David Shannon has a knack for pairing some of the messier bits of childhood with wit and hilarity. A longtime fan favorite for his Caldecott Honor book, No, David! as well as the more recent How I Became a Pirate, Shannon is a gifted storyteller whose wide – eyed illustration style is immediately recognizable. Parents and kids alike see much of their own untidy household shenanigans through Shannon's comical depictions.
In Too Many Toys, our cluttered protagonist is Spencer, and minimalism just isn't his style. When it comes to playthings, you name it, he's got it. There's "an entire zoo of stuffed animals and a gigantic army of little action figures." And, of course, he has planes, trains, boats, musical instruments of every kind, robots, electronic toys, puzzles and even some quiet pull – toys. They blanket his floor and seep down the stairs. Not that this overload is Spencer's fault, mind you; everyone gives toys to Spencer. His mom and dad, sure, but there's also Grandma Bobo and Uncle Fred. Spencer receives toys for every occasion, from his birthday to the Fourth of July. That's a lot of toys. After his parents trip over one too many Legos or step on one too many stray jacks (a painful experience we know all too well), Spencer's mom declares that the time has come to pare down. "That's a catastrophe!" Spencer wails, because he just cannot bear to part with a single item. As they begin the massive clean-up effort, the boy engages in some lawyerly negotiations, but finally agrees to put some of the toys in the giveaway box.
When the exhausting transaction is complete, Spencer's mom prepares to bring the box to the car but gets a big surprise when she learns that there's one last thing Spencer simply cannot do without. Shannon gives families an uproarious take on a common issue. While the story may or may not be helpful in your own ongoing toy roundup, it's clear that the book itself is a keeper.
Ellen Trachtenberg is the author of The Best Children's Literature: A Parent's Guide.She just found a stuffed panda under her bed.