Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy

The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy

Gilbert Ford
Photographer: Greg Endries
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2016   ISBN: 978-1481450652

It was 1943 and men and women all over the United States were doing what they could for the war effort. Richard James worked as an engineer for the United States Navy, and he was given the task of inventing “a device that would keep fragile ship equipment from vibrating in choppy seas.” Richard tried and tried but he simply couldn’t find a spring that would meet his needs.

Then, purely by chance, a torsion spring fell off a shelf above his desk and then the coiled wire walked across the desk surface. Richard was astonished by what he had seen and he dashed home to show his wife what the coil could do. Richard’s little son put the coil at the top of the stairs and then they all watched as it “walked all the way down?” Richard decided that the coil would make a wonderful toy and his wife, after looking through a dictionary for two days, thought that they should call the toy a Slinky.

Richard got a bank loan to have four hundred Slinkys made and then he visited toy stores, hoping that someone would want to buy his product. No one did. In desperation, Richard begged the buyer at Gimbels department store to allow him to show off his accidental invention.

On a busy, pre-holiday season November day Richard showed shoppers what the Slinky could do and in ninety minutes all four hundred Slinkys had been bought. The Slinky was going to be a huge hit!

Millions of Slinkys have been sold since the toy was invented in 1945 and they are still popular with children today. This wonderful picture book shows young readers how inventions sometimes come into being because of an accident, and how inspiration, hard work, and careful planning can turn an idea into a business success story.

Throughout the book the engaging text is accompanied by dioramic illustrations that combine artwork with found objects to give readers a unique picture book experience.