cover image Mama and Little Joe

Mama and Little Joe

Angela McAllister. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-1631-4

Youngsters will hear some familiar strains in McAllister's (The Little Blue Rabbit) endearing story about toys who learn the importance of heart. A well-worn stuffed kangaroo and her joey arrive at their new residence, also home to a quartet of expensive animal toys. Mama explains that they've come from a house where the children are all grown up. "" 'You mean you're secondhand?' sneered Camel,"" and spirited Little Joe corrects him, announcing, ""We're tenth-hand!"" Camel, Polar Bear, Monkey and Mouse (who deem themselves too special to be played with and instead ""get admired"") do not invite the newcomers to share their space at the end of the bed at nighttime. The kangaroos instead curl up on a hard bookshelf. After Mama patiently fetches playthings for the demanding menagerie, her son begs them to let his weary parent onto the bed, ""Have a heart."" They don't know that word, so Little Joe explains, ""It's what's inside of you.... the part that cares."" The camel haughtily responds that they have expensive stuffing inside of them, and ""There's nothing better than that."" But when Little Joe winds up in a garbage can outdoors, the fancy animals rally to help Mama rescue him, and get a warm feeling inside their expensive stuffing (""Mouse knew he was feeling his heart""). Like the narrative, Milne's (Second Best) engaging, pastel-hued watercolors possess a timeless, reassuring quality. Text and art affectingly deliver a worthy message. Ages 3-6.