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Authors: Emily Jenkins

Toys Come Home

BOOK: Toys Come Home
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Text copyright © 2011 by Emily Jenkins
Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Paul O. Zelinsky

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Schwartz & Wade Books and the colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Jenkins, Emily.
Toys come home / Emily Jenkins ; illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.—1st ed.
p.      cm.
Summary: When a little girl gets a plush stingray for her birthday, it makes friends with some of her other toys as they all try to navigate in the world of real people.
ISBN 978-0-375-86200-7 (hardcover)—ISBN 978-0-375-96200-4 (glb)
ISBN 978-0-375-89345-2 (ebook)
[1. Toys—Fiction. 2. Friendship—Fiction.] I. Zelinsky, Paul O., ill. II. Title.
PZ7.J4134 Toy 2011
[Fic]—dc22
2010005896

Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.

v3.1

For Ivy

—E.J.

For Rabbi’ Keek

—P.Z.

CHAPTER ONE
In Which There Is Nowhere Nice to Sleep

S
tingRay has missed the birthday party.

She didn’t mean to. It was her first party, first party ever in the world to be invited to—and she missed it.

She didn’t even know she was missing it. She didn’t know anything about the party until now, when it is already over.

She can tell the people are disappointed in her.

Here is what happened:

StingRay woke up. She had never been awake before, but she could hear a scissor scoring cardboard above her head. Opening a package mailed from a toy store. Inside the package, StingRay was squashed in a gift box that was wrapped in shiny blue paper and tied with a pink ribbon. She woke with a feeling that she’d been waiting, asleep, for a very long time.

She dreamed while she slept: the same dream over and over, about a wooden crate filled with other plush stingrays, packed with flippers touching flippers, tummies touching tails.

It was a mellow, cozy dream. The stingrays were still. The sounds were muffled.

A dream of something like a family, StingRay thinks.

Though she isn’t entirely sure what a family is.

The word just came to her and she used it, inside her head.

I am an intelligent stingray, she thinks. To just have a word come to me and to know it’s the right word. In fact, now that I consider it, I know a lot of things! For instance,

I know that I’m a stingray,

and that a stingray is an extra-special kind of fish,

and that blue is the very best color anything can possibly be,

and that people are people,

and kids are baby people,

and that a kid would probably like to play with me someday.

I know all this stuff without being told. It’s practically like magic, the knowledge I have.

I hope the rest of the world isn’t too jealous of me.

The scissor scores the cardboard, and the wrapping is ripped off. Now StingRay comes out of her crispy nest of tissue paper and is pulled into the bright light of what she knows, just knows somehow, is a kitchen. White cabinets. A jar of spoons and spatulas. Finger paintings stuck to the fridge with magnets.

A kid smiles down at her.

StingRay smiles back.

“She likes me!” says the Girl. “She smiled at me!”

“That’s a nice pretend.”

“I’m not pretending. She really did smile,” the Girl insists.

The mommy kisses the Girl on her head. “Sorry it didn’t come in time for your party. There was a shipping delay, Grandpa said when he called.”

(A party? thinks StingRay. Was there a party?)

“Still, today is your actual birthday,” the mommy goes on. “The day you were born. So it’s nice to have a present on this day as well, isn’t it?”

(I missed a party! thinks StingRay. A party I was supposed to go to!)

“Her name is StingRay,” the Girl announces.

“Oh?” The mommy crinkles her nose. “Don’t you want to call her a real name? Like Sophia or Samantha?”

“StingRay.”

“Or maybe an animal name, like you gave Bobby Dot?”

(Who is Bobby Dot? wonders StingRay.)

“You could call her Sweetie Pie,” continues the mommy. “Or Sugar Puff. How about Sugar Puff, hmm?”

“Just StingRay,” says the Girl. “I like StingRay.”

. . . . .

Upstairs, the Girl’s bedroom has a high bed with fluffy pillows and a soft patchwork quilt. Atop the windowsill is a collection of birthday cards from her friends. There are shelves filled with books and games, puzzles and art supplies. A large ash-blue rocking horse resides in the corner. On the bed lie a plump stuffed walrus and a woolly sheep on wheels.

The sheep looks old.

Under the bookcase, StingRay can see several sets of tiny, sparkling eyes. She can feel them watching her. She can feel the eyes of the walrus, the sheep, and the rocking horse, too. But none of them is moving.

StingRay doesn’t move, either.

The house feels big. Too big.

There don’t seem to be any other stingrays here with whom to nestle. She longs for the comfort of her cozy dream.

The Girl sets StingRay on a low shelf and trots out of the room. She has a playdate.

When the family bangs the front door behind them and the toys can hear the rumble of the car starting in the driveway, the walrus galumphs himself to the edge of the bed, then hurls himself off. He executes a spectacular flip with a twist—and lands right side up.

Whomp!

He’s a little larger than StingRay, and his plush is a satiny walnut brown. His soft tusks and hairy gray whiskers are fresh and clean. The tag on his hind flipper reads
DRY CLEAN ONLY
.

The walrus shakes his head with a “Blubba-la blubba-la” sound, and the thick pudge of his neck rolls and shakes. Then he scoots over and snuffs his whiskery nose over the edge of the shelf where StingRay sits.

He doesn’t speak.

StingRay doesn’t speak.

StingRay has never spoken, though she would dearly like to. In fact, she thinks she might have a really huge amount to say. But she doesn’t know how to get going, somehow.

“You say ‘How dya do?’ is what you say,” the walrus announces eventually.

“Haaak,” croaks out StingRay.

“No,” snaps the walrus.
“ ‘How dya do?’ ”
He repeats the phrase as if StingRay is stupid.

“How dya do?” StingRay manages.

“Splendiferous, thank you. And yourself?”

“Splendiferous.” StingRay likes that word. It sounds grand.

“You can’t say ‘splendiferous’ if I said ‘splendiferous,’ ” complains the walrus. “You’re doing it wrong.”

“Sorry.”

“I say ‘splendiferous’ and you say something
else.
Then you’re not copying. Try again. How dya do?”

“Blue,” says StingRay. “I’m blue, thank you.”

“You’re still doing it wrong,” says the walrus. “It’s not a question about color. But let’s move on. My name is Bobby Dot. I was a birthday present and I arrived in the middle of an enormous party. The Girl really likes me and she sleeps with me on the high bed.”

“My name is StingRay. I’m a birthday present, too.”

“Stingray’s not your name,” says Bobby Dot. “Stingray’s what you are.”

“StingRay is too my name.”

“Really?” Bobby Dot looks at her, pityingly.

“Yes.” StingRay tries to hold her chin high, but she is wishing she were indeed called Sweetie Pie or Sugar Puff. Or even Sophia.

“Well. We can’t all have real names, I suppose,” says Bobby Dot as he hurls himself up onto the shelf with a thump. “Sheep is just called Sheep.” He makes himself comfortable next to StingRay. “I don’t think you
are
a birthday present, by the way.”

BOOK: Toys Come Home
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