Monday, November 10, 2008
Too Many Toys by David Shannon - review
Too Many Toys by David Shannon
You definitely get the feeling that David Shannon wrote this one because he wanted to draw a lot of toys. Toys like a friendly-looking pink pig with round specs. A blue octopus with a purple bowler hat. SOMETHING with extremely hairy feet and only three toes per. Davey Crockett. A suspiciously Linux-y penguin. The Mach 5, a squadron of biplanes, a striped rubber ball, a gooseneck lamp with a face on it... spaceships, LEGOs, racecars, and nearly buried in the middle of it all, a happy kid named Spencer with an astronaut helmet and sliding-off socks.
And that's just the first page - there's more!
Every page, in fact, is jammed with dozens of toys - colorful, fun-looking, sometimes familiar toys. I saw a Scuba Steve, and Fergus, a Dumbledore action ficture, Bigfoot, a troll doll with a pencil up its butt, an old-style Cootie, Mike Mulligan's steam shovel Marianne, and that damn popcorn-popper thing with two wheels and a stick. I thought we'd never get that thing out of our house.
There are also toys I've never seen before, toys that, I'll admit... I now want. I want the three-eyed lion thing with the clown nose, the pointy teeth, and the protruding tongue. I want the one-footed, one-eyed green alien honker in the hula skirt. I want the flying saucer inscribed with real alien characters.
In fact, I appear to have the same problem that Spencer does. He LOVES this stuff, and the toys have taken over the house. If I squint my eyes and think real hard, I can maaaybe identify with Spencer's house. If I bought every plastic bin from every Target in the country, it would not be enough plastic bins to contain the toys in our house.
And you know, what I like best about Too Many Toys (besides David Shannon's superb paint handling and candy-colored palette), is that it's just a story about getting rid of some of the toys. It's not judgemental. Spencer's family is a happy, fun family. His dad is just like me - when Mom, at her wits' end, encounters a malfunctioning pirate Weeble kind of thing and suggests it be added to the Going Out box, Spencer gives it right up, saying, "That's Dad's." Oops. David Shannon is blowing all our parental secrets. One of the perks of being a parent is you get to buy and play with toys, and not just coolio made-for-grownups toys like that kidrobot stuff - dumb crap like Transformers and Spider-man action figures.
The upshot is: Too Many Toys isn't a parable about consumption. Spencer isn't spoiled, and he doesn't need to learn An Important Lesson about What's Important. He's just a regular kid who can have fun with anything - a headless ninja alien or a cardboard box. I kind of wish the mom didn't actually scream at Spencer when the box of carefully selected Reject Toys ends up scattered all over the upstairs hall - that's getting a little too close to reality - but I am taking this book home to my kids... because sometimes it's fun to just read a book that looks like life. Well, life, with better colors.
Aaaand... what happened when I shared this book with my boys? Why, they woke up the next morning, found a cardboard box in the basement, and attacked it with scissors and markers and stickers until they turned it into a rocket ship. Life, with better colors.