Meet the stuffed animals who inspired Jon J. Muth's characters (plus a sweepstakes!)

Guest Blogger  //  Oct 5, 2017

Meet the stuffed animals who inspired Jon J. Muth's characters (plus a sweepstakes!)

If you’re looking for a high-adrenaline, fast-paced afternoon, the racetrack is a good place to go…especially when a lively group of stuffed animals are the drivers! The protagonists in Caldecott Honoree Jon J Muth’s latest acclaimed picture book, Mama Lion Wins the Race, don’t disappoint; the mischievous sock monkeys will do whatever it takes to get ahead of the crowd, the pandas prove their engineering acumen when tires go flying, and Mama Lion dispenses gentle wisdom at a crucial moment.

As Jon J Muth told us in a recent interview, these character quirks actually had very specific origins—they were based on his children’s own toys!

“Mama Lion has been with my son since he was about 3 months old. His twin sister has had Tigey for almost as long. They are ten now. They play a game called the 'Friends Club' where all of their stuffed animals go on adventures together. As they’ve grown up, the stuffed animals have developed very specific personalities and I thought it would be fun to tell a story about them.” 

Learn more about each animal’s character traits by reading Jon’s descriptions below, and see them come to life by entering for a chance to win one of five signed copies of Mama Lion Wins the Race! Each copy has a different hand-drawn illustration from Jon J Muth. You can find details at the bottom of the post. 

To learn more about Mama Lion Wins the Race, click here.

Mama Lion: 

A smart gentle, fabulous kind of peacemaker.

If the other stuffed animals were having a problem, Mama Lion seemed to be able to bring them together.

The Knitted Monkey Crew:
Sweet, helpful characters…when they are separate.

Hans was always happy, up for anything. Bumper was very generous and strong so he’d help the animals who were small by carrying groceries, or lifting heavy stuff for them. And Happy-Go-Lucky was a thoughtful and quiet fellow with a wacky sense of humor. 

BUT, when the Monkeys got together, things invariably got out of hand. Bad choices were increased exponentially.

The Flying Pandinis

A family of mechanically inclined pandas.

They include Boppy, who is a turtle (I assume adopted?). He speaks a foreign language (foreign to everyone), he's always curious, and flexible, and good at remaining calm.

Brother Bao Bao and his sister, Baby Panda:

Bao Bao is a bold and loyal fellow. Baby Panda is the organizer. She has definite supervisor/managerial skills


In honor of Mama Lion Win’s the Race’s recent publication, we're giving away five copies—each with a hand-drawn illustration by Jon—to five random winners! To enter the sweepstakes, leave us a comment below telling us the name of your favorite stuffed animal when you were a child!

One entry per person. All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, October 13, 2017. U.S. residents, 18 and over, please. See the complete legal rules here.


I had a puppy dog that I

I had a puppy dog that I called Puppy. He went everywhere with me. He was even included in the family picture of Mom, Dad and the 7 kids! The only stuffed animal ever photographed with us.

I had one teddy bear who

I had one teddy bear who stayed at my bed. At nighttime, I would share stories, tell him what I was curious about, and go on and on about the my curiosities in the world. He was a great friend, as he never tired of my talking, and always snuggled, when I needed a hug. His name was Teddy.

We bought this little bear

We bought this little bear for the baby twins. It was this little baby/toddler, soft, little baby pink bear that was originally named "Pinky" by the mom and the aunts in the family. But the little one would not have it and decided on "Kippy". So, Kippy it was. Kippy went on so many adventures, that he turned into a grey little bear no matter how often we put him in the washer. My niece is now 10 years old and "Kippy" proudly sits on the dresser now. He never leaves the house as we all fear losing him. Too many fond memories.

Kanga the Kangaroo has not

Kanga the Kangaroo has not missed a night in my daughters arms since the day we got him four years ago (daughter is about to turn five). Kanga has been to 4th of July celebrations, airplane trips, car rides and usually waits patiently in the car seat while my daughter is at daycare. Kanga has had a few minor surgeries to replace broken stitches and worn out material and is loved more each day.

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