“Woof woof woof!”
Is that your dog barking? No? Well, maybe it’s your toast. Best to check your picnic basket to be sure.
If you like your canines cute and quirky, you’ll lap up Sarah Hwang’s adorable debut picture book, Toasty (Holiday House, 2021). 🙂
This bread-on-a-leash charmer is all about discovering that the best way to be top dog is to be yourself.
When we first meet Toasty, he’s longingly watching dogs play and run outside his window. He loves dogs so much, he wants to be one.
Sure, he isn’t quite like them. Instead of four legs, he’s got two arms and two legs. He sleeps in a toaster instead of a dog house, and he doesn’t have any fur or hair. Moreover, Toasty is made of bread.
He tries to do doggy things, like running, chasing cats, even rolling in puddles — but nothing works. Yet, he can bark like a dog.
So despite his differences, he puts on his best collar, grabs his “sparkly ball,” and goes to the park to play with the dogs. But when he tosses his ball, instead of them chasing after it, they chase after him. Uh-oh. Will Toasty soon be “toast”?
Just in the nick of time, Toasty spots a picnic cloth on the grass, then jumps on top of a sandwich to hide. As the sniffing dogs approach, a little girl grabs her sandwich, then sneezes a big “ACHOO!”, sending the dogs running.
When the girl tries to take a bite, she’s surprised to hear barking. Oh, it’s coming from her sandwich! Toasty leaps up, making the girl laugh. She confesses she’s always wanted a dog, but she’s allergic to them.
Yip yip hooray! Toasty is just the right breed of bread — the perfect dog for her! They play and play and soon become the best of friends. Toasty is now the toast of the park!
This sweet, uplifting story was inspired by Hwang’s childhood experiences as a Korean immigrant. It will speak to kids who feel different and want to fit in. It’s natural to try to be like everyone else in order to belong, but ultimately, as Toasty shows us, the best way to find true friends is to simply be yourself, however odd or unusual that may be.
Hwang’s appealing, childlike cartoon-y illustrations (created with acrylic paint, colored pencil and digital collage), ramp up the understated, matter-of-fact narrative with whimsical details, offbeat humor, and upbeat, tail-wagging energy.
Toasty is especially endearing with his dot-eyes and tiny stick arms and feet; he’s an irresistible character kids will eagerly root for. After all, one does not see a piece of toast with that much personality every day. 🙂
They’ll giggle with delight at seeing Toasty snoozing in the toaster, wrapped in a dog collar, or sliding through the mail slot to get outside. And the final spread of Toasty cozily tucked in beside the girl at night is a comforting, feel good moment that brings the story to a satisfying close.
Toasty is just right for readers with an appetite for talking food, and who, like the girl in the story, would not blink twice at barking bread. They’ll appreciate this fetching ‘tail’ of embracing one’s inner oddities.
Make no bones about it, every toast has its day. Woof!
written and illustrated by Sarah Hwang
published by Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House, May 2021
Picture Book for ages 4-6, 32 pp.
**Starred Review** from School Library Journal
Enjoy this video of Sarah reading Toasty:
*Interior spreads text and illustrations copyright © 2021 Sarah Hwang, published by Holiday House. All rights reserved.
**Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.