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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Toffee and the Small Car
by Hertha von Gebhardt
Age Range: 6-8
Toffee’s real name is Christopher but at home they all call him Toffee. It’s Toffee’s first day of school and he’s full of anticipation and excitement, but also nervous about this new and unknown experience. Things don’t get any better when his best friend Tony tells him that school is boring and every day is the same.
Toffee is left-handed (he writers his real name the wrong way round REHPOTSIRHC). Toffee’s teacher Mrs Lawrence asks him to sits next to Charles who complains when Toffee keeps touching him with his left elbow while doing his writing. Then at break time a group of children start bullying Toffee in the playground and calling him ‘lefty’. One girl in the class defends him and Toffee admires her bravery in standing up to the bullies. He finds out they both have something in common as she is also bullied for wearing glasses. But who is she? What’s her name and where does she live?
When Toffee gets home he tells his mum and dad about his bad experience at school. His dad explains to Toffee that being left-handed is not a bad thing and that life would be very boring if everyone were the same.
Part of the Wren Series of fiction published by Burke Publishing Company in London in the 1960s, Toffee and the Small Car is a delightful book for young readers by German author Hertha von Gebhardt (1896-1978).
Von Gebhardt was a master storyteller who perfectly understood the way in which the minds of young children worked. When Toffee is recovering in bed after an accident his dad tells him a magical story about a girl who suddenly disappears because she has had a spell put on her and been turned into a car. Her glasses have become the headlights which are so big that people in the street laugh at the poor car. Toffee’s dad uses the car analogy to explain the bullying he and his young friend are experiencing and to help him to understand it and to assure him that everything will be alright.
Dorothy Clark’s illustrations perfectly capture the spirit of the text. The portrayal of the characters are full of expression inviting the reader to get involved with the story and savour every single page. Some of the illustrations are black and white with yellow colour background which makes the images highly effective.
Other Hertha von Gebhardt titles on the website are: The Girl From Nowhere (1958), Love from Nicky (1960), The River Post (1961), Ruth’s New Friend (1963), The Building Site (1964) and The Boy in the Glasses (1967)