Four Dolls, Three Bears, Two Bunnies, and One Plastic Guy: Books about Play Pals

Four Dolls, Three Bears, Two Bunnies, and One Plastic Guy: Books about Play Pals

As Director of Libraries at The Strong, I acquire scholarly books on the study of play for the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. Although tracking down weighty academic tomes is quite fulfilling, I would be dishonest if I said that selecting children’s books for the Grada Hopeman Gelser Library didn’t liven up my job. The books available for check out in each museum exhibit are selected to complement and enhance the theme and subject matter—from Where the Sidewalk Ends in Reading Adventureland to Pete’s a Pizza in Wegmans Super Kids Market. The Strong’s newest exhibit, Play Pals, traces the evolution of dolls, action figures, toy soldiers, and plush animals through three centuries of American history. As I reviewed and purchased books for the collection, I was reminded of the rich tradition of dolls and toys in children’s literature.

The Four Dolls

The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (1883) reads more like Candide with marionettes and talking animals than the Disney version most of us remember. Pinocchio is much less endearing, landing Geppetto in prison, squashing the talking cricket, and biting off the paw of a cat. But everything ends just as well, with Pinocchio earning “real boy” status by taking to heart the lessons learned during his wild adventures.

Screen-Play: Hey There Hi There Ho There, Mickey Mouse Club!

Screen-Play: Hey There Hi There Ho There, Mickey Mouse Club!

I’ve struggled to catch Saturday Night Live’s 40th season because I’m either out and about or asleep on the couch (usually the latter). But there’s a variety show that’s made for me—particularly due to its time slot and content—and it’s also celebrating an anniversary this year. The Mickey Mouse Club is turning 60. Walt Disney…

Recess Memories

Recess Memories

Many will remember how recess became the highlight of a grade-schooler’s day. At my own elementary school outdoor recess brought together classmates of all athletic abilities and creative talents. On the playground, the swing set filled up quickly with kids aiming to swing high and launch themselves into a pile of wood chips. Girls with…

Our Furry Friends

Our Furry Friends

What comes to mind when you hear the word “animal”? Do you envision farm animals, your pet at home, or something a bit more wild? Perhaps you even think of a Muppet or two. Either way, it’s hard to ignore that animals fulfill a pretty big role when it comes to play. As toddlers, many…

Monkeying around with Sock Monkeys

Monkeying around with Sock Monkeys

The beloved sock monkey is easily recognizable, cute, silly, and soft, but where did it originate? According to Bonnie Krauss Connelly’s book, Everything’s Coming up Sock Monkeys!: Art, History and Business of the American Sock Monkey, the classic toy’s beginnings can be traced back to Rockford, Illinois, where Swedish immigrant John Nelson settled in 1852….

The World Series of Shopping: The Black Friday Game Plan

The World Series of Shopping: The Black Friday Game Plan

In many families across America, preparing and then devouring the Thanksgiving Day dinner is followed by a quiet evening watching football or a Charlie Brown television special or simply sleeping off the tranquilizing effects of the largest meal you will eat all year. In my family though, the hours after the meal are not for…

You CAN Solve the Rubik’s Cube

You CAN Solve the Rubik’s Cube

Initially known as the Magic Cube, today’s Rubik’s Cube—a six-sided puzzler that has challenged several generations—holds the title of best-selling toy of all time. Along with bubbles and little green army men, Rubik’s Cube is one of the 2014 inductees to The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame. I first tackled the cube in the…

Screen-Play: 123-45 Sesame Street

Screen-Play: 123-45 Sesame Street

Well, paint me blue and call me Grover—Sesame Street premiered 45 years ago today, on November 10, 1969. With more than 4,300 episodes to date, it is one of the longest-running shows in television history. My colleague Scott Eberle has written about the series’ cultural and educational impact. And as The Strong inducts three new…

Little Green Army Men Join Forces with the National Toy Hall of Fame

Little Green Army Men Join Forces with the National Toy Hall of Fame

Little green army men marched right into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong on November 6, 2014. The tiny figures, along with Rubik’s Cube and bubbles, took their place of honor among the other 53 classic toys that evidence the iconic status, longevity, and play value necessary for induction. The green army…

The Dolls that Haunt Us: 50 Years of Terrifying Toys

The Dolls that Haunt Us: 50 Years of Terrifying Toys

Autumn is upon us, replete with all things paranormal and pumpkin spice. Hollywood once again offers us an opportunity to be terrified for the cost of a movie ticket and large popcorn. Annabelle (2014) isn’t the first “playful” villain that has captured our collective attention: for a half a century, scary toys have come alive…