Giving objects a personality and an imagined life has long been a part of play and great storytelling. Whether you have been reluctant to delve into an alternate perspective or you are circling back to a much loved style and subject, these much read classics make for thrilling reading. All the titles listed below can be obtained in book format, but have been selected from the OverDrive collection for reading and listening electronically.
Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Plastic sees animals like her friend Lumphy in the Little Girl’s books, but doesn’t see herself. What is she? Lumphy gets covered in peanut butter and hides from the Little Girl so he won’t get sent to Frank the washing machine. Stingray, who is dry clean only doesn’t get to go to the beach like Plastic, but they both have encounters in the water. The friends’ misadventures span six stories with the last an awakening to each’s potential.
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Written in 1968 this picture book classic features a not-so-new looking teddy bear who lives in a big department store and an African American girl who likes him just the way he is. When the little girl spots Corduroy while shopping with her mother, the two make an instant connection. Upon hearing that the little girl’s mother doesn’t wish to buy him because of his missing button, Corduroy plans to go look for one when the store closes. After an unsuccessful night, Corduroy wakes up to see his new friend has returned to buy him with her piggy bank money. The original illustrations smoothly transition in this video rendering of friendship at first glance.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery William
A stuffed rabbit becomes worn with much handling by the little boy. Although the rabbit is sometimes put aside for noisier toys it is the velveteen rabbit that the boy returns to for comfort. When the child becomes sick with Scarlet Fever the contaminated rabbit is put out to be burned. It is the rabbit’s transformation, one that was foretold by the Skin Horse, that saves it. Read aloud by award-winning actor Meryl Streep, this magical story of a gentle friend who becomes what his human companion believed him to be all along remains popular nearly one hundred years after its original publication.
The Scarecrow and His Servant by Philip Pullman
A bolt of lightning awakens Mr. Pandolfo’s turnip-headed, literally pea-brained scarecrow. It soon sets out for its destiny in Spring Valley, hiring the first person it encounters, a young orphan named Jack. On their journey the two run afoul of bandits, talking crows and the evil Buffalonis, a powerful family in an area through which they travel. Scarecrow falls in love with a broom, joins the army, and gets stranded on an island, his faithful companion, Jack at his side for every hilarious misadventure. Reminiscent of Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz series, The Scarecrow and His Servant is a new classic to love.
Adventures of Pinocchio by C. Collodi
First published as a book in 1883 the story follows a marionette puppet as it gets into one scrape after another. A poor carpenter carves a puppet out of enchanted wood so that he can make a living as a puppeteer, but even before it is completed the puppet treats the old man unkindly. Pinocchio runs away, lands the carpenter, Geppetto in trouble and heads off with money intended for his creator. A cat and a dog lead the puppet astray, eventually getting Geppetto’s gold coins. After more entanglements the puppet is reunited with Geppetto. Now contrite, Pinocchio takes care of the old man, eventually getting a magical reward from someone who has followed his many missteps. The Scarecrow and His Servant has many similarities with Pinocchio, including humor and, of course, its Italian setting. Like many 19th century fairy tales the original story is darker than later versions, including the 1940 Disney film, but it’s well worth a read by modern audiences.
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
eBook and eAudiobook
For nearly one hundred years the yellow-haired stuffed bear with a love for honey has appealed to adults and children alike. The kind but silly bear gets into scrapes but is the hero at times, too. Often smarter than his easy-going nature would have one believe, Pooh is a contrast to his much more curious, all-knowing, timid, business-like, or contrarian friends. Perhaps this is why Pooh remains so beloved.
The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
In this sequel to Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet and Pooh make a new home for Eeyore using sticks they find lying around. The sticks are in fact a house Eeyore made for himself. Piglet encounters the Heffalump again and a new character, Tigger, joins the friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. Pooh invents the game Pooh Sticks and he, Piglet and Rabbit get lost trying to teach Tigger a lesson. Each character is further fleshed out just as the end nears. Christopher Robin is growing up and spends less and less time at play. The friends throw Christopher Robin a party and present him with a poem, but it is Pooh who is with him for a final goodbye.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
eBook and eAudiobook
Written generations before Winnie-the-Pooh, this nonsense story also features a lighthearted main character, a human girl named Alice. Alice is dosing outdoors when she spots a rabbit run into a hole near a tree’s roots. Alice soon finds herself falling down the same hole for sometime, not particularly worried. Strange doors, her ever-changing size, excitable rabbits, hookah smoking caterpillars and a bizarre trial barely faze the little girl who only wants to be helpful. Created for the three daughters of Henry George Liddell, the then dean of Christ Church College, Oxford, during a picnic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland re-imagines the lives of not just animals and insects one would see at a picnic, but the lives of playing cards and make believe characters.
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
eBook and eAudiobook
Alice's adventures continue, following yet another nap. This time Alice enters the world beyond a wall-mounted mirror where chess pieces and the manifestations of two words, Tweedledum and Tweedledee come to life. Humpty Dumpty is found in the mirror world along with the nonsense tale of the Jabberwock, familiarly known as the poem, Jabberwocky. Quotable and wondrously imaginative, read or listen to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass separately or as one book.
The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin; illustrated by Brian Selznick
The Doll family has been in the human Palmer family for a hundred years. The Dolls, made of china, are kept by older sister Kate. New plastic dolls, the Funcrafts, are purchased for younger sister Nora. No one is happier than Annabelle Doll who was bored and looking for a new doll to share adventures with. Annabelle Doll and Tiffany Funcraft soon become fast friends with a knack for getting out of tight situations while remaining undetected by the human Palmers. The mystery over Auntie Sarah Doll’s long disappearance consumes the duo in this first book in a series.
The Runaway Dolls by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin; illustrated by Brian Selznick
This third book in the Doll and Funcraft saga introduces a new doll, Matilda May. Could she be the long lost baby doll that too big Baby Betsy was mistakenly swapped with? The Palmers are away for two weeks and no one can open the package that Tilly May is trapped in. Annabelle and Tiffany run away, their younger brother dolls following. They all become lost and wind up in a department store where they meet other dolls. Will they get back before the Palmers or get stuck in Permanent Doll State? The late actor Lynn Redgrave lends her considerable talent to the narration of both The Doll People and The Runaway Dolls. Also, The Runaway Dolls is the last book in the series illustrated by the phenomenal, Brian Selznick (illustrations in hard copy only).
Spell and Spindle by Michelle Schusterman; illustrated by Kathrin Honesta
Imagine if your spirit were swapped with that of a puppet. If you were the puppet, would you want your old body back? Chilling and atmospheric, Spell and Spindle will leave you on the edge of your seat as you meet the life-like marionette puppet, Penny, a resident of the Museum of Peculiar Crafts and the boy, Chance who touches Penny’s strings and hears her thoughts. Less sinister than Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz, Spell and Spindle is just creepy enough for seekers of thrilling page turners.