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I-Spy Books Back

Thu, 10 Dec 2009

The iconic book collection will be back on the shelves this Christmas for the first time since 2002, encouraging children of all ages to get out and explore the world around them.

Created by Charles Warrell in 1948 the pocket-sized picture books were designed to develop children’s curiosity, powers of observation and sense of discovery. Each book was based on a specific theme I-Spy Cars, I-Spy in the Country, I-Spy on the Road, I-Spy Below your Feet and so on. Within the 40-page books were illustrations of things for children to spot which earned them a certain number of points.


More to the point they were always an excellent means of giving chilren something to do on interminable car, train and coach journeys.


During its heyday I-Spy had a cult following with more than 1.5million children becoming members of the I-Spy ‘tribe’, headed up by Big Chief I-Spy, Warrell himself.

Once children had ‘spied’ all of the items in the book they sent it to Wigwam-by-the-Water (later Wigwam-by-the-Green) in London and completed books were rewarded with badges, many of which can be found for sale on internet sites today (ebay shop)

One woman who remembers the collection well is Greta James, a pupil of Thetford Girls’ Grammar in 1955.

Greta and her sixth form classmates took part in a competition run by The News Chronicle newspaper (later to become the Daily Mail). Warrell was regularly writing an I-Spy column in the publication and decided to issue an I-Spy Great Britain challenge – inviting schools from around the country to produce a book showcasing the weird and wonderful things about their village, town or county.

Thetford Girls’ team of eager I-Spyers dedicated a lot of time and energy to create their entry. Greta recalls some fond memories from that year: “The whole class came together after our O-Level exams in July 1955 and we spent much of the summer holidays touring Norfolk and Suffolk collecting material.  We were encouraged and supported by our teacher Miss Melton and friends of the school Mr and Mrs Bagshaw, whose cars enabled the more long distance projects to be accomplished.”

Due to the overwhelming demand from fans, Michelin has published a new series. The collection comprises of 12 new titles including I-Spy Cars, Train Journeys, Birds and Creepy Crawlies.

Ian Murray, Michelin head of Maps & Guides UK said: “I think the secret of I-Spy’s appeal is its timeless charm, which taps into the inquisitive and curious nature of children.  With a world dominated by computer games and television, I-Spy books give children a refreshing opportunity to take a closer look at what’s going on in their everyday lives.”

Each pocket sized guide contains up to 200 themed colour photographs, which readers have to spot.  The aim is to tick them off and collect points; having reached 1,000 points children can join the I-Spy Club and send off for a certificate from Chief I-Spy.

An ideal stocking filler, I-Spy books will retail at £2.50 and are available direct from and high street book retailers.


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