The long, cold winter days are starting to wear thin around here. Now is when I start grabbing for books that ask more from the reader. I’m calling this grouping “Search Books,” but perhaps that title is a bit lacking still. Each of these are descended in some form from the Where’s Waldo genre of books; but I love these more because they carry a solid storyline as well. You don’t have to search when you read them, but they are exponentially more fun if you do. Grab your magnifying glasses and let’s read three books that make you search!
I promise that the blue cover theme is by complete coincidence, although it does make for quite the pleasing group! I’m going to show two pictures for each book as these lend themselves to a bit more showing off and explanation. Let’s begin our searching with the oldest of the three.
1. Where’s Wallace? story and panoramas by Hilary Knight, 1964
It took me years to find a decent copy of this beloved book and it has remained on our favorites shelf for months. My daughter loves to have it read to her, but she equally loves to study it alone. A really good picture book always works on both levels!
The story is about a curious little orangutan named Wallace. He lives in the zoo and has a kind zookeeper friend who tells him of wondrous activities and leaves his cage unlocked. When Wallace inevitably decides to experience something himself, the zookeeper chases after to bring him back. The next time Wallace is looking for some mischief, the zookeeper provides some fun story to whet his appetite. Adventure after adventure, Wallace never seems satisfied. But in the end he realizes that he likes his home, with a few new fancy furnishings, and can be quite content there with all the friends who daily visit. “At least for a while….”
The pages alternate between text heavy and wordless. The cover calls the wordless spreads “panoramas” and they definitely are packed full! Famed Eloise illustrator, Hilary Knight, is a spectacular artist with a knack for creating charming characters and then surrounding them with interesting details. The text pages fill out the story, giving hints to Wallace’s next adventure and also show his previous whereabouts in each panorama. Thank goodness for that, because often that little dude is hard to spot!
There are also a handful of other characters that can be spied in every panorama to add even more dimensions to the search. Each of these are introduced on the end pages and are often easier to find than Wallace! The pacing can be a little daunting at first, but once you fall for Wallace, you’ll never look back. Well, except to keep searching in each panorama of course!
2. The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud, 2013
I have already written a full review on this book a couple winters ago when I was a Cybil’s judge. I was also thrilled last fall when it received the Gold at the Society of Illustrators here in NYC! It is a French import, now with a companion book (soon to be reviewed).
Every read I find something new. Throughout the book you are searching for the Papa, who is chasing the Little Bear, who in turn is following the bee. When the chase ends in a large opera house, the Papa mistakenly crashes the stage and decides to perform for the audience to calm their fears. His loving bear song has the complete opposite affect, clearing the house. All except for his little bear who cheers and announces he has found the bee’s secret stash. The two end their adventure in a father child cuddle ready to hibernate with honey-filled tummies.
This one is definitely lighter in text and less demanding on the search front. Although finding all three characters on each page is a definite challenge. There are so many side stories and details and fillers, I have often wondered if I’m missing some of the jokes. And aha! Just this week, I realized that the more you know of Benjamin Chaud’s books, the more you’ll find in the crazy backdrops of these bears. Whether you approach the book fresh or for the fiftieth time, it is a feast for the eyes and a warmth to the heart.
3. Mr Tweed’s Good Deeds written and illustrated by Jim Stoten, 2014
And now, brace yourself for some amazing color craziness! Once again, Flying Eye Books has put out a stunning book. Mr Tweed came out last fall and he wants to challenge your eyes along with your counting skills.
Mr Tweed begins his day with a stroll and finds himself repeatedly encountering people who have lost the most random things in the most chaotic of places. First is a kite in a park, then two kittens in a garden. On and on he goes with rats in a library, pineapples in a market… and Mr Tweed, being a jolly chap, helps all of them track down their essential items, all the while counting up to nine. Finally exhausted by all the hunts, Mr Tweed heads home only to be surprised by a block party his friends have thrown to thank him for all his help. Mr Tweed has been so full of good deeds that he now deserves 10 nice gifts, and yep, you have to help him find them all.
Now, let’s be clear about the searching in this book. It is intense! I am challenged each time to find them all in the crazy detailed and zany-colored spreads.
Let me know when you find the four goldfish in that crowded pool and keep in mind, there are only four things to find! It just gets crazier and crazier. The colors. The details. So much to take in and see. We love to take our time with this one and point out all the funny things happening.
At the same time, I will note that I think this one borders on too hard. I also don’t like that some of the items can be found in the gutter of the book. Not great design. But… the challenge is part of the delight and it pulls it off in the end. Plus, it makes you feel needed as the adult too. Overall, I think the style and especially the crazy color palette push this one into amazing territory. And the cover is seriously one of my favorites. So strong and lovely. Add this one to your list – just take a deep breath before opening.
Happy searching friends! The long cabin-fever days will meet their end soon.