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May 1999
 
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Curiosities

Floor Games by H.G. Wells

Here in a few thousand words, on seventy pages liberally illustrated with photos and line drawings, Wells shows how he and his two small sons, create unexplored islands, build and populate cities, scale mountains, using lead figures, tin ships, mechanical trains, wooden boards and bricks, and their imaginations.

Wells is of his time. Indians and Zulus are savages. Generous, toy-giving uncles are invoked, but not aunts. Little girls are mentioned only in passing. But he is seen here at his most charming and least pretentious.
"When islands cease somehow to dazzle . . . we say: 'Let us make a funicular. Let us make a funicular more than we have ever done.' "
He pleads repeatedly for blocks that are plain, sturdy pieces of wood which can be turned to every purpose, for farm and wild animals and, above all, for civilian figures instead of the super-abundant toy soldiers.

Two years after this book, Wells produced his better known Little Wars, the basis of subsequent wargames, a kind of 1/32 scale inadvertent prophecy of the impending catastrophe of August 1914.

Floor Games' aims are modest. "If one Uncle or parent buys the wiselier for me, I shall not have lived in vain," is how it ends.

But its legacy is substantial. The book was an inspiration for Jungian Sand Table Therapy, an unlocking of a child's subconscious through play. In the best tradition of "Curiosities," it is currently, tragically, out of print.

—Richard Bowes

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