There was a time when I thought all soft toys were a bit rubbish. I mean what are they for exactly? It seemed like for the most part my son, then a toddler, felt the same way. He wouldn't have anything to do with them. Fast forward five years and he can't go anywhere/to sleep without his penguin, parrot, teddybear, and Remy from Ratatouille.
There's something just so comforting about them, and lovable. And why not have a little bit more love in our lives? Which is why we were interested when Hallmark told us that they were launching a new interactive toy called Abigail (£19.99).
Abigail is part of their range of interactive Story Buddy soft toys. She's a soft, brown bunny and joins Watson the Racoon, Cooper the Bear and Jingle the Husky Dog.
The blurb on the website describes her as a real 'girl's girl', which might be the case but this soft little thing also turned out to be a real boy's girl as well. At least in my house.
Abigail comes complete with her own story book, ‘Abigail and the Balance Beam’, which follows the chatty bunny trying to make her mum extra proud of her by performing gymnastics. As passages from the book are read aloud, Abigail springs to life and joins in the story!
So that's the story behind Abigail. What was she like in real life? Read on to find out.
She's soft, she's cute and feels 'substantial' - she's not heavy but she's not light either. I was a bit worried that she'd feel hard to cuddle because of her electronic insides, but she doesn't at all - and I've cuddled her quite a bit.
Abigail comes with a story book that has 'trigger' phrases for her to respond to as you read along with the story. All the kids were utterly entranced by this - forget Abigail's target audience, the older teenagers ADORED HER! So much so, in fact, that I caught them switching her on (you do this by pressing a button on the underside of her ear) just so they could say the phrase that makes her laugh - and a very infectious laugh it is too.
The story (Abigail and the Balance Beam) is a story about practicing making perfect; about trying your best and reaping the rewards at the end, and Abigail chips in whenever you read a trigger phrase - these are printed in purple in the book.
Abigail also has several responses to each phrase that she can say - we all agreed that this was great, because it stops her from becoming boring as you're never quite sure which one she's going to say.
It's recommended that you read the story with Abigail in a quiet environment - my house is rarely quiet and even with a fair bit of background noise going on, Abigail successfully responded 90% of the time. I was rather impressed with this, I must confess. Most households aren't quiet and if you had to have absolute silence in order for Abigail to respond then it would be a pretty poor show.
You can buy additional story books to read with Abigail (£5.99), which I think is a fabulous - I love that you can build up your Abigail library and read more than one book with her. Even if you love Abigail to pieces and even with her being able to give different responses to the same trigger phrases, having just one Abigail story would, eventually, get pretty tedious.
There's the free app too (for iPads and iPhones), which has a ton of features and offers a further level of interaction with Abigail.
The only negative for some people will be her VERY American accent - if you're easily offended by a bouncy, cutesy, high-pitched American voice then Abigail might grate on that particular nerve.
Other than that, I can't think of anything negative to say about her at all!
I think her price is great for the interactive experience you get with her and I think £5.99 each for the additional Abigail books is more than reasonable. The books are hardback and good quality, you'd easily pay more for a book of the same quality in places like Waterstones.
The pros she's very cute and cuddly. She responds well to the trigger phrases. Additional story books are available, which are high quality and reasonably priced.
The cons: Abigail has a very American accent
Overall score: 9 out of 10 (and I'm only dropping that one mark because of her accent - if you don't mind that side of her then add that point back on!)