I confess I asked for a review copy of this book because it's hard not to get nostalgic about toys as Christmas approaches - waves of James May style nostalgia wash over you. I realized they were onto something good here when I opened the book to flick through it and found I'd read about 25 percent of it before I could force myself to stop. It's just good fun.
My suspicions are that the reason a book like this is so attractive is that when we were young (well, at least when I was young) and there were no personal electronic goods to tempt us, toys were the prime objects of our desire. We genuinely used to look into toyshop windows and lust after these things. We used to wait with eager anticipation to see if Father Christmas (none of this 'Santa' rubbish) had delivered on the day. We hadn't been bombarded by give-aways in McDonald's Happy Meals - toys were exciting.
Inevitably there are one or two favourites missing. Matchbox and Corgi cars were present, for instance, but not Dinky. And the text, while providing a lot of interesting historical factoids, was occasionally too rose-tinted. The Spirograph entry, for example, didn't mention that hardly anyone has ever made a Spirograph picture without slipping and spoiling it. Yet this collection of double page spreads, with big colour photos and genuinely interesting content was pleasurable and page-turn-demanding.
Really this ought to be the ideal gift - many, many adults over the age of 30 will appreciate it (though plenty of the toys shown are still going, or were until recently, so the appeal may be even wider). The only trouble is that some people may wonder what you are saying about them if you give them a book about toys. (Especially if it's a bloke and they're getting a book with a picture of Barbie on the firont.) So it may be that this is a gift that, on the whole, you will have to buy for yourself. But if you fancy an escape from the Christmas pressures into a time when things were less complicated, I can highly recommend it. Take a look at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com