19 April 2010

When It's OK to Read Over My Shoulder

As you may have gathered, I have a real fascination for books with an interactive element. There is one book I can open and my children will eventually all gravitate to me. It's almost like magic. And, for the record, my children are grown-ups. What book could work such a charm? It's I Spy. If Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick published a thousand of them, we would want them all.

In case you have been living on the Space Shuttle for the last twenty years or so, these are books which are heavy on the illustration and light on the text, and the object is to find hidden things on the pages. They usually tend toward general themes, such as cityscapes or scary rooms. Around these established backgrounds, the authors place found objects: small toys, coins, pins, and other detritus of the average household. Some pages look busy and complex, and some are seemingly straightforward. The text is a light verse listing of things to find. Little kids are fascinated by the colorful illustrations, but some of the objects are diabolically difficult to spot. Soon, adults are pulled into the effort and cozy togetherness ensues. You can see why I love these books.

In an effort to include several different audiences, the team of Marzollo and Wick has expanded their cunning notion from toddler board books to video games. There are even DVDs. I personally prefer the books, though (go figure). There is nothing like having your kids sitting beside you, draped over your shoulders, sitting at your feet, all up close and peering into the book with you, racing to find the next item. Get that sort of family time from a newspaper!

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