Voigt, Cynthia Teddy & Co., illustrated by Paola Zakimi, 179 pages. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. $16.99. Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.
Teddy is a brown teddy bear who lost his legs long ago and now moves about via a red wagon pushed by his friends, Umpah (an elephant who loves to bake) or Sid (a snake who loves to eat). Others in the neighborhood include Zia and Prinny (pigs), and Peng (an unsociable but well beloved wooden penguin). The neighborhood is calm and everyone get along while they have a variety of fun but not-too-exciting adventures. When new toys mysteriously arrive on their island--a bunny and a beautiful doll who hopes to be queen--the friends will have to learn how to adjust and become a different, and perhaps better, community than before.
This is a story in chapters in the tradition of the Velveteen Rabbit or Corduroy. The main characters are toys, but they are completely sentient beings with fantastic personalities and the themes are simple, sweet, and as non-threatening as one could hope to find. The disconnect lies with the characters and plot (which will be appealing to younger readers) and the reading level (which is upper elementary, at least). As such, this is the perfect book for elementary teachers to read aloud to their students (and they should!), or for grandparents to buy for their grandkids, but young readers who will love a book like this will likely find it a little too difficult to read on their own.
EL (K-3)--ESSENTIAL, EL--OPTIONAL. Reviewer: TC