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Publisher: Osprey Publishing (2019)
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*Reviewer’s note:  I read the book to a little girl who, upon seeing the photo, exclaimed, “The real Pinky!”  Indeed, this extraordinary story is derived from the true story of when the author was a small child. When she fell ill, her grandmother brought her a furry pink, stuffed puppy, and a story was born.

Pinky, a stuffed toy puppy, made of pink corduroy, is given to a little girl, Francesca, after a brief visit to the hospital. She loves her stuffed friend, and the feeling is mutual. Pinky does all he can to show Francesca this after her other stuffed animals tell him of a secret award ceremony at which a prize will be given to the toy that is most loved by a child.

One night, while Francesca is asleep, Pinky and the other toys journey to the ceremony where he is elated to win the most coveted award. A medal is sewn inside his chest in the spot where humans carry their hearts. Francesca and Pinky grow old together, and one day she decides to clean and repair the stuffed dog, inside and out. In doing so, she discovers the secret medal that has been inside her stuffed friend for decades. The discovery prompts her to recall a dream she had as a little girl in which Pinky won a medal for loving her so much. The final scene is that of an elderly Francesca snuggling with her favorite childhood toy. How sweet, then, to turn the page and view a photo of the author with a stuffed pink dog.

Claytor’s prose is comprised of brief declarative sentences, appropriate for young children. The tale underscores the security and affection stuffed animals offer little ones, but also invites them to consider the reverse. Told from Pinky’s point of view, the stuffed dog learns that all toys “. . . are loved, but what is most important is your loving of humans.” He strives to show that affection by snuggling with Francesca, watching her as she dances around her room, and always being where she can see him.

The illustrations are beautiful, imbued with warmth and affection. Stuffed animals smile at the reader, the backgrounds of the pages splashed in dreamy, pastel shades of pink, aqua, and yellow. Pinky looks especially huggable and, if the author chose, would be an excellent model for a stuffed animal marketed with the book. Of course, it would have to have a secret compartment that would hold a tiny medal, one that could be held by a little hand after each reading of this delightful book.