Friday, August 9, 2013

Pushing Back the Night

Mini Grey
The beauty of the stars. That's what the seven toys notice first. Their owner has left them outside overnight for the very first time in Toys in Space by Mini Grey. The awestruck playthings fall silent at the vision of the starry night above them. Then their fears set in. Only the WonderDoll's stories help to dispel their anxieties.

This is the ideal book to read just before a child's first overnight al fresco. Usually at about age eight, a child will want to try "camping"--putting a pup tent outside or stretching out a blanket and a sleeping bag and spending a night outdoors, usually with a friend or sibling. On the first and even the second try, he or she might come running back into the house and give up. At the very least, the child will come in to use the bathroom and grab a snack.

Toys in Space addresses those anxieties about being alone in the vastness of nature at night, through the voices of the stuffed Blue Rabbit, dinosaur and others. But the book also taps into that first taste of independence and the desire to embrace it. WonderDoll's stories help her listeners forget their fears, at least for long moments at a time. Her impulse to bolster their courage through tales of derring-do stretch back to ancient storytelling legends of how the world was made, and what causes day and night.

Mini Grey never gets too serious, of course; she taps into the humor of the dynamics between the toys. But she also authentically captures that natural impulse to tell stories as a way of getting through life's challenging moments.

Children will likely see the toys' conversation as an extension of their own rich imaginations and the ways in which they endow their toys with their own feelings and excitement. But adults will also recognize that Grey hooks into something much deeper here: a storytelling tradition that stretches back as far as humankind could communicate.

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