Sonya Hartnett Review. The Boy and the Toy

Sonya Hartnett Review: The Boy and the Toy is Sonya Hartnett's first foray into the world of writing children's picture books. The illustration are by newcomer, Lucia Masciullo.

The Boy and the Toy tells the tale of a young boy who lives with his father, in what appears to be a lighthouse at the end of a long pier.

The boy's father is an inventor, and has invented a toy for his son. And not just any toy, the father has invented, 'the best toy in the world.'

The father, for reasons unknown, leaves the boy as he goes on a trip in his hot air balloon. The fantastical toy is left behind, to keep the boy company.

At first, the boy has great fun with the toy. He learns that the toy is clever and loves to share in all the energy sapping games that young boys delight in playing.

The boy is impressed and declares that the toy is indeed, the smartest toy in the world.

But then things start to go awry. The boy slowly becomes aware that his toy is a jealous toy. The toy begins to dump what it deems as rival toys into the ocean. In fact, any threat to the toy's domination of the boy's time is given the rough treatment.

The toy wants the boy's attention to be focused on it, and it alone.

The boy, of course, is a little concerned by these events. He formulates a clever plan to escape the close attention of the toy, and contact his father...

Sonya Hartnett Review cont...

The Boy and the Toy is a terrific picture book. The prose is deceptively simple, yet elegantly crafted and rich in its use of language. What I especially like, is that the author provides only snippets of information at times, and requires the reader to infer what is happening. Often, the illustrations provide missing clues.

A good example of this is on a gorgeous double page spread of the toy, late at night, dumping puzzle pieces out of a window, and into the ocean. The text states only, 'The toy did not sleep that night.'

The reader is required to infer that the toy is doing something quite wrong. However, nothing about the toy's behaviour, nor its state of mind, is explicitly stated in the text.

Instead, the detail and rationale of the toy's actions can be found in the context of what has previously occurred in the story, and what has yet to develop. It prompts the reader to use inference to speculate on the toy's behaviour. The scene creates tension and makes us wonder, what is the toy doing? Also, and perhaps more importantly, what is it going to do next?

Sonya Hartnett Review cont...

A highlight of the book are the images created by Lucia Masciullo. They perfectly complement the story. The illustrations are reminiscent at times of Shaun Tan's images in, The Lost Thing, particularly the odd little toy.

Recommended for children in the early years of school, ages 5-9.

The Boy and the Toy is published by Penguin Books.

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