'Toyland Express' Readers Hunt For The Hidden

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The "Can You See What I See?" children's book series are photo-puzzles made from Walter Wick's signature photographic compositions of model toys and odds and ends. His latest book is called Toyland Express. Wick joins host Audie Cornish to talk about how he puts together is photo illustrations.


And now on to different kinds of puzzles, the photo puzzles found in the pages of the "Can You See What I See?" books. They're the creation of Walter Wick and full of his signature photographs. The latest book in the series is called "Toyland Express." And like others in the series, it challenges kids to find a wealth of hidden objects: lollipops, ribbons, tennis rackets and even a kitchen sink hidden in elaborate photographic tableaus.

"Toyland Express" tells the story of a toy train through all its ups and downs. And, as some parents watch children open shiny new toys this morning, this scene described by Walter Wick may foreshadow where new toys end up.

WALTER WICK: Everything in the attic is covered with dust. And you see the train sadly in a broken box in the center of the picture. But you also see all the other toys. Pretty much all the other toys you've seen up to this point as the train was being played with. But the story doesn't end there. The next picture you see, all these objects have been dusted off and placed on a table outdoors. And this picture is called a "Yard Sale."

And then the story goes on from there where you see the train has been put back to use in a new home with a whole new generation of toys being added to it.

CORNISH: When you put together a picture, I imagine there's a lot that goes into not just composing the image - placing all the objects - but also placing all the hidden objects.

WICK: The hidden objects is probably the most fun part for me and it comes really late in the process. The most complicated part for a book like "Toyland Express" is to make sure that the story is clear because I don't have a supporting text to fill in details. So it all has to be found with objects and that's really the challenge.

CORNISH: Over the years, as you've written more and more of these books, what's sort of important for you to impart in them?

WICK: One of the reasons I use the narrative is so that I can get kids engaged in thinking about, you know, the passage of time or the connections from one picture to the next. You know, you might ask if young readers, say, at five years old, would they be able to discern what's going on with the story like what's going on in "Toyland Express?"

But my experiences has been in past books is that they do pick up on the story because I get letters from them sometimes showing I've made mistakes.


CORNISH: Like, they find errors in (unintelligible) story lines.

WICK: They find that o'clock has been set at one time in one photograph and illogically set at another time in another photograph, for example.

CORNISH: I read once that you said that as a kid you were kind of a non-reader. Is that true?

WICK: Yes. Yes. Yeah, I was a very slow reader and very reluctant reader.

CORNISH: How does that play into how you put together books now?

WICK: When I go to schools, I meet a lot of reluctant readers. And I know what it was like to be a reluctant reader. And I like to provide them with a complex set of images and a really rich and interesting game. And I like to give them something that challenges them and they feel this great sense of accomplishment when they're done.

CORNISH: Do you have a favorite toy or object?

WICK: I kind of have this one favorite marble. It's a yellow marble. It appeared in one of my photographs back in 1980, when I first started to do photography professionally. And this same marble has been in one - from one book to the next. And so I call it my favorite marble. But I can't say I really have a favorite toy, except for that seems to symbolize something very special to me.

CORNISH: Walter Wick, he's the author the children's books series "I Spy" and "Can You See What I See?" His latest is called "Can You See What I See: Toyland Express." He spoke to us from the studios of WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut.

Walter Wick, thank you so much.

WICK: Thank you.

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