Rocking Horse Land: And Other Classic Tales of Dolls and Toys

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Rocking Horse Land: And Other Classic Tales of Dolls and Toys Book Poster Image
Six stories about toys that come to life.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Children misbehave and are spoiled, a fairy is greedy, the stepsisters are mean.

Violence & Scariness

Fairy-tale violence, such as wicked stepsisters turned to ash, etc. A visit to a witch's house, which stands on claws and is surrounded by glowing skulls.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there is some fairy tale violence in these stories. The art is lovely but too small.

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What's the story?

This collection of six stories about toys that come to life. \"Memoirs of a London Doll,\" the first chapter of a book from the 1800s, details the creation and contest for ownership of an exceptional doll. \"The Steadfast Tin Soldier\" is Hans Christian Andersen's classic about a toy soldier who falls in love with a paper dancer.

Dolls protect their owners from a nasty fairy in \"Rag Bag\" and from a witch and evil stepsisters in \"Vasilissa, Baba Yaga, and the Little Doll.\"

In \"Rocking Horse Land,\" a young prince frees his beloved rocking horse and is rewarded in adulthood. And in E. Nesbit's \"The Town in the Library,\" two siblings enter the world they create, only to be confronted by their toy soldiers.

Is it any good?

The best story in the collection is the title story, a humorous and poignant tale about real love between child and toy, and the repercussions of that love through the generations. For such a short story it has surprising complexity: The prince, though amusingly spoiled, is also selflessly loving and kind. It will make any child long for a rocking horse, and any adult long to give it, though the pictures of it are so magnificent that not just any rocking horse will do. The weakest story, surprisingly, is the one from E. Nesbit, a novelist of justified renown whose "The Town in the Library" is confusing and disjointed.

The rest are very good. "Memoirs of a London Doll," the first chapter of a 19th-century novel, may well send readers scrambling to find a used copy of this out-of-print book, and "Rag Bag" gives old, worn-out dolls their due. Angela Barrett's delicate illustrations are lovely, but many are reproduced as miniatures, which makes the details hard to make out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about favorite toys. Try making up your own stories about your toys coming to life.

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