Forever Sleep and Real Silk Hearts: A Daniel Kraus Book Review

A sizable portion of adults have a story from their generation about their toys coming to life. For many, it’s the Toy Story franchise. For Daniel Kraus, it’s Watership Down. For the next generation, it may very well be Kraus’ new middle-grade trilogy, The Teddies Saga.

It started with Kraus’ obsession with Stephen King in middle school. While reading his nonfiction book, Danse Macabre, he learned about King’s love for Watership Down. It intrigued him because, in his own words, what was the master of horror doing celebrating a book about bunny rabbits?

“This made no sense to me,” Kraus said. “I went down to the library. It was a small town, and a small library, so it wasn't a sure thing they'd even have a copy, but they did - a large-print edition. So I hauled that giant sucker around and read it, and fell in love. It made me realize that, the more vulnerable your characters, the more incredible their feats of bravery. I've always wanted to write something in that vein.”

The first in The Teddies Saga, They Threw Us Away, introduces main characters Buddy, Sunny, Horace, Sugar and Reginald - Furrington™ Teddies. They all wake up at the garbage dump with no recollection of getting there; one minute they were at the Store, hoping a child would take them home, and the next they were surrounded by trash. They are determined to figure out how they ended up there, and try to make their way back to the Store.

Buddy is the clear leader and was the first to end up outside of his packaging. He next found Sunny, who also has strong leadership skills and understands the importance of their Teddy Duty. Horace is dramatically terrified of anything and everything. Sugar’s box is clearly marked damaged merchandise and shows in her head-in-the-clouds demeanor. Reginald is the wisest and oldest of the Teddies, and recalls the origin of their creation.

The longer they try to survive in the real world, the more they learn about its harsh realities. They get dirty, they make and lose friends, they turn against each other and they question everything they see. They also refuse to give up hope.

Much like Kraus questioned King’s celebration of talking rabbits, the same can be said for a series about colorful, talking teddy bears. But also much like Watership Down, They Threw Us Away brings vulnerable characters to life in more ways than one and leaves the reader rooting for the teddies to make it to their end goal.

This is Kraus’ first time as a middle-grade writer, but he doesn’t let audience demographics affect his story choice.

“Whether I'm writing adult, YA, or middle-grade, I focus on the story, and the writing style the story requires eventually makes it clear which age group might best respond to the book,” he said. “The language of middle-grade is a bit different - the sentence construction, the length of paragraphs, and so forth. But really it's the same set of challenges: making sure your characters connect and creating a world that makes sense.”

They Threw Us Away is available here.