The boy and the toy by Sonya Hartnett

cover image

Ill. by Lucia Masciullo. Penguin Viking, 2010. ISBN 978 0670073627.
Picture book. Highly recommended. While his father goes away on business, the boy is left with one of father's inventions, a small robotic toy to keep him company. But father tells the boy that if he is needed then to send a message with the seagull. The boy and his toy do all sorts of things together, swimming, diving, running, playing hide and seek and playing puzzles. Impressed with the toy's cleverness he spends the day making an even better puzzle for the toy. But the toy, cross at losing the boy's attention, pushes the pieces out of the window. Over the next few days the toy tries to maintain the boy's interest, but fails as he brings out other toys to play with. Perplexed with the toy, the boy builds a replica of himself for the toy to play with while he summons his father.
A delightful story about friendship and companionship, Hartnett uses a wide range of words to tell the tale. Children will delight in the toy and what it can do, and respond eagerly to the implied questions of what makes a good friend or companion and how a friend should behave. Stories about the best toy in the world will be forthcoming from the absorbed audience.
The quirky illustrations by Lucia Masciullo are just wonderful. Colourful and mischievous, they draw in the reader to look at the array of inventions, toys and gizmos in the background of each page. The speech bubbles above the toy would be well used by an astute teacher or parent in asking what words could be in the bubble, so developing further the idea of what makes a good friend. There are a number of pages that particularly drew my attention. The endpapers are just wonderful with the boy on the sand with the seagull at the start, then playing with the dog at the end; the double page of dad and the boy in father's inventing room is fabulous with its array of things to look at, as is the double page spread with the boy making up his replica, while pages near the end with the boy and his father running down the spiral staircase is full of movement and warmth and resolution.
Fran Knight