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I-Spy Memories

 A few days ago I was reading for review a lovely little popular maths book called 1089 and All That (highly recommended - take a look at the review). A couple of pages into the book is an illustration of a child's book(let) called I-Spy on a Train Journey... and on seeing it, the memories just came flooding back.

For those who never encountered them, I-Spy books were a very 1950s/60s set of little books for children. (No connection with the 1990s I Spy series from Scholastic, but the originals were revamped in various decades.) The idea was they contained pictures/descriptions of all kinds of things you might see at a particular location, or during a particular activity, and you noted down as you spotted them, learning a little along the way.

My favourite, ideal for wet holidays in Wales and Cornwall, was I-Spy at the Seaside with a heady mix of creatures you might see in rock pools and unlikely sights like a lifeboat being launched. It just reeked of seaside holidays.

At the Seaside returns in the new series
The downside of these books were the obscure things. There was just no way you could get everything in the book - but you were determined to try. If you got enough points (I think, and here the memory's hazy, you got more points for obscure things), you could send the book off to some mysterious central organization, run, apparently, by 'Big Chief I-Spy', who would no doubt award you something or other, but I never got round to this. (I've no idea where the Red Indian (as it would be known then) theme came from.)

I honestly think these books were part of my stimulation to get interested in science. They encouraged you to explore, to find out, to discover. We could do with a new generation of these books, I think. Can we call back Big Chief I-Spy from retirement? I can but hope. (Update - I see from the Wikipedia article they were re-launched this year. Hurrah!)

Due to this being half term, my blogging this week will be sparse-to-non-existent. Please bear with me!


  1. 50 points for obscure things - like "Tank Crossing". The Daily Mail ran the club. You got an I-Spy pack with codes and also badges.I got enough points once because I went somewhere which filled pretty much the whole book - can't remember which now. I do recall that Kensington Gardens was particularly good for rare dogs (I still know that a Chows tongue is black and what a Bedlington looks lie as well as the difference between the types of setter). Awesome. Triefd thjm with my kids but I think their day was already past. Now you can just find things on the net.


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