Every child wonders what happens to their toys when he or she leaves the room or they are all put away in the toy box. Do they come alive? Do they dream? Do they have any number of wild adventures? We encourage children to think this. In A Little Princess darling Sara Crewe is told by her father that her beloved doll comes alive when she is not looking. Films like Toy Story and Small Soldiers gave rise to generations of children wondering about the secret lives of their favorite toys. And Babes in Toyland – which greatly inspired the upcoming Wars in Toyland – imagines a world where toys are alive and larger than life.
Wars in Toyland follows the adventure of one young boy, Matthew, as he discovers a fantastical world inside his toy box. The toy box is actually shared by two boys – Matthew and his older brother Alex. The two are constant, inseparable playmates and their toys are wrapped up in any number of playful military conflicts and other such childish games. But one day Alex goes missing without a trace and suddenly Matthew is all alone.
Or so he thinks.
Before his eyes and without any warning, his toy soldiers come to life and spirit him away to the magical world of Toyland. Except it’s not quite so magical any more. Toyland has been wrapped up in an ongoing war. No one really knows how long it has lasted only that the toys have suffered greatly at the hands of the tyrannical Roxbury, a teddy bear leading a terrible tediearchy. The good toys have turned to Matthew to lead them and save them from Roxbury but it isn’t until Matthew realizes that Alex has been there before him that he agrees to lead the toys against their mighty enemy. The problem is that reaching Roxbury’s stronghold will be perilous and even with all the might of his toy army and the cunning and absolute devotion of Soldier John and the other toy soldiers, the road won’t be easy. And when they finally get there Matthew might find out that something else is going on entirely and maybe Alex isn’t the same brother he remembers.
Wars in Toyland is a wonderfully drawn and I loved the artistic style. It really fits with the story and brings that dark, dystopian look to what should be a pretty happy, bright looking world. I feel like the story had a few moments where just one more page here or there with a little bit more explanation or exposition could have helped. I’m all for suspending belief but there were a few times things happened and I just felt a little lost. But over all I enjoyed it.
The toy characters were the real stars, though. They were great and I loved the relationship between Soldier John and Brittany, a female toy soldier. I also like how the toys always refer to Matthew as ‘The Captain’ and are so blindly loyal to him no matter what the potential consequences. You’ll be touched by the individual sacrifices the toys make and you’ll see how Matthew – just a little boy – begins to understand that war isn’t just toys and games.
My only real question about the book is: how are the Matthew and Alex’s parents going to explain all of this to the police?
Wars in Toyland by Joe Harris and Adam Pollina will be released in July 2013 by Oni Press.