Hug a toy, enjoy a story By Naomi Leithold

A missing nose or a broken arm has never deterred a young child from loving a cherished stuffed toy. When a new stuffed pal is brought into the equation, an accompanying story can provide the icebreaker necessary to get this friendship off to a good start. Here are several audiobook, book, stuffed toy combinations that are sure to win a prized location on your child’s toy shelf.

GREAT GRIZZLY WILDERNESS, by Audrey Fraggalosch, narrated by Randye Kaye, Trudy Corp., 2000, $32.95 for book, audiocassette and 10-inch grizzly bear, $19.95 for book and audiocassette, 13 minutes; ages 6-10. This story takes place in the Pacific rain forest on the northwest coast of British Columbia. It’s part of the Soundprints Wild Habitat series that explores an environment through the eyes of one of its inhabitants. Wildlife experts from learning institutions and conservation foundations authenticate the stories and soft toys.

Listeners will follow newborn Grizzly bear cubs for the first years of their lives as their mother teaches them how to survive. Youngsters will become aware of how this caring mom is not too different from their own mother as she carefully protects them and cares for their daily needs. Through this loving story, children will become familiar with the flora and fauna of the Pacific rain forest and how seasonal changes and the local geography affect them. The most fascinating aspect of this saga is that it introduces the audience to a very different rain forest than the ones they are most likely familiar with, those of South America, Africa and Asia. Great Grizzly Wilderness will definitely be useful as a resource book for school projects.

The realistic sounds of nature, such as a woodpecker’s rat-ta-tat, are certain to transport children into the Grizzly’s habitat. Donald G. Eberhart’s vivid, colorful illustrations and Fraggalosch’s detailed descriptions of the surroundings will help to complete a picture of the area.

Kaye’s steady and clear narration is a perfect match for this story. Her voice rises to match the story’s action, but it never overshadows the sound effects. The audio recording also includes facts about the forest—found at the end of the book—that would be too difficult for younger readers to tackle on their own.

Great Grizzly Wilderness can be purchased at most major bookstores or you can order online at and get a 10 percent discount.

MEET PADDY PILLOW, by Aimee J. Markelz, narrated by Ryan Glynn, music and lyrics by James Marklez, Talk Inc., 2001, $29.99 for stuffed toy, book and CD; ages 3-5. Young children will fall in love with the smiling, cushy 13-by-10-inch Paddy Pillow. This comforting fellow, its theme song and story were designed by Markelz as a way to help youngsters express their feelings and aid parents in guiding them in this process. This well-thought-out, comprehensive learning aide is sure to start them on the right path.

The simple story and endearing, brightly colored, cartoon-like illustrations depict the emotions—happiness, sadness, love, fear, anger, shyness, shame and pride—Paddy experiences throughout a day. Each emotion is accompanied by questions designed to help children and parents gain insight into their feelings and the feelings of others. The soft toy is meant to act as a confidant to help little ones further explore their daily ups and downs.

The CD includes three songs, sung by a chorus of children, and a reading of the book. Narrator Glynn was 11 at the time of the recording and his youthful inexperience is apparent. He tries to use his voice to portray emotions, but falls short of achieving the full effect. To best help children learn how to talk about their feelings, the audio recording should be used just as a supplement to a parent and child read and discussion of this thoughtful book.

Meet Paddy Pillow can be purchased at some major bookstores and specialty stores or at A list of stores is also available on the Web site.

WORLD ABOVE THE CLOUDS, by Ann Whitehead Nagda, narrated by Randye Kaye, Trudy Corp., 2001, $32.95 for audiocassette, book and 9-inch snow leopard, $19.95 for book and audiocassette, 13 minutes; ages 6-10. This story, another in the Soundprints Wild Habitat Series, teaches children about the Himalayan ecosystem through the eyes of a snow leopard. It follows a young leopard through the Himalayan peaks of Northern India as she learns how to fend for herself. Through her journeys, the listener will learn the obstacles that she must overcome to survive in this rough terrain.

This award-winning audiobook does a great job of making the locale and action come to life through background music, authentic sound effects and the fluctuations in the narrator’s voice. The muted earth-toned illustrations add to the authenticity of the tale. Children are bound to enjoy the four-page foldout picture at the end of the book that includes a pictorial key for easy identification of the animals and vegetation of the region.

World Above The Clouds can be purchased at major bookstores or if you order online at there is a 10 percent discount.


Naomi Leithold is an award-winning storyteller and early childhood educator. She lives in Skokie and has two boys, ages 11 and 14. Her Web site,, features story starters and other resources for young storytellers.



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