What We're Reading: May 2011

We play quite a bit of "I Spy" in our minivan. Sophie still replaces L sounds with W sounds, so I always smile when she chimes in with "I spy with my wittle eye..." Naturally, the kids have been long-time fans of Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick's amazing I SPY series. Those books seem to bring out the best in our family. We can sit together quietly on the couch for half an hour and take turns spying our favorite objects in Wick's detailed collages.

This week at the library, I stumbled on a related book series I'd never seen that adds a really fun twist to the I Spy concept. Joan Steiner's Look-Alikes (1998, Little, Brown & Company) goes one step further by taking everyday household objects and using them to create incredibly ornate scenes and landscapes. Saltine crackers become siding for a downtown building. A razor makes a perfect vacuum cleaner. A shoehorn is a playground slide. Rolled up world maps double as marble columns in a hotel lobby. It goes on and on and on. It's hard to know which is most amazing--how Steiner was able to come up with all these uncanny look-alikes, or the amount of painstaking work it had to have taken to assemble each layout. Either way, the result is an engrossing experience that will have you finding something new every time you open the book. Needless to say, my family instantly loved it.

In researching this book, I was saddened to discover that Ms. Steiner passed away this past September after a battle with cancer. If I'd had the chance, I certainly would have written her to say how excited I was to discover her books, and to thank her for the days, weeks, months and years she must have meticulously worked on them. I probably would have mentioned my kids' favorite look-alikes, and I might have asked where she acquired all those perfect nik-naks and where did she keep them all.

Anyone else as fascinated with this subgenre of ultra-detailed photographic I Spy-style children's books as I am? Any recommendations?