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Bookshelf: Toy Stories
Play up the past with these flashbacks to childhood fun.
 1. Boys' Toys of the Fifties and Sixties and Girls' Toys of the fifties and Sixties edited by Thomas W. Holland (Windmill Press). Take a trip down memory lane with these catalog pages from the legendary Sears Christmas Wishbooks, 1950 to 1969. Remember View-Master, Betsy Wetsy and Big Wheel? Share these books with your children and grandchildren, so they can see the kinds of toys you played with in your youth — or wished you'd had. I know I couldn't wait for those Wishbooks to arrive at my doorstep each year. Don't let the names of these books fool you, though; you'll find cross-gender or non-gender-specific games and toys in both books.

2. Toys A to Z: A Guide and Dictionary for Collectors, Antique Dealers and Enthusiasts by Mark Rich (Krause Publications). Ever wonder about the origins of the Chatty Cathy doll? Or the Radio Flyer red wagon? This guide will tell you all about your favorite toys of the past. Discover the stories behind the artificial Christmas tree (I'll bet you didn't know its roots stretch to the 1920s), modeling clay, cap pistols and other playthings. Read a brief history of each toy manufacturer, and find out what companies made which toys. This is an easy-to-thumb-through reference with more than 350 photographs and illustrations.

3. The American Toy Train by Gerry and Janet Souter (MBI Publishing). I had a hard time peeling this book out of my husband's grasp. Anyone who loves model trains will love this book. For the past 100 years, young boys have collected toy trains, and grown men continue to collect them. Filled with color photographs, this book captures the fascination and history of toy trains from the mid-19th century to the present. You'll learn how much each set cost, how the trains were powered, who made them and what they looked like. Watch your male relatives' eyes light up once again as they recall their favorite train sets from childhood.

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