November 01, 2007


Collectopia: A Friendship Scraptacular; Wacktivity. By Catherine Rondeau & Peggy Brown. Random House. $12.99 each.

I Spy Treasure Hunt. Photographs by Walter Wick. Riddles by Jean Marzollo. Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. $13.99.

      When reading isn’t enough, when there’s got to be something to do in addition to something to look at, here are some delightful ways to have fun. The Collectopia series, intended for girls ages 8-12, is a book-box-and-game mixture that also includes small fuzzy collectible figures and a place to display them. These pom-pom critters, collectively known as C’lectomaniacs, are only a part of the rather silly charm of these offerings. There are four each with A Friendship Scraptacular and Wacktivity, each of which comes with a little box of cubbyholes suitable for holding a total of 12 C’lectomaniacs. This is, of course, a great opportunity to trade. The focuses of these two offerings otherwise differ a bit, but their presentation is the same: each includes a 128-page spiral-bound book and three sheets of stickers. The book that comes with A Friendship Scraptacular includes spaces for photos (the old-fashioned, non-digital kind, of course), places to write in friends’ names next to such descriptions as “most talkative” and “most carefree,” pages on which to keep mementos, suggestions for various games, a place to save pictures of hot guys cut out of magazines, plus hints on writing poetry (limericks, haiku, etc.), making maps and more. Wacktivity has many similar scrapbook-like elements, plus a variety of brainteasers (from math games to choosing button shapes that lead to secret codes that lead to secret messages). There’s a collect-things-with-your-favorite-color activity, some palm-reading information, and even instructions on how to have a great ice-cream party. Not every girl in the target age range will enjoy every activity, of course, but the variety is enough to give Collectopia the potential for very wide appeal.

      The I Spy books have wide appeal already, and the new edition of I Spy Treasure Hunt – complete with a page of attractive foil stickers – shows why. Originally published in 1999, I Spy Treasure Hunt is as clever now as it was then, with a narrative of sorts tying together the usual format, in which Walter Wick makes and photographs fascinating miniature assemblages of objects, and Jean Marzollo provides rhyming clues to help kids of all ages (that’s including adults) locate, or try to locate, specific items. The focus here is a village called Smuggler’s Cove, where readers arrive, find a map, and search for treasure that they eventually track down. This sequence provides an extra layer of fun, but the basic layers are quite enough in themselves: marvel at the fascinating detail of Wick’s constructions while looking oh-so-closely at every nook and cranny to try to find the items to which Marzollo points you…only to realize that they were right in front of you all the time, but so cleverly hidden in plain sight that you just didn’t notice them. A nighttime scene, featuring a lighthouse and showing a lightning streak in the middle of the two-page spread, is especially attractively built and photographed here – as is the interior of a smuggler’s cave, crowded with objects made more difficult to distinguish because everything is a shade of tan or brown. I Spy Treasure Hunt is a great recipe for fun – and potentially for eyestrain, so look away from your search every once in a while!

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