January 21, 2016


Can You See What I See? Big Book of Search-and-Find Fun. By Walter Wick. Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. $12.99.

Stampy’s Lovely Book. By Joseph Garrett. Random House. $9.99.

     It helps to know what is in these books before opening them. If you do know, you will enjoy the contents; if not, you may be puzzled or could find the material off-putting. Actually, though, being puzzled may not be a problem when it comes to Can You See What I See? Big Book of Search-and-Find Fun, since puzzling is what Walter Wick is all about: he creates fascinating photographic collages in which common objects are seen in unexpected sizes, from unexpected angles, and in unexpected surroundings, making them very difficult to spot among all the other objects on the page. Then Wick asks young readers (or adults, who can enjoy these visual puzzles just as much as kids can) to find specific things that are hidden in plain sight. This is an enjoyable game, a kind of modern and visual update of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous detective story, “The Purloined Letter,” in which the missing missive turns out to be hidden right where anyone could see it – by being willing to look in a place so obvious that it is easy to overlook. In the case of Wick’s Big Book of Search-and-Find Fun, the pages are taken from the nine previous books in the series called Can You See What I See? Those books’ covers are shown at the end of this one, so if you particularly enjoy pages in Big Book of Search-and-Find Fun that come from, say, Treasure Ship or On a Scary, Scary Night, you can get the original books and find additional, similar displays. The nice thing about Big Book of Search-and-Find Fun is its considerable variety: Wick has applied his photographic and layout expertise to many kinds of objects over the years, and this book lets readers see and search for a generous sample of his not-really-hidden items. Indeed, Big Book of Search-and-Find Fun goes beyond reaching out to Wick’s existing fans through its diversity of images: kids who have never tried to, say, look at a card table and find four horses, a red heart and a bowling pin, or examine a layout of parts for building a robot and locate a mouse, a magnet and the number 12, will quickly be pulled into Wick’s worlds and – if they do not get too frustrated in their searches – want to spend more time in them. What is more, the visual attractiveness of all Wick’s creations is so strong that the pages of Big Book of Search-and-Find Fun can be enjoyed just as pictures – before readers start their quest for specific elements within the layouts.

     The world of Joseph Garrett’s Stampy Cat is an online one, specifically one on YouTube, and it is a “lovely” world only because Garrett and the blocky, Minecraft-style cat say it is. The same is true of Stampy’s Lovely Book: there is nothing objectively lovely about the book, but it is taken from what is called Stampy’s lovely world, so it gets the same adjective. Unlike Wick’s book, Garrett’s is strictly for existing fans and highly unlikely to attract new ones: there is not much to the book itself, and it draws heavily on the assumption that young readers already know all about Stampy Cat. For instance, pages about “my favorite friends” note that the “best lovely world moment” for Ballistic Squid (who looks nothing at all like a squid) is “being the Kraken in episode 124,” while the distinguishing features of Amy Lee 33 are “bright pink hair and is usually seen holding a lovely jubbly love love petal.” Stampy’s Lovely Book is partly intended for fans who are considering making their own YouTube creations: one page explains “my five-step process when making a Lovely World video,” and actually contains some useful suggestions. However, the book is mostly for fans who just cannot get enough of Stampy Cat and want to know “some completely confidential secrets” such as “my Funland used to be a lake” and “There’s a jungle biome in my world, as well as a mushroom biome. You just can’t see them.” Stampy Cat is a popular Internet character – one among many – and some pages of Stampy’s Lovely Book are intended to bring the Internet experience into print. These include, for example, “My Lovely Cake Maze” and a story called “Cow Calamity” that features Stampy drawn in comic-strip style in an adventure involving cows and “my lunar friends.” Existing fans may enjoy these off-the-Web elements as a change of pace, but the book’s contents are unlikely to intrigue non-fans and make them want to find Stampy in his primary presence online. Stampy’s Lovely Book gets a (+++) rating for its very narrow focus and fan-only orientation: it is an adjunct to material in a different medium and does not stand particularly well on its own. However, existing fans may find it a nice souvenir of Stampy’s online world – fun for times when they happen to be away from their electronic connections.

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