Sometimes when we gaze at a beautiful photo, we become enthralled in the subject that lies front and center. But oftentimes, there is much more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye! This tour into the background of some meticulously planned photographs you may recognize from your childhood will have you looking at household knick-knacks in a whole new light.

If you are like millions of others around the world during the 1990s, you probably remember lying on the floor, completely fixated on a glossy photograph of miscellaneous treasures. But did you know that these trinket-filled picture books were a great tool for learning? It’s true! So put on your nostalgia goggles—we are taking you on a search-and-find journey through the wondrous world of  I SPY!

I SPY a bit of wonder, a tool for learning, and hours of entertainment!   

When reading an I SPY book, one can always expect the unexpected. One minute you will be looking through a backstage assortment of sparkling masks and beads, the next minute you will be buried in a pile of pirate’s treasure searching for a mermaid on a coin. In reality, each one of these imaginative displays is strategically and physically set into place by visionary mastermind, Walter Wick.

In 1991, photo illustrator Walter Wick and writer Jean Marzollo were approached by Scholastic Books to write a search-and-find children’s book that would feature Walter’s unique images. 1 Little did Walter and Jean know, their collaboration would become a huge success!

There is a reason that the I SPY books have sold more than 45 million copies worldwide. Both kids and adults gravitated (and still do!) toward the extremely detailed pictures that let their imaginations soar! 2 Unlike other seek-and-find books, I SPY was created using real objects, giving kids a tangible way to transform their scouting strengths into real-life skills.

Here’s a great video by INSIDER that gives us a bit of background on the artist behind these beautiful books—and how he created those amazing images! 

Via: Insider 3

Want to see more? Check out INSIDER on Twitter and Instagram! You can also learn about Walter Wick’s recent work by visiting his website! Or follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to see what’s new in his creative orbit.

“I was very surprised from the very beginning how intensely kids looked at my photographs. So, I just put the same intensity back into making them” — Walter Wick

It wasn’t until I saw an exhibit of Walter Wick’s work at a local museum that I fully understood the scope of what he has been doing all these years. The large scale and intricate layering of his staged set designs are absolutely mind-blowing! I found myself peering through a keyhole that revealed a bustling streetscape filled with candle-lit alleys, miniature market vendors, and several other quirky touches that one can only notice after staring for a while. Taking in all the tiny curiosities of his exhibit made me wonder, “What other little hidden gems could we be missing every day because we aren’t looking for them?”

I SPY books aren’t just a dazzling form of entertainment! They are a staple in school libraries and a wonderful tool for learning.

There’s scientific evidence of the I SPY books ability to entice reluctant readers who might find it hard to sit still. (Which describes most kids if you ask me!) And, these picture books also strengthen working memory, helping children to learn and perform new tasks. 4

Personally, I credit these books for my uncanny ability to find lost objects. I can easily scan a room to uncover camouflaged car keys or the dreaded missing cell phone. Maybe there is a slew of thirty-somethings out there who were inspired to become archeologists, bird watchers, or professional puzzlers as a result of reading these hidden object chronicles?!

My niece and nephew, Nixon and Scarlett, searching for a seahorse.

Scarlett showing her discontent about her brother finding the seahorse first.

The books that connect everyone! 

The amazing thing here is how these images really stuck with people. It’s rare to find something that captures the attention of people of ALL ages and backgrounds, but these books managed to entice everyone in the family tree! From Grandpappy to step-mother, little nephew to the teenage exchange student, everyone can escape for a minute to find a circus bear. I feel confident that Walter Wick’s imaginative work will continue to fascinate the next generation of young readers, too. 

So, if you would like to entertain your children, sharpen your treasure-hunting skills, or you simply wish to take a trip down memory lane, grab an I SPY book! You may start to see the world with new eyes, and you might even discover a message in a bottle. 

Scarlett pleased that she found what she was looking for!

Keep dreaming and notice the beauty around you!


Have you heard of our educational offshoot called EWCed?

We’ve created a platform for educators and students filled with educational videos and activities to encourage inquiry and creativity! Check out EWCed and explore all that wonder by clicking the button below.

Take me to EWCed!


  1. Wikipedia. “Walter Wick.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 July 2019,
  2. Morgan, Clancy. “Meet the Photographer behind the ‘I Spy’ Books That Captured Millions of Readers’ Imaginations.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 30 July 2019,
  3. Insider. “How ‘I Spy’ Books Are Made.” YouTube, Insider, 22 July 2019,
  4. Rodriguez, Jodie. “Here’s Exactly How I SPY Boosts Memory & Visual Learning.” Scholastic, 20 May 2019,

Renee Laroche-Rheaume

Outreach Coordinator

Renee is a graduate of FIDM, and has held jobs in several industries such as apparel manufacturing, retail, professional office work, and even hospitality! Her creative outlook, wide variety of experiences, and desire to notice the beauty around us make her a great addition to the EWC team!