Sonya Hartnett’s The Boy and the Toy – applications in your classroom or library

One day a man invented the best toy in the world. He gave the toy to his son.  The boy thought the toy was marvellous.  It could do anything! But as time passed, the boy started to wonder about the toy.  Was it really the best toy in the world?

A boy lives with his father at the end of a pier, in a house-cum-lighthouse that resembles a static Howl’s Moving Castle. Before his father departs on a journey, he makes the boy the ‘best toy in the world’. The toy is to keep the boy company while his father is away. At first all proceeds happily, and the boy enjoys his clever toy, which does whatever he asks it. But then it becomes apparent that the toy is perhaps smarter than the boy and competition enters their relationship. The toy wants to play all the time, and when the boy ignores it, it becomes destructive in the manner of a thwarted, jealous child.

The boy devises a plan to deceive the toy, preserve his independence and seek help from his father. When the father returns he examines the toy and discovers something essential is missing. He presents his son with a true friend.

This simple tale is delightfully ambiguous and open for young readers to explore their own interpretations. Is the boy self-absorbed and only likes the toy when it does what he wants and in the way he wants? Or is the toy too demanding, selfish and naughty? Readers will decide with whom they most identify, and whether the boy is a true friend.

Dr Pam Macintyre has written comprehensive teaching notes for The Boy and the Toy, full of wonderful ideas for using this delightful picture book with your students. Teaching notes are available for download here.

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