills, to see if it will make the inside of the backpack seem any nicer.
“Don’t you know the words to that song?” asks Lumphy.
“There are no words. It’s a hum,” answers Plastic.
No one says anything for a while, after that.
“Does anyone know where we’re going in here?” wonders Lumphy.
Plastic does not.
StingRay doesn’t, either.
“My stomach is uncomfortable,” grumphs the buffalo. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
. . . . .
Buh-buh bump! It feels like the backpack is going down some stairs. Or maybe up some stairs.
Or maybe up something worse than stairs.
StingRay tries to think calming thoughts. She pictures the high bed with the fluffy pillows where she usually sleeps. She pictures the Little Girl with the blue barrette, who scratches where the ears would be if StingRay had ears. But none of these thoughts makes her feel calm.
“I hope we’re not going to the vet,” StingRay says, finally.
“What’s the vet?” asks Lumphy.
“The vet is a big human dressed in a white coat who puts animals in a contraption made from rubber bands, in order to see what is wrong with them,” answers StingRay, who sometimes says she knows things when she doesn’t. “Then he pokes them over and over
with needles the size of carrots,
and makes them drink nasty-tasting medicine,
and puts them in the bumpity washing machine to fix whatever’s broken.”
“If anyone needs to go to the vet, it’s the one-eared sheep,” says Plastic, remembering the oldest of the Little Girl’s toys. “And Sheep’s not even here. No, we can’t be going to the vet. We aren’t broken.”
“Speak for yourself,” snorts Lumphy, who feels even sicker than before at the thought of the bumpity washing machine.
. . . . .
Woosh. Woosh. The backpack begins to swing.
Back and forth. Back and forth.
Or maybe round and round.
“I hope we’re not going to the zoo,” moans StingRay.
“They’ll put us in cages with no one to talk to. Each one in a separate cage,
and we’ll have to woosh back and forth all day,
and do tricks on giant swings,
with people throwing quarters at our faces,
“I don’t think we’re big enough for the zoo,” Plastic says hopefully. “I’m pretty sure they’re only interested in very large animals over there.”
“I’m large,” says Lumphy.
“She means really, really, very large,” says StingRay. “At the zoo they have stingrays the size of choo-choo trains;
and plastics the size of swimming pools.
Zoo buffaloes would never fit in a backpack.
They eat backpacks for lunch, those buffaloes.”
“Is that true?” asks Lumphy, but nobody answers him.
. . . . .
Plunk! The backpack is thrown onto the ground.
Or maybe into a trash can.
Or onto a garbage truck.
“We might be going to the dump!” cries StingRay. “We’ll be tossed in a pile of old green beans,
and sour milk cartons,
because the Little Girl doesn’t love us anymore,
and it will be icy cold all the time,
and full of garbage-eating sharks,
and it will smell like throw-up.”
“I don’t think so,” soothes Plastic.
“I’ll be forced to sleep on a slimy bit of used paper baggie, instead of on the big high bed with the fluffy pillows!” continues StingRay.
There is a noise outside the backpack. Not a big noise, but a rumbly one. “Did you hear that?” asks StingRay. “I think it is the X-ray machine. The vet is going to X-ray us one by one
and look into our insides with an enormous magnifying glass,
and then poke us with the giant carrot!”
“I’m sure it’s not an X-ray,” says Plastic calmly, although she isn’t sure at all. “An X-ray would be squeakier.”
“Then I think it is a lion,” cries StingRay. “A lion at the zoo who does not want to be on display with any small creatures like you and me.
A lion who doesn’t like sharing her swing set,
and wants all the quarters for herself.
She is roaring because she hasn’t had any lunch yet,
and her favorite food is stingrays.”
“A lion would be fiercer,” says Plastic, a bit un- certainly. “It would sound hungrier, I bet.”
“Maybe it is a giant buffalo,” suggests Lumphy.
“Maybe it is a dump truck!” squeals StingRay. “A big orange dump truck tipping out piles of rotten groceries on top of us,
and trapping us with the garbage-eating sharks
and the throw-up smell!”
“Wouldn’t a dump truck be louder?” asks Plastic, though she is starting to think StingRay might have a point. “I’m sure it’s not a dump truck.”
. . . . .
The backpack thumps down again with a bang. “I would like to be warned,” moans Lumphy. “Sudden bumps make everything worse than it already is.”
“The Girl doesn’t love us and she’s trying to get rid of us!” cries StingRay in a panic.
The backpack opens. The rumbly noise gets louder, and the light is very bright—so bright that StingRay, Plastic, and Lumphy have to squinch up their eyes and take deep breaths before they can see where they are. A pair of warm arms takes them all out of the dark, wet-bathing-suit smell together.
The three toys look around. There are small chairs, a sunny window, and a circle of fidgety faces.
It is not the vet.
It is not the zoo.
It is not the dump. (They are pretty sure.)
But where is it?
The rumbly noise surges up. A grown-up asks everyone to Please Be Quiet Now. And then comes a familiar voice.
“These are my best friends,” says the Little Girl who owns the backpack and sleeps in the high bed with the fluffy pillows. “My best friends in the world. That’s why I brought them to show-and-tell.”
“Welcome,” says the teacher.
Sticky, unfamiliar fingers pat Lumphy’s head and StingRay’s plush tail.
Plastic is held up for all to admire. “We are here to be shown and told,” she whispers to StingRay and Lumphy, feeling quite bouncy as she looks around at the schoolroom. “Not to be thrown away or put under the X-ray machine!”
The teacher says Lumphy looks a lot like a real buffalo. (Lumphy wonders what the teacher means by “real,” but he is too happy to worry much about it.)
“We’re special!” whispers StingRay. “We’re her best friends!”
“I knew it would be something nice,” says Plastic.
. . . . .
Funny, but the ride home is not so uncomfortable. The smell is still there, but the backpack seems rather cozy. Plastic has herself a nap.
StingRay isn’t worried about vets and zoos and gar-bage dumps anymore; she curls herself into a ball by Lumphy’s buffalo stomach. “The Little Girl loves us,” she tells him. “I knew it all along, really. I just didn’t want to say.”
Lumphy licks StingRay’s head once, and settles down to wait. When he knows where he is going, traveling isn’t so bad. And right now, he is going home.
From the Hardcover edition.
What People are saying about this
From the Publisher
“Utterly delightful . . . bound to be a favorite with any child who has ever adored an inanimate object.”—School Library Journal, Starred
“An entertaining look at identity, friendship, and belonging.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred