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Toy Review: Goldie Blox and the Parade Float

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GoldieBlox, the Engineering Toys for Girls, returns with its second set of construction fun in Goldie Blox and the Parade Float. Created by Stanford engineering graduate Debbie Sterling, Goldie Blox aims to bring STEM to young girls. Her research into the question of why girls did not play with construction toys went beyond gender stereotyping into psychology, pointing toward the community activities of girls as opposed to the goal-achievement perspectives of boys. Each set comes with a book showing the need for such constructions and hints on other things to build. The previous set, Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine, took the belt drive as the engineering focus as Goldie helped her dog Nacho improve his tail-chasing abilities.

goldiebloxparadeIn the story for The Parade Float, Goldie walks with her friend Ruby, who is competing to win the Miss Princess Pageant and a ride through town on a parade float. Goldie’s living dancing dolphin doll Katinka decides to enter the contest for herself, though her performance is a bit much when she knocks the wig off one of the judges. Ruby wins the contest, and Katinka cries so hard “if she wasn’t a dolphin, she could have drowned.” Goldie and Ruby save the day by volunteering to build a float for Katinka as well. With rich and colorful illustrations by Andrea Fernandez and Treavor Spencer, the story is fun world-building, and there is even a guest appearance by Flavio, the bear from Brazil, as a pageant judge. The pretend social context gives incentive to follow the instructions, making building floats for Katinka and Ruby all the more exciting.

On the engineering end, the set focuses on the simple machine principle of the wheel and axle. Long axel pieces are able to fit through the yellow barrels, which then act as wheels upon which the floats can roll. Detailed blueprints show how to piece together the float for Katinka, creating a four-wheeled base with a stand from which Katinka may wave to her audience. At the end of the book, we see more possible designs, including the float Ruby rides, a swing for Nacho, wagons, and even a belt-driven launcher. Young builders are encouraged to create their own designs and submit them for posting on the GoldieBlox website.

The engineering aspect of the set is solid, though the axles can be tricky to fit exactly into the blocks. Some holes in the blocks are larger than others, so kids and adults alike will want to test which holes are meant for axels to slide through easily and which are meant to hold pieces in place. All of the pieces are compatible with the previous and future sets, allowing future engineers to put them together and create more and more massive devices. The soft pinks, purples, and blue of the set match what we often consider “girl colors,” but the toys are great for boys as well.

The inclusion of pageantry brings in a major topic about the gender-stereotyping issues. “Winning Miss Princess gave Ruby a thrill. But she was most proud of the parade float that she helped build.” GoldieBlox seems neither to endorse nor dismiss pageants, but it does make the statement that, while winning is an honor from others, it is what we ourselves do that makes us who we are.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.
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