Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

Toys in space [said like the Muppets' "Pigs... in... spaaaaace"]

Posted on | August 20, 2012 | 10 Comments

Toys in Space by Mini Grey is our kind of book, all about stories providing comfort, where what is a ‘story’ and what is ‘real life’ become beautifully blurred.

It starts with an observation about family life which is tiny but which resonates loudly with us; it being summer holidays here and lots of time spent out in the garden, on more than one occasion it has happened that some of the kids’ toys have been left outside over night.

So a great start – we open Mini‘s latest book and the girls already think it is about our home (or so easily could be). Then a tiny bit an anxiety is introduced; the toys are a little scared by the night and what it might bring. Anxiety is ratcheted up to another level of worry when the toys are beamed aboard an alien space ship…

This worry is transformed into sympathetic concern when the toys discover the alien is only looking for his very own very toy which he has lost. Will the toys be able to help the alien? Will he be reunited with his own Cuddles? And will the toys make it back to their own garden?

Without giving away the details, the emotional arc we went through, which started with “delightful recognition >> anxiety >> worry” then continued “hope >> happiness >> relief >> great satisfaction (with a giggle)”. A perfect journey for a picture book!

As well as the thrilling emotional ride this book takes you on (with just the right amount of nerves for young children), this book scores highly for its adorable cast of characters. Having fallen in love with Traction Man and Scrubbing Brush, I did wonder if any new characters from Mini Grey could find a similar place in our hearts, but the crowd here are great and surely offer wonderful opportunities for more stories in the future featuring the same cast (What do you say, Mini?).

The visual narrative in the book is perhaps more complex than many picture books you’ll find on the bestsellers’ list, with a Jack Bauer / 24 style split screen take on events running concurrently. I like the richness this brings, and although my kids had absolutely no problems understanding how events are unfolding I wonder if some parents who are not confident readers might be put off by this.

I hope not, because Toys in Space is an exciting and heart warming story about losing (and finding) your favourite toy and is bound to delight children far and wide.

Hoctopize – the alien in search of his lost Cuddles

My girls were very keen to act out Toys in Space as soon as we’d read it for the first time. We gathered their favourite toys together, but didn’t have a suitable alien. Thus our own Hoctopize (as the alien is called in the book) came into being….

I cut a ping-pong ball in half and superglued the two halves to a rubber glove.

The girls then decorated their rubber glove aliens with permanent pens.

The recycling was raided and used to create space ships and finally we were all ready to play our own version of Toys in Space.

Whilst we made our aliens and space ships we listened to:

  • Alien in My Nose by Trout Fishing In America (completely bonkers!)
  • The Ballad Of Davy Crockett (In Outer Space) by They Might Be Giants
  • Space Girl’s Song by Peggy Seeger


  • Other activities which would be fun to do alongside reading Toys in Space include:

  • Making your own star constellation viewer – when the toys are out at night they are amazed by the starry sky they see.
  • Parachuting your toys out of a high window – you’ll need to read Toys in Space to see why this is a great thing to try alongside reading the book, but once you have done here’s the way we’ve made parachutes before.
  • Using balloons to try to make your toys float away – again, you’ll need to read Toys in Space to see why this would be a relevant thing to do, and if you want any tips, you could see how we tried exactly this here.

  • And finally, here’s a gratuitous link to a Pigs in Space episode. Enjoy!

    Disclosure: I received my copy of Toys in Space from the publishers. This review, nevertheless, reflects my own and honest opinion.

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    Comments

    10 Responses to “Toys in space [said like the Muppets' "Pigs... in... spaaaaace"]”

    1. Mrs Brown
      August 20th, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

      Can we come play at your house please? What a great way to bring the book and play to life. But just how on earth did you manage to cut a ping pong ball in half pray tell?
      Mrs Brown recently posted..The Girl Who Loved Wellies by Zehra Hicks

    2. gisele f barcellos
      August 20th, 2012 @ 4:09 pm

      So cool! We just reada book about space, too! Next time we´ll do these Aliens, the kids loved them! :)
      gisele f barcellos recently posted..Agente X-99 Histórias vindas do espaço

    3. Zoe
      August 21st, 2012 @ 6:40 am

      Mrs Brown, cutting the pingpong balls was surprisingly easy – I just used the pointy blade of a pair of scissors and then once that was in, I could use the scissors to cut around the circumference. I was using pingpong balls from the pound shop (so perhaps not super high quality) – and they were really easy to cut. Not a job for the kids, but not difficult. Only thing was they were a bit smelly (or should I say pongy) when cut open for a minute or two – presumably the plastic.
      Zoe recently posted..Toys in space [said like the Muppets' "Pigs... in... spaaaaace"]

    4. Zoe
      August 21st, 2012 @ 6:40 am

      Thanks Gisele :)

    5. PippaD @ A Mothers Ramblings
      August 21st, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

      What a great looking book! I’m going to have to invest in this one!
      PippaD @ A Mothers Ramblings recently posted..What’s For Lunch? (W/C 20/08)

    6. Lucy
      August 21st, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

      Your house looks like so much fun. I’m glad the book inspired you with the arts and crafts and it all looks great. I too want to come round and play.
      Another fantastic book by Mini Grey!
      Lucy recently posted..Book Review: The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket

    7. TransatlanticMom
      August 25th, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

      Wow – you’ve completely inspired me. I’d love to try this with my boys, but it’s also got me thinking of what we could do with their current favorite books.
      TransatlanticMom recently posted..A Royal Education – have you prepared your child?

    8. Zoe
      August 25th, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

      That’s great to hear TransatlanticMom. I find it just makes it an easy way to play with the kids and to find an answer to “what can we do?” – essential over the summer holiday!

    9. Irina
      January 13th, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

      Dear Zoe,

      Thank you so much for your posts and the inspiration! You gave me an idea to use “Toys in Space” to teach English to my children and their friends. By the way, I also found this song that goes well with the story (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZxUXxWcU9o)and we are going to make aliens out of gloves next weekend :)

      The categories of your blog are so helpful. When I looked for something about art, it was thanks to you that I found this book, which is also a treasure when kids just start to learn English: http://www.playingbythebook.net/2012/10/04/magritte-midas-and-a-magical-book-from-belgium/

      Keep up great job and wishing you a lot of new discoveries in 2014!

      Irina
      France

    10. Zoe
      January 13th, 2014 @ 12:07 pm

      Wow Irina, thanks for such a great comment! I’m so happy you’ve enjoyed some of the books I’ve recommended and have found the categories useful :-D

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