Stuffed animals come to life in these charming and old-fashioned tales with a memorable cast of characters: Lumphy, a buffalo, StingRay, a sea creature, and Plastic . . . whose classification is something of a mystery. The three friends are beloved toys of the Little Girl who sleeps in the high bed. Living both in the Little Girl's world and in their own, they spend their time reading books in the library, watching television and trying to make sense of their world.
Emily Jenkins' six linked stories explore the experiences of these stuffed friends. First, they are tossed around in a dark, scary backpack, where readers get a peek at their personalities. As the three worry about their destination, StingRay suggests they might be going to the veterinarian. The vet is a big human dressed in a white coat who puts animals in a contraption made of rubber bands, in order to see what is wrong with them, he tells his friends. StingRay speaks of all manner of things, often erroneously. (The adult reader might be reminded of Cliff Claven, the information-spouting letter carrier in Cheers. ) Plastic and Lumphy believe what they hear and so are pleasantly surprised to find out they are not at the vet's office but at school as the stars of show-and-tell. Ahh.
The adventures these three get into are by turns scary and endearing. Here is Lumphy hiding from the terrors he is sure will befall him in the washing machine and there is Plastic at the beach in the jaws of a possible shark. It all comes together in the final story when the inanimate objects help celebrate the Little Girl's birthday, trying as hard as they can to think of the perfect gift. Toys Go Out has the nostalgic feel of a children's book from an earlier time part Winnie the Pooh, part Hitty and part bedtime book. Jenkins' words and Paul Zelinsky's sumptuous, detailed illustrations make this a perfect selection for family read-alouds.