Toys - from teddy bears to Barbie dolls to train sets - define our image of childhood innocence. But the truth is that toys represent a $21 billion a year industry, and with so much money at stake, the toy business is anything but child's play.
In The Real Toy Story, investigative journalist Eric Clark exposes the startling truths behind Britain's favourite toys. Drawing on interviews with over 200 industry insiders, Clark names and shames the corporations spending millions on research into the best way to manipulate their target audience while manufacturing products in China under virtual slave labour conditions.
In a world of cut-throat competition and cold-blooded marketing, toy companies are increasingly willing to sacrifice our children in the rush for profits. And as more children forsake cuddly play things for Ipods and cell phones, companies are using even more extreme tactics- unashamedly using sex and violence to sell dolls and action men to children as young as three - to make sure that their toy is the one that children want to have.
The Real Toy Story is essential reading for the millions of adults who care about the toys they choose for the children in their lives.
London journalist Clark begins by invoking the magic of playtime, but the bulk of the book is a more prosaic snapshot of today's toy industry a straightforward look at struggles and obstacles ranging from store closings and kids' ever-shorter attention spans to the dominance of Wal-Mart and China. Though the book is far from comprehensive Clark scarcely mentions computer and video games and pretty much ignores the world outside the U.S. and England almost any reader will find delight in his lively anecdotes, quotes and life stories from inventors, shop owners and toy-company executives. The subtitle's hint of darkness is here, too: Clark notes the "contrast between the industry's hard, often pitiless pragmatism and the cozy, lovable image of what it's selling." He sets the brutal closing chapter, "Santa's Sweatshop," in China's Pearl River Delta, the "workshop of the world." But this is no Fast Food Nation style polemic intended to rouse readers to action; when the author's prose edges into commentary, he's more wistful than outraged. Too many of today's toys, he laments, "preach sex and violence" and are too closely linked to TV and film spinoffs. Anyone raised on Erector sets and Legos will relate.