Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, May 9, 2013

From The Night Sky

Growing up those treasured friends that never left our side, one special toy, will always have a place in our memories.  Thin and threadbare but loved Loula, my sock monkey, shared many of my adventures.  She was a good listener when I read her stories, gave me courage during thunderstorms and only let good dreams visit me each night.

For the most part toys are kept close at hand; where we go, they go.  Usually they have a designated area in bedrooms.  Sometimes a distraction, when you or they least expect it, can cause them to be left behind.   Toys in Space (A Jonathan Cape Book, an imprint of Random House Children's Books) (Knopf Books for Young Readers, May 14, 2013 in the United States), the newest title by author/illustrator Mini Grey, living in Oxford, UK,  follows seven companions on an adventure out of this world.

That summer night 
for the first time
the toys were left outside.

As dusk turns to darkness the toys are silenced by the never-seen-before starry sky.  In fact there are seven individual responses to this splendor from awe to fear.  When Blue Rabbit voices a request for someone to tell a story, WonderDoll (already realizing this night is going to be a challenge), begins a tale.  Her story is the book readers hold in their hands.

After introducing each of the characters, stating they have been left out for the night, she continues with one of the stars coming closer and closer and closer.  It most certainly is not a star but a spaceship.  Before this realization can register, a ray of light from a hole in the spaceship lifts them inside.

From an open door, an alien named Hoctopize walks up to the toys.  Red-eyed from crying, this glove- shaped creature clothed in PJs, tells his sad story.  It seems it has lost a toy.

Hoctopize is missing Cuddles.  In an effort to locate Cuddles it has been beaming up all the toys left in gardens overnight storing them in the Room of a Thousand Lost Toys.  The seven are shocked.

Diplomacy, parachutes and a party set things right.  WonderDoll's words send the adventurers homeward, balloons and cake tightly clasped in their hands as the new day dawns.  What of Cuddles you ask?  Is that the sound of the Beam-O-Tron?

Mini Grey knows how to tell a story.  With an economy of carefully selected words, each of the seven toy's personalities is revealed as WonderDoll entertains them through the night.  It is their comments and questions that propel the narrative.  The blending of the two provides for a humorous, action-filled escapade.

Grey sets the stage for the story with her two title pages; the first acquainting the reader with the toys on a circle of blue with stars surrounded in black, the second, a two-page spread, shows the boy playing with them on a blanket of blue with stars.  Garden garb and a trowel supply clues as to the green shadows and bushes around them.  A vibrant color palette is used throughout for all the illustrations shifting with the time of day and, of course, inside the spaceship.

Size of the visuals, layout and design reflects a comic book style; different frame sizes inserted in a larger picture indicating the the mix of the story within the story.  Various fonts are assigned to each of the toy's words within speech bubbles.  Pertinent details add to the illustrations' attraction; the lost posters for Cuddles in the spaceship, the sleep-o-meter for the gathered toys in the shelf-filled room onboard , and the tags attached to all the toys signifying where they have been found. Grey's mixed media pictures are full of life and laughter; the facial expressions on all the characters, especially the eyes, conveying loads of  emotion.

What's not to like about a story of toys getting beamed into a spaceship when they're left in the garden at night?  Toys in Space written by Mini Grey with wit and wonder depicts the power of storytelling and friendship.  This title has lots of possibilities for story stretchers; having children bring in their toys writing dialogue for them, listing places toys have been left and found, describing a favorite alien and its clothing or a new ending to this book.

Please follow the link embedded in Mini Grey's name to visit her website.  Six pages from the beginning of the book are shown there.  Follow this link to an interview at Playing By The Book for more information about Mini Grey and her work.  It also contains links to other wonderful interviews.



  1. Yay! We LOVE Mini Grey at our house. Now off to get ourselves a copy of her new book! Thanks for spreading the word!

  2. Glad to read that you share the Mini Grey love. I think this is one of my favorites. You're welcome, Laura. Thanks for visiting.

  3. I've got to get this one for my library! Thanks for the review.

  4. You're very welcome, Sara. I think you and your students will love it! I really enjoy Mini Grey's humor in both her words and pictures.