Most children believe that when they sleep or when they leave their bedroom, their toys come to life. In Plucker by (and illustrated) Brom, this belief is true but not in a “Toy Story” sense. This work can be neither described as a novel or graphic novel; it is more like an adult picture book. I remember the first time I discovered this book. It was too big to fit on the regular shelves in it’s approriaite spot in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section to it was on the very top shelf, far from reach – as if it were hidden. I grabbed a step stool and pulled it down and was memorized by the art.
The story is set during the 1940’s in South Carolina. Jack, the hero of the story, wakes up to find him and his box (Jack in the Box) in the “underbed” among dusty toys that he had not seen in years – it was the worst place a toy could ever end up. His worst fear had come true, Thomas had outgrown him. Jack is positive that it was mistake and pushed himself to the hem of the blanket, waiting for Thomas (10 years old) to discover him. But when Thomas came to the bed, he passed by Jack and slipped his toy gun into his pocket and pushed Jack farther under the bed. Jack was ostracized, to live the rest of his days with the other unwanted toys.
Thomas’s father traveled and brought home toys for him. Some of the most prized were in glass boxes such as the Red Knight and the Snow Angel from Belgium. Like royalty, they strode the room and nodding to lesser toys as they played. Jack, being the rebellious toy he his, comes out from under the bed to play but is told by the Red Knight to go back where he belongs. Under the bed, Jack befriends the Baron, a nutcracker that used to belong to Thomas’s father.
It it is assumed that his father is in the Navy, and when he comes home this time he gives Thomas a gift from Nigeria from a witch doctor: A Spirit Warden. The toy is misshapen and made from hyena hide and smelling of odd spices. It has stab wound like eyes and spidery arms with nail stuck in its wooden head. While try to hand this “protection from evil spirits” it falls off the wall and under the bed – and breaks open – and here is where the true tale behinds. The Spirit Warden is not what he seems…and it is hungry.
Jack proves to be a true hero, fighting the evil spirits to save the other toys, Thomas, and the damsel in distress. What adds so much emotion to the story is not just the words, but the illustrations. Brom’s work has always captured the dark side of our nightmares, but he also captures such beauty with the Snow Angel. I highly recommend this book, if not for the story, but for it’s art. If your in the mood for a “Toy Story” for adults, this is the book for you. For a less “art filled” novel – try his dark take on Peter Pan, “The Child Thief” – you can read my review here.