Today, we welcome to the Cottage, debut author Betsy Devany! Betsy is the author of the newly released picture book, LUCY'S LOVEY (Christy Ottaviano Books) about a little girl named Lucy, and her beloved "lovey," a very special dolly she's nicknamed Smelly Baby.
Books about beloved toys or "loveys" are perennial favorites, for kids and adults. So we asked Betsy — who in addition to being an author, helps young children pick out loveys (and occasionally recover lost ones) in her job at The Toy Soldier, a toy shop in her home state of Connecticut — to tell us her five favorite picture books about beloved loveys. And, you can enter to win a LUCY'S LOVEY signed by both Betsy and the Cottage's illustrator-in-residence, Christopher Denise!
Today, I share my top five picture books that feature loveys, and the five reasons that loveys mean so much to me. Thank you for inviting me!
Loveys are Real to children.
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” “By the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and you get very shabby.” This story exquisitely defines the love between a child and their one special toy (lovey). I always think of The Velveteen Rabbit when a child enters the toy store where I work carrying a well-loved lovey. Almost immediately, by noticing the lovey’s condition, you know how the lovey soothes the child. With my tiny Steiff bear, the ends of his arms were worn down to the point that straw was pushing through the mohair because I’d rub Little Bear’s arms when I needed comforting. In The Velveteen Rabbit, all the pink was rubbed off the rabbit’s nose where the boy had kissed him.
Loveys are vital transitional and comfort objects.
This theme comes to play in Bella and Stella Come Home. Bella’s own moving fears are projected onto her beloved stuffed elephant Stella, clearly visible on the faces of both the child (Bella) and the lovey (Stella), who at times is depicted as a life-sized stuffed elephant. In comforting Stella every new step along the way in their new “Does NOT feel like home” house, Bella learns to comfort herself, seeing beyond the differences between what is familiar and the unknown. Gradually, Bella realizes that change brings new possibilities, such as a new neighborhood friend. Except for a visual hint of a neighborhood parent, this story offers a bird’s eye view of the touching relationship between a lovey and Their Child.
Loveys can be anything.
A typical lovey is a doll or a stuffed animal or a blanket. A typical lovey is not a squash purchased at a farmer’s market that bypasses becoming served up for dinner, only to be anthropomorphised. The what-was-supposed-to-be-eaten squash quickly becomes a doll baby named Bernice, in an utterly charming way, inspired by a child’s rich imagination. As the reader, we are privy to Sophie and Bernice’s magical world, their undying love for one another until Bernice turns quite blotchy, as happens to uneaten squash over time. Because Sophie has unconditional love for Bernice, she finds a way for Bernice to live on.
Not all loveys are as loved at first.
Adam does not Koala. He thinks Koala is the most terrible terrible. And Koala’s terrible eyes follow Adam everywhere he goes. But . . . Koala is loyal to Adam, even though Adam has a nightly bedtime routine in which he tries to get rid of Koala. But in the morning, “Koala is always there. In his bed. On his pillow. Closer than close.”
In this laugh-out-loud picture book, it is the lovey that seems to show greater unconditional love for Their Child, until Adam perceives a “MORE terrible terrible?” and then realizes that Koala isn’t so terrible after all. In the end, admitting his love for Koala.
Lovey memories are never forgotten.
There are many of us who still have either vivid memories of our childhood lovey and/or still have the remnants of our favorite toy that shepherded us through childhood. The trio of the Knuffle Bunny books speaks to this. In the first book, the young Trixie doesn’t yet have a full grasp of language, but her love for Knuffle Bunny is clear when Knuffle Bunny is unknowingly left behind at the laundromat. Of my five favorite picture books about loveys, Trixie is the youngest protaganist, and thus we see how early on a child forms a lovey attachment. The theme of Knuffle Bunny getting lost carries over into the second and third books (Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free), but what I love best is the ending of the third and last book, in which Trixie is now an adult, and a mother herself, and Knuffle Bunny comes back into her life, and into the arms of her own child.
PLEASE COMMENT BELOW WITH YOUR FAVORITE (OR YOUR CHILD'S OR GRANDCHILD'S FAVORITE) LOVEY, TO WIN A COPY OF LUCY'S LOVEY SIGNED BY BOTH BETSY DEVANY AND CHRISTOPHER DENISE!
WINNER ANNOUNCED ON OCTOBER 12th!
by Betsy Devany
illustrated by Christopher Denise(Henry Holt and Co/ Christy Ottaviano Books, September 27, 2016)
"There is no child who won't empathize with Lucy and cheer for her reunion with Smelly Baby."-Kirkus Reviews
"Suited for one-on-one sharing. . . The pictures are delightful . . . Readers will want to pore over the artwork and will enjoy this domestic drama."-School Library Journal
www.betsydevany.com or follow her on Twitter @BetsyDevany or Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/BetsyDevany/