All Aboard the Toyland Express!

Lost and Found

If you find a pink rubber Cadillac about the length of a thumb, missing the right front wheel, will you let me know? I lost it about twenty-seven years ago when I brought it on a school field trip. If you don't find it, that's okay, I've almost gotten over it. After all, children constantly deal with lost and found: teeth fall out, growth is so intense that it can be measured monthly in pencil marks along the molding of a doorway, teachers come and go with the passing of every year. Mix in friends that move away, siblings arriving as suddenly as UPS packages, deaths of grandparents or pets and the marital relations of parents…really, it's a bit much, when you think about it.

Enter toys. Toys don't move away or grow away, and so can be depended upon for comfort in the face of the life's many mutations. In this way, toys are very much like books in that they provide a necessary and expansive chance to escape into imagination unalone. I suppose "unalone" isn't really a word, but in the case of toys and books, it ought to be. In books, it is through authors that children find themselves unalone; through toys, children find friendship, and often worlds of their own invention. Indeed, toys and books are marks of a privileged and happy childhood. When toys are lost and found in children's literature, we find some of the genre's most evocative and successful work. A.A. Milne's classic The House at Pooh Corner ends with the foreshadowing of the putting away of childish things:

"Pooh," said Christopher Robin quite earnestly, "If I…if I'm not quite…" he stopped and tried again. "Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won't you?"

In When I Was Your Age: Original Stories About Growing Up, Mary Pope Osborne generously and candidly describes her great childhood love affair with "All-Ball," a bouncing bon ami whose presence helps the author navigate through the weeks before her father leaves to fight in the Korean War. And Johnny Gruelle actually channeled the grief of the real life loss of his thirteen-year-old daughter Marcella to create the beloved Raggedy Ann series, thereby keeping her memory very much alive.

Merrily, many toys in books are as much about finding as losing. Shirley Hughes' Dogger is recovered at a garage sale to the reader's relief, and in Johanna Hurwitz's Russell and Elisa, a doll named "Airmail" survives an inadvertent sleepover at the public library. The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by Ursula Moray Williams features an unassuming hero made brave through his unconditional love for his maker. After traveling the world, he reassuringly returns home again. The reunion that concludes Margery Williams' Velveteen Rabbit ending is more bittersweet, "…he never knew that it was really his own Bunny, come back to look at the child who had first helped him to be real." Such books suggest the power to love makes us more valiant than the changes and challenges we face, and the security that comes from this lesson is never lost on children.

Meet these toyland friends through books!

Home Before Dark by Ian Beck
Clown by Quentin Blake
The Littlest Matryoshka by Corrine Demas Bliss
The Best-Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill
Kingfisher Book of Toy Stories edited by Laura Cecil
Where Are You, Blue Kangaroo? by Emma Chichester Clark
Tatty Ratty by Helen Cooper
Slim and Jim by Richard Egielski (yo-yos!)
I Lost My Bear by Jules Feiffer
Corduroy by Don Freeman
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
The Banging Book by Bill Grossman
Marcella: A Raggedy Ann Story by Johnny Gruelle
What Shall We Play? by Sue Heap
Old Bear Stories by Jane Hissey
The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban (chapter book)
Dogger by Shirley Hughes
Tidy Titch by Pat Hutchins
Rocking Horse Land by Naomi Lewis
The Doll People by Ann Martin (chapter book)
Dahlia by Barbara McClintock
The Teddy Bear by David McPhail
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne (chapter book)
Legend of the Teddy Bear by Frank Murphy
The Dollhouse Caper by Jean S. O'Connell (chapter book, boys and dolls!)
The Magic Nesting Doll by Jacqueline K. Ogburn
Baba Yaga and the Wise Doll by Hiawyn Oram
The Line-Up Book by Marisabina Russo.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear by Steve Scott
A is for Annabelle: A Doll's Alphabet by Tasha Tudor
Small by Clara Vulliamy
The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh (chapter book)
Rachel Field's Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, illustrated by Rosemary Wells
Galimoto by Karen Lyn Williams
The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjorie Williams
The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by Ursula Moray Williams (chapter book)
Mudpies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls by Marjorie Winslow
The Red Racer by Audrey Wood
William's Doll by Charlotte Zolotow (great musical version on the audio Free to Be, You and Me with Marlo Thomas)

Oh, You Beautiful Doll!

There are plenty of plush pals available through the Merry Hearts catalog, 1-800-675-1766. More stuffed toy tie-ins are waiting in the Demco Reading Enrichment catalog, 1-800-356-1200. Your favorite book characters will be found in ready-to-cuddle format, and these are also great as gifts for libraries or classrooms.

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"Lost and Found" reprinted from Five Owls Magazine. All rights reserved by the author.

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