Marzollo & Wick,
I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles
(Cartwheel, 2005)

I ran across this book (figuratively, not literally) in my dermatologist's waiting room. Thanks to a moderate wait, and a book of only 40 pages (that are mainly photographs), I was able to get a good look at it. I had not before seen one of the I Spy books, of which there is a series, although I knew of the game and had played it. I was impressed with the book, although I initially had reservations about where it would be of most use.

As to the book's features, it is 40 pages of large, colorful photographs, most covering two pages, with a large collection of various items scattered across each picture. Each picture is accompanied by a short riddle or rhyming phrase that tells you what to find in the picture with which it is paired. The objects could be just about anything small, with many being small children's toys, like marbles or little animal figurines. An example of a riddle or clue phrase is:

I spy a snake, a three-letter word,
And flying underneath, a great white bird;
Nine gold stars, a blue tube of glitter,
One clay cat, and a six-legged critter.

The suggested age range is 4 to 8. While I did not have the time needed to adequately tackle the challenges, I will say that, for the one I focused on, it was indeed a challenge. I could not find the rabbit!

As to the physical qualities of the book, it is an over-sized hardcover measuring 12.1 by 9.2 by 0.3 inches, which allows the pictures to be very large. The cover is glossy and thick, and the pages are not flimsy, all of which adds up to a 40-page book weighing well over one pound. Physically, the book should last quite a while, despite regular usage. That is a good thing, for a book aimed at young children, and also contributes to its suitability for doctor's waiting rooms.

At first, I thought this book might be the kind that parents buy for their small children, their children initially love it, and, three weeks later, it will sit on a shelf, accompanied by a growing collection of dust bunnies. After looking it through and trying it out, I think I was wrong, and that the book will have sustainability. The level of difficulty is one key to that. In the first two-page collection, I was challenged to find eight objects. I found six fairly quickly, but then that darn rabbit kept eluding me! It was there, but it was a quick and sneaky little thing. I can imagine a parent using the book as a read-along, with a 4-year-old, and the child will find the first four or five items, the parent-child tag-team will hunt down two more, and the remainder will have to wait until tomorrow. Those elusive items will eventually be found, and then you turn the page and get to start over.

There are also extra credit riddles at the end, which will further extend the book's attention-lifespan in the family. Meanwhile, the 3-year-old will want to see what all the fuss is about, and so it goes. Also, given the separate puzzles throughout the book, it is very aptly fit for a waiting room.

The bottom line is that this is a good book for children, and I believe it will stand up to time, use, and the challenge of childhood attention spans.

review by
Chris McCallister

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