Fantastic Toys: A Catalog
“Fantastic Toys will send the reader off on a creative journey that ultimately is not limited to these 11 inventions.”
If children’s picture books (like real estate) could be measured by one thing and one thing alone it would be: Imagination. Imagination. Imagination. There is no shortage of imagination in Fantastic Toys, a nostalgic throwback to the era of toy catalogs, which was first released in 1973.
Beisner, a German illustrator living in London, has embraced the international language of creativity and designed 11 inventions that are sure to have universal appeal. Each toy is an interactive invitation into the youthful world of play, opening a door to the creation of infinite possibilities.
With names like Jumping Boots, Inflatable Flower, and Sheep Toboggan, such toys beg to be explored to the fullest extent, and Beisner’s pictures and descriptions bring them all to life. Jumping boots have springs on the bottom for enhanced bouncing pleasure. They come complete with a jumping suit with wings attached that resembles a bird or a butterfly, adding flying to the jumping sensation. The inflatable flower arrives with gnomes and a frog to pump the bellows that bring the toy to full size in less than a minute. Heated antlers and a horn that sounds “Baa!” are features on the sheep toboggan that serve a utilitarian purpose on a winter wonderland hillside playground.
For better or for worse, some of the toys show their age. Young children today will not recognize the Throw the Planets game. Nor is it common for this age range to have heard of Punch and Judy, who are part of an organ entertainment show invention. But this is unlikely to deter from the enjoyment of the book.
Hedgehog umbrellas, bath-foam bunnies, giant mural balloons, and glow-in-the-dark teddy bears round out the catalog. The closing page illustrates a park setting with all the children gathered together looking up at a giant butterfly hovering in the air between two tall and robust trees. This butterfly is essentially a summary, or a table of contents, of the catalog, with each toy represented in the design of the butterfly’s outstretched wings.
The feeling that is conveyed in this illustration is one of joy, exuberance, and celebration, which is really the optimal outcome of an imagination well used. This sensation permeates through the book, and Fantastic Toys will send the reader off on a creative journey that ultimately is not limited to these 11 inventions.