A cloth “teddy rabbit” and his beloved boy rescue one another from a toy clown gone bad.
Loading his latest plushy epic with precious observations—“In the realm of toys being favorited was a special distinction. It was as yum as it got”—and pop-culture references, Joyce pits 6 ½–year-old Billy and his homemade companion Ollie against Zozo, a wooden carnival clown whose love for a ballerina doll named Nina has, after years of separation and physical neglect, transmogrified into hatred for all toys that are beloved of humans. When Zozo’s army of Creeps (“stunted, scroungy creatures” made from bits of trash) “toynap” Ollie, Billy sets out with his lightsaber and some snacks to rescue him. When the Creeps capture the little white boy, though, the roles reverse. With a band of recruits and inspired by a broken typewriter’s “Damn t e torpedoes, full speed a ead,” Ollie returns to subterranean Dark Carnival Place for a brisk dust-up with the baddies. The narrative is printed on artificially age-stained paper and punctuated with large illustrations—of toys loved to shabbiness and genuinely sinister adversaries—that add golden-toned atmosphere to the “huge a-venture.” In the end, the message is no different from countless of its sentimental ilk: “It didn’t matter if something was pretend or real; if it was remembered, then it was true.”
Velveteen Rabbit and Toy Story meet Phantom of the Opera. For better or worse. (Fantasy. 10-13)