Toy time: a look back at the most-beloved Toys of decades past by Christopher Byrne

It’s December and time for my “Books of the Year” list.  Unlike last year, which was a phenomenal year for non-fiction, this year was a barren desert in that category, with only one book worth mentioning.  Therefore, I have decided to start with two older books which were quite good, but not good enough to make the list of top books in the year that I read them.

Toy time: a look back at the most-beloved Toys of decades past by Christopher Byrne (read in 2013).  Visitors to my home know that I have a small collection of toys and games that I managed to save from my childhood of the 1960s and 70s with some additional selections from my mom’s toys of the 1930s.  Therefore, it will come as no surprise that I enjoyed Christopher Byrne’s encyclopedia of almost 100 toys from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s.  Each short chapter is divided into three or four sections describing the history and development of each toy, its cultural significance, “why kids loved it” and “where is it now.”  Although the update section was weak and frequently repetitive with tales of discontinued products of interest to collectors only, the history and development stories are fascinating and full of great toy trivia.  Byrne’s love of the subject comes through on every page and his inclusive writing style makes readers feel that they are sharing the experience of discovering these toys with him.  The artwork includes not only pictures of the toys themselves, but occasionally the packaging and advertising as well.

This is the third “toy history” title I’ve read.  In 2007, it was “The game makers: the story of Parker Brothers from Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit” by Philip E. Orbanes and in 2006 it was “The playmakers: amazing origins of timeless toys” by Tim Walsh.  Orbanes’s book was quite good and Walsh’s history of the 20th century U.S. toy industry with lots of trivia about classic toys and games made my Book Awards list that year.

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