By Awnali Mills
Teddy, Umpah, Peng, Zia, and Prinny all live together in harmony. Teddy is a stuffed bear with no legs who gets around in a wagon, and he lives with Umpah, a stuffed elephant, who bakes and takes care of Teddy. Zia is a stuffed pig who takes care of little Prinny, who is also a stuffed pig. Peng is a wooden penguin who lives by himself and isn’t given to being social—at all. They explore their world, make new friends, and learn how to get along with their (sometimes unpleasant) new friends.
This book was outside of my normal reading, which is good for me. I picked it up because I’m crazy about Cynthia Voigt, and have been since I read Jackaroo in high school. Lately, I enjoyed her Mister Max series. Teddy & Co. was a whole different kettle of fish.
The closest thing I could compare it to is Winnie the Pooh with no Tigger. I was falling asleep before the end of the first chapter. It is very quiet and very gentle. I think it would be a perfect bedtime reading for young children, since many of the chapters are complete stories in and of themselves. There are some nice lessons about how to get along with each other, and some characters come along who are not as pleasant and easygoing as the first five.
I’m not really sure what the story is on the stuffed animals. With Winnie the Pooh, you have Christopher Robin as the explanation for their existence, and with The Velveteen Rabbit you have the Skin Horse to explain things. I kept wondering if this was some weird Island of Misfit Toys thing, but that doesn’t seem to be it, either. I did think it was nice to have a “disabled” character, since Teddy lost his legs sometime in the past, and the others have to help him compensate for his problems.
If someone asks me for a super gentle bedtime book, I’ll have this to recommend. It’s no Mister Max though.