Ford portrays the back story of the Slinky, the coiled steel toy that debuted in 1945 and still sells today.
Richard James, a white naval engineer at a Philadelphia shipyard, discovers that a torsion spring, aided by gravity, can “walk” from an incline. James and his wife, Betty, persevere to create and market the toy. Securing a $500 bank loan to produce 400 units, Richard demonstrates the toy at Gimbels during the holiday season, selling all 400 Slinkys in 90 minutes. Later, he designs machinery that speeds fabrication. Ford’s reductive narrative portrays the couple as an enterprising unit: as production shifts to a factory, it “took the teamwork of a dreamer and a planner to turn an ordinary spring… / into a truly marvelous thing!” Betty’s role in resurrecting the company from near bankruptcy in 1960, after Richard “left to do missionary work in Bolivia,” is relegated to a note. Ford omits the couple’s divorce, six kids, why the company foundered, and that Betty ran it successfully until its 1998 sale. Busy illustrations combine digitally created cutouts with found objects, photographed in dioramas. While some of the cartoonish figures are depicted as people of color, most are white, tinted various pinks. Found objects seem haphazardly chosen and integrated compared to the superior constructions of Melissa Sweet.
Obliquely told and unevenly illustrated, this Slinky story’s just OK. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)