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Book Review: Toys Overboard by Chris Warnock

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As a former school administrator and master teacher, people often approach me for advice regarding what's new on the educational "home front." They also ask me to let them know when something worth their attention comes on to the scene.

Toys Overboard, by new author and illustrator Chris Warnock, is just one of those finds. In the midst of what seems like a deluge of new children's literature, Toys Overboard stands out among the crowd.

The book is primarily geared to children under 12. There are a few things that make this book a standout. First of all, the book is written in a long verse rhyming that will recall the stories of many parents' childhoods. It is easy and fun to read. It is also a great story to listen to for very early readers who are acquiring English. Even though it is written in rhyme, the language is carefully constructed so the sentences make sense grammatically. And from an educator's perspective, that's important.

Second, the story is slightly longer than many children's books, making it easy to use as a bedtime book and a book that any younger child can easily grow into without getting bored. The vocabulary and structure encourage curiosity and engagement by any level elementary reader.

The author wrote this book to provide an exceptional story that focuses on recognizing geographical diversity, community and teamwork, and discovering an individual's self worth. It follows a small "rag tag" cadre of toys that find themselves tossed overboard during a storm at sea and washed ashore on a desert island. By working together, they are able to survive their adventures and ultimately reach their new home in America. The story is told from the perspective of one of the toys, Pedro, a Guatemalan worry doll who is unsure of what he can offer to the group but learns that everyone has unique and valuable talents.

Finally, Warnock provides a free educational activity book, downloadable from the Toys Overboard website. This free e-book features a Creative Commons license allowing teachers and parents to reprint, copy, and use the pages from the activity book. This added bonus makes the educational potential of this book really come to life. It features coloring book and art pages; geography, grammar, and vocabulary builders; and problem-solving exercises.

As a supporter of literacy programs and education, the author is encouraging people to donate copies of his book to local libraries and elementary schools, who can then download the free educational activity book to use with their students.

The main drawback to the book is that the publisher only offers it in a softcover and has opted for a "print on demand" model for distributing this book. This means you probably won't find a copy at your local bookstore and you'll need to order it online to get it faster unless you can pester the manager at your local bookstore to stock this title.

I recommend Toys Overboard  for its beautiful original illustrations, engaging story, and timeless rhyming verse.

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