Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Toy Stories by Gabriele Galimberti

As well as being a jolly good museum all round, the V&A Museum of Childhood had one of the most tempting shops of any museum I've ever been in. I had to use every modicum of self-control not to just yell "ONE OF EACH, AND THREE OF THOSE OVER THERE PLEASE!" at the very nice lady at the till.

I was relatively restrained, in the end.  I did buy one or two books, including the very lovely Toy Stories by the photographer Gabriele Galimberti. I bought it for me, but actually have caught the two older kids looking at it for a surprisingly long time, given that it has very few words.

For a book with almost no text, it taught us an awful lot about parents and children.  The book consists of photographs of small children with their favourite toys arranged in front of them, usually in a room in their house.  Our favourite is the Zambian girl who has no toys, but who does share a box of sunglasses that fell of the back of a lorry with all of the children in her village.  They use the sunglasses to play "markets" where they pretend to buy and sell the sunglasses, before putting them all back in their box at the end of the game.

We all felt a bit sorry for her, and then realised that this was a patronising attitude, since actually, they all appeared to be having quite a lot of fun! It's apparent that, even for the children from very rich countries, there are not all that many "favourites". There is, after all, only really space in your heart for a few very special toys.

The book prompted some really interesting questions about cultural values, ownership, and the concept of play.  We also decided which toys we would (have for me!) picked as our favourites.  For A it was her cuddly puffin, musical instruments and notebooks.  C said his teddies and his Lego, and perhaps a slinky (good choice). I'd have gone for my Care Bear, Wuzzle, a couple of My Little Ponies and a Flower Fairy (she smelt of lovely plasticy chemicals, and I used to chew her foot, which was strangely comforting).

Anyway, it's a great little book for flicking through, and has earned a place in the top rank of books in the household - the mooching shelf in the living room. Writers vie for that honour, let me tell you.

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