From The Velveteen Rabbit to Toy Story, tales about the secret lives of toys have enchanted kids for years. There’s just something magical about getting to see what’s really going on in the mind of your favorite stuffed animal during playtime or when his or her owner is away.
Here are a few new and more obscure stories about toys – told expertly through innovative picture and audio books.
Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue
When Benjamin Middlemouse, a toy mouse who lives in the wooden wardrobe of a boy’s bedroom, learns that his mother has gone missing, he teams up with his friend Bumper, a toy elephant who lives on the boy’s bed, and embarks on a rescue mission. Their journey takes them to far-away places in the kitchen and the pantry where they encounter many other toy animals – but not Benjamin’s mother.
But when Benjamin and Bumper venture into the garden, they learn that Benjamin’s mother has been kidnapped by the odious stuffed cat Sir Pouncelot – and is due to become the cat’s next meal! Can a toy mouse and elephant find a way to save the captive mouse before dinnertime?
A charming picture book done in the spirit of other toy animal stories like Winnie the Pooh or The Mouse and his Son, Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue uses actual photographs of stuffed animals and miniature diorama sets to create the whimsical scenes in the story. This enables photographer Olivier Toppin to create some wonderful laugh-out-loud photos of Benjamin and Bumper riding a scooter or constructing elaborate gadgets out of ropes, spools, and cans to rescue Benjamin’s mother.
The storybook does get a little too precious near the end as author Molly Coxe tries a bit too hard to ensure that all the characters get a happy ending – yet overall the book succeeds in introducing (and re-introducing) children and adults to the old-fashioned stories kids used to enjoy in the Raggedy Ann and Andy books or Gumby TV show.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane: Listening Library Audio Book
Once upon a time there was a china rabbit named Edward Tulane who belonged to a child named Abilene. Although Abilene loved Edward very much, Edward did not love Abilene – or anyone else for that matter – as he was too caught up with his own splendid appearance.
Then, one day, during a sea voyage, Edward is lost and spends the next several years in the hands of many different owners – from a fisherman’s family, to a hobo and his dog, to a sick child, to a street performer. With each new owner, Edward learns to open his heart even as his appearance grows older and frailer. Yet as cruel twists of fate continue to separate him from those he loves, Edward grows sad – and wonders if loving his owners is worth the pain of losing them.
Read by Tony Award-winning Broadway actress Judith Ivey, this unabridged audio book of Kate Di Camillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a fantastic piece of oral storytelling. Ivey narrates the book in a warm and soothing tone that’s frequently punctuated with several wonderful character voices, ranging from a mysterious old grandmother, to a craggy fisherman, to a lonely hobo.
For a less accomplished actor, coming up with voices for such a wide variety of characters could lead to repetitive performances. Yet, Ivey’s voice is so flexible that it’s easy to accept her as a boy, old woman, or toy rabbit — while the overall fluidity of her reading makes the transitions into and out of these different characters smooth and effortless. The result is an audio book that’s very easy for kids to get caught up in – all the way from its whimsical beginning to its poignant end.
At only one hour and fifty-six minutes (two audio book CDs) long, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is very short compared to other audio books for young readers, which can run up to six hours or more. As such, it makes an excellent bedtime story for kids in the mood for a fairy tale that seems tailor-made for reading aloud.