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To sort out who's who and what's what in the world of Barbies and Ninja Turtles, Tinkertoys and teddy bears, is to begin to see what has become of childhood in America. It is this changing world, and what it unveils about Americans values, that Gary Cross explores in this book, a look into the meaning of American toys through this century. Early in the 1900s toys reflected parents ideas about children and their futures. Erector sets introduced boys to a realm of business and technology, while baby dolls anticipated motherhood and building blocks honed the fine motor skills of the youngest children. The book chronicles the transformation that occurred as the interests and intentions of parents, children, and the toy industry gradually diverged starting in the 1930s when toymakers, inspired by popular favorites like Shirley Temple and Buck Rogers, began to appeal directly to the young. TV advertising, blockbuster films like "Star Wars", and Saturday morning cartoons exploited their youthful audience. Meanwhile, social and economic forces were transforming the nature of play in American society. Cross offers an account of a culture in which erector sets and baby dolls are no longer alone in preparing children for the future, and in which the toys that now crowd the racks are as perplexing for parents as they are beguiling for little boys and girls. Whether we want our children to be high achievers in a competitive world or playful and free from the worries of adult life, the toy store confronts us with many choices. What does the endless array of action figures and fashion dolls mean? Are children or parents the dupes of the film, television, and toy industries, with their latest fads and fantasies? What does this say about our time, and what does it bode for our future? Tapping a vein of cultural history, the book exposes the serious business behind a century of playthings.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674503359
ISBN-10: 067450335X
Format: Paperback
(225mm x 143mm x 17mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 8-Oct-1999
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Gary S. Cross

Gary Cross is Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University.

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