The detailed, visually fascinating I Spy books by Jean Marzollo, with photographs by Walter Wick, are tremendously popular with kids of all ages. As printed variations on a guessing and observation game that's also called "I Spy," the picture books challenge kids to hone their observational skills by finding objects in each crowded, cluttered photograph and scene.
The I Spy book series began with the original volume, I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles, which was released by Scholastic in 1992. All subsequent I Spy books have taken their cue from that first book in that they are all oversized, hardcover, and short, capping in at about 40 pages. Each book has more than a dozen two-page picture spreads, featuring toys, household objects, and other pictorial scenes. The author poses picture clues in rhyming couplets, inviting readers to find certain objects that are hidden in the scenes. Even though the books are short, kids who love looking at pictures can be captivated for hours while searching for the objects on the pages.
As of 2010, there are eight I Spy books in the series:
- I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles
- I Spy: Christmas
- I Spy: Fun House
- I Spy: Mystery
- I Spy: Fantasy
- I Spy: School Days
- I Spy: Spooky Night
- I Spy: Treasure Hunt
In addition to the regular series, Scholastic has released a number of I Spy Challenger books by the same author-and-photographer team. The more advanced books are suitable for readers of all ages, just like the originals, but they add an extra element of challenge with harder-to-find objects. The difficulty level makes the challenger books fun for parents and older siblings to read along with kids because everyone can enjoy looking for the same tricky objects together.
There are also I Spy paperback books for younger readers, kids who struggle to read the clues independently, or kids who need extra help finding objects. Clues for the paperbacks are simpler and are intended for beginning readers or pre-readers. Each paperback book also contains small pictures of each object that a reader is supposed to search for in the photographs (the more advanced books have only text clues).
Finally, Scholastic also publishes almost 10 different board books for very young readers and preschoolers. The board books have much shorter clues and show large pictures of objects that are then presented in simple photographic scenes. For kids who can't yet read and are too young for the complexity of the traditional I Spy volumes, the board books are a great alternative to build beginning skills of visual observation.
For kids who really love the game, the fun doesn't have to stop with the books. Scholastic has also manufactured more than a dozen board games, puzzles, memory games, bingo variations, travel games, word games, and card games for kids of all ages. In addition, the company has released several online games, iPhone applications, DVDs, and video games in conjunction with the series.
Using the I Spy Books
It's easy to use the I Spy books as they're intended. All you have to do is read through the clues and search each photographic spread for the objects mentioned. However, you can also use the books as tools to make up your own observational games.
- Write down your own rhyming clues for more hidden objects.
- Find extra objects in each scene, and provide one clue at a time about each object until someone else is able to locate the item.
- With very young kids, ask them to describe what they see in each scene. Focus on colors, shapes, and individual items as well as the big pictures.
- Write stories about especially interesting scenes within a photograph, or isolate and draw certain objects that are pictured.
- Arrange your own I Spy scenes with collections of household objects, snap pictures of the scenes, and write clues to make your own book.