Always by My Side: A Stuffie Story

Jennifer Black Reinhardt. Random House, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-17382-4
Reinhardt’s (Gondra’s Treasure) story feels designed to pluck at readers’ heartstrings, from its shy, white-skinned protagonist’s adorably saggy blue overalls to the child’s beloved reptile plush toy, a gangly pink and green polka-dotted companion with long limbs that are perfect for wrapping around a kid-size head when the dark proves a bit frightening. “I will always be by your side,” begins the narrator, who seems to channel the steadfast toy’s inner thoughts while employing an adult’s wistfulness. The toy accompanies the apprehensive child on the first day of school, where the duo establishes a friendship with a brown-skinned child who has a lion cub stuffie; as the two humans begin navigating the world together, the toys are literally and emotionally relegated to the sidelines. The poignancy may be too much for readers (in one of the final scenes, the reptile stuffie, who has promised “We will always be together./ Even when we are apart,” is left behind on the bed, holding a drawing of itself with its kid). But the child proves constant and thoughtful, and the final image assures readers that growing up and gaining independence doesn’t have to mean abandoning those who gave love and comfort along the way. Ages 3–7. Agent: Marietta Zacker, Gallt & Zacker Literary. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/07/2021
Release date: 03/16/2021
Genre: Children's
Book - 978-0-593-17384-8
Library Binding - 40 pages - 978-0-593-17383-1
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