The Slinky, one of the great toy sensations of the 20th century, was born during WWII, when naval engineer Richard James noticed a torsion spring’s unusual properties: the spring “fell from the shelf above his desk. Its coils took a walk.” A nail-biter of a debut in the toy department of Gimbels pays off, and the baby boom supplied the market—although Ford, who never underplays the grit required to launch an invention, reveals that James’s wife/collaborator, Betty, was ready to plant a shill in the Gimbels audience, just in case. Ford (Mr. Ferris and His Wheel) writes with reportorial concision, and his visual style is elaborately and ingeniously playful, capturing both a midcentury American optimism and the tinkerer mindset. His photographed dioramas are assembled from expressive paper doll figures, two-dimensional drawings, and three-dimensional objects; one scene of a postwar suburb includes appropriately humongous toy cars. Readers may not have the extensive firsthand Slinky experience of previous generations, but they’ll probably recall Slinky Dog from the Toy Story films. Besides, the entrepreneur is fast becoming as much an aspirational hero as the cowboy, astronaut, or ninja. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/11/2016 Release date: 09/13/2016 Genre: Children's
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