Keenly intelligent artwork teeters on the delicious borderline of scariness in a nighttime toy adventure.
A boy runs off the page. “That summer night, for the first time, the toys were left outside.” In the green grass lie seven small playthings. The sky darkens; stars emerge. The toys are quiet, then fretful and panicky—so WonderDoll tells a story. In it, a spaceship beams them all upward. How disconcerting! The alien “probably likes to eat pink felt!” speculates Pink Horse. “It might drool at the toys!” quivers Dinosaur. “Someone might get their stuffing probed!” worries Small Sheep. But the alien looks like a glove wearing pajamas—and it’s sobbing. Hoctopize the alien grieves its own lost snuggle object. The spaceship holds thousands of toys that Hoctopize has collected from gardens all over Earth, seeking its missing Cuddles. Tiny labels catalogue the stolen creatures’ origins (“Picnic Table, Front Lawn, 37 Spoon Drift, West Cutlery”). This tale has a heart of gold, while the art uses comic-book sensibility (horizontal and vertical panels; speech bubbles; ever-changing angles) and a savvy aesthetic to prevent any hint of saccharine. Does it matter whether the journey was WonderDoll’s invention? Blending edginess and childhood reality (the uniqueness of one’s own stuffed toy), this will satisfy many tastes.
A preschool sibling to Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday (2007). (Picture book. 4-7)