Reviews /

Eye Spy

Authored by Ruth Brown
Illustrated by Ruth Brown
Published by Scallywag Press

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There are times when you open up a new picture book and you just know it’s a book that will be re-read and treasured for many years to come and each time you revisit it year on year it retains and conjures up the shared memories. Eye Spy by Ruth Brown is one of those special books. When I opened the post, my now adult daughter was with me and she said it reminded her of many of our much-loved family favourites including, Each Peach Pear Plum, Peepo and from the illustrations, Shirley Hughes.

The book is an illustrated interpretation of the enduring childhood game, I Spy. A game, which kept me as a child and my children entertained on many a long car journey as I’m sure it has for so many. And so, the nostalgia you feel just by this simple reference draws you in. Here though, the game is a different journey to one in a car, it’s one that takes you through the day, from dawn to dusk, set in a countryside landscape. It starts with sunrise and ends when the sun goes down, when it’s dark and the moon is in the sky. Simply perfect for a bedtime story.

What it asks us the reader to do on each double spread, is to solve a riddle written in rhyme, to guess which animal, insect or aspect of nature is hiding, and then search for it in the beautifully detailed illustrations. Then turn the page to see an image confirming the answer and you may, like me, also finding yourself flicking back to see it where you might have missed it but still guessed it from the rhyme:

I spy with my little eye,

something beginning with

H

Its ears are soft. Its legs are long.

It runs so fast, it’s almost gone!

It rhymes with dare

Every nature scene is a visual delight so revisiting is recommended to look much closer at the whole picture: dappled sunshine through a forest; a poppy-filled wheat field; a stone wall surrounded by wildflowers and moonlit trees and fields are just a few. Also, some of the hidden images are cleverly disguised and tricky to see at first.

Each of the illustrations are simply beautiful works of art. They capture a snapshot of nature and so going back to look at them again and again will allow you to explore the detail, beyond the I Spy game. This can be exploring the various aspects of the natural world, fauna and creatures, as there are so many flowers and plants to spot, name, find out more about. It could also be to look at how the light and colour changes as the day progresses. I absolutely love the pages where the sunshine cascades its light across the page. They are also a call to try and capture those moments outdoors too and encourage nature walks. This is a book that would sit perfectly within a nursery, reception and Year 1 setting, in the book corner, to read aloud and to support topics or themes linked to nature and wildlife.

Reading interviews with Ruth Brown where she talks about her work and defining the essentials of a picture book, she talks about text and pictures having ‘the same weight and balance and each do what the other can’t’ and where, the older child can read it themselves later on but there is enough in the pictures to interest the non-reader’, both of which she has certainly achieved to perfection with Eye Spy.

This is a book that I see being read and shared with children as parents, primary school teachers of all ages (although especially early years) and lecturers in teacher training sharing with students the many qualities we look for in a book to develop children’s reading skills alongside encouraging their love of books to become lifelong readers for pleasure. This is a book filled with comfort and joy to share, explore and revisit with children again and again.