The Sound-A-Round Talking Puzzle combined puzzle building and storytelling for kids ages 3 to 7. Released in 1968 by Whitman, it is representative of “talking” toys that were popular at the time.
Kids first built a simple puzzle included (literally) inside the record. Then, by inserting the Magic Tone Arm into a hole in the center of the board, they could move the tone arm clock-wise around the record to hear a narrator read the story in the hardcover storybook that came with the package. No batteries were required, just good, old-fashioned elbow grease. Players could control clarity of the sound by varying the turning speed. The tone-arm self-adjusted, so the record could be easily replayed by simply raising the head of the tone-arm and placing it back down on the record.
In addition to selling Master Unit sets that contained a single talking puzzle, storybook, and tone arm, Whitman also sold a variety of accessory packs. These add-ons were less expensive and consisted of only a talking puzzle and storybook, so kids could expand their library of stories to hear using their existing Magic Tone Arm.
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.