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Toby Twirl in Pogland

Just recently, here at Stella & Rose's Books, we have had two copies of this oversized soft-cover book come into stock. I decided to take a peek inside and discover more about this book.

This title is actually the first in which we are introduced to the character Toby Twirl. Created by author Sheila Hodgetts and brought to life by illustrator Edward Jeffrey, Toby Twirl is a young pig, but he walks upright, has human hands and feet and wears blue dungarees. It is said that Jeffrey based the illustrations on a soft toy made by his wife.

Being the first title in the series and not knowing much about Toby Twirl in general, I didn't know what to expect. It was different to what I expected. Displayed over 16 pages, Hodgetts tells the story in verse (rhyming couplets), with Jeffrey adding four 'cartoon' style illustrations to most pages.


To me, surprisingly, it read very much as a fairy tale, with the common themes of good versus evil, complete with a prince, a princess in need of rescue, an evil, wily witch and her cronies and of course, the 'hero' Toby Twirl and a couple of courageous friends that join him on his adventure.

At the opening of the book, we find Toby along a beach, looking for something to do. He is rowing in his hired rowing boat, 'When suddenly, some distance off, He spied a mighty Bird.' And so his adventure begins. The Bird plucks him from his rowing boat and flies 'for hours and hours'. Toby, being a little afraid asks to go home. However, soon, the Bird's tragic tale is told and Toby is eager to help his new friend out.

Pogland, where Toby has been taken by the bird, appears to be a magical and enchanted land. The bird is in fact a prince, promised in marriage to Princess Flower of Pogland. However, due to the cunning and spells of the evil witch, whose 'ugly son', who also wants to marry Princess Flower, the King of Pogland and his subjects have been turned into toads and the Princess herself abducted. The Bird Prince has been looking for his Princess, but to no avail, hence the reason he has requested Toby's help.

During a visit to the Toad King at his palace in Pogland, 'For several hours they talked and planned, but to no avail, The King was ill, they quickly saw, And looking very frail'. 'So with a promise that they would, Do all within their power, They started on their hopeless quest, For lovely Princess Flower.'

It is through the shady woods, that they meet Peter Penguin (he 'used to be the witch's pet'). He offers his help, as he saw the Witch steal Princess Flower and promises that 'she's quite near here'. With Peter's help Toby hatches a plan, which he is sure can not go wrong. Off he sends the Bird prince with instructions, while he and Peter carry on up the mountainside in search of the Witch's lair.

While day turns to night and back again, Toby and Peter follow 'Clues' of 'sobbing', which must be Princess Flower and 'a marble seat', which reveals steps. They bravely descend the steps and come to a 'rabbit warren' of passages, which must be used, due to the flares that are lit throughout them.

Determinedly, they search for Princess Flower and eventually find her and try to plot their escape. However, things are at work against their escape and the Wily Witch finds them and locks Toby and Peter away and separates them from Princess Flower. The Witch is set on fattening up Toby and Peter, so that 'can be lunch one day'. In fear of this, Toby devises another plan, where they do not eat the food provided by the Witch, so that they don't become lunch.

Without giving all the story away, (although don't all Fairy Tales end a similar way?), with some more troubles, and the Witch's son and evil sprites being involved, help at last arrives for Toby and his friend Peter. Mister Bison eventually makes an appearance; he is also featured in several other Toby Twirl adventures, along with Peter (or Pete) Penguin and some other characters not introduced in this book.

For those of you, like me, who haven't read any Toby Twirl adventures before, I can highly recommend 'Toby Twirl In Pogland' as a good starting place!

Mmm, now onto Toby's other adventures......

Contributed by Joanne Hill

(Published 13th Mar 2019)

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