Walter Wick's "Can You See What I See: Toyland Express" Brings Gift of Imagination to Kids

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Walter Wick’s studio and workshop in Hartford, Connecticut. If you don’t recognize the name “Walter Wick” right off the bat, then his name should ring a bell when I tell you that he is the photographer of the legendary “I Spy” series of books, and the author and photographer of the “Can You See What I See” series, both of which are wildly popular with children of all ages.

I was invited by Scholastic along with a handful of other influential bloggers to Walter’s studio to meet and interview him, and also to hear more about his latest book, “Can You See What I See: Toyland Express.”

“Can You See What I See: Toyland Express” follows the journey of a wooden toy train through various decades in time, all the way from being made in a workshop, to sitting in the window of a toy store, to being played with in a child’s bedroom, and ultimately winding up in a pile of junk at a yard sale.

Like the other books in the “Can You See What I See” series, each page of “Toyland Express” is beautifully photographed with a particular scene in the story, and there is a riddle on the page indicating which items the child needs to find hidden in the picture. Every single book that Walter Wick creates is a labor of love, and “Toyland Express” is no exception. Every single scene in the story was built in Walter’s workshop, and perfectly photographed in his studio. You’d probably never realize that each book that Walter writes and photographs takes about a year to complete!

Unlike traditional children’s books, Walter Wick’s books don’t have a written storyline accompanying them. Walter really wants each child to interpret the story on his/her own terms without any outside influence. Walter always had a vivid imagination as a kid, and he wants to encourage the same sense of wonder in other children. — Mary Fischer

  • Walter Wick In His Studio 1 of 5
    Walter Wick In His Studio
    Wick is well-known as the photographer of the "I Spy" book series.
  • Can You See What I See: Toyland Express 2 of 5
    Can You See What I See: Toyland Express
    Wick's latest book is perfect for the holiday season — learn more about it at Scholastic.
  • Toys Galore! 3 of 5
    Toys Galore!
    A page from "Can You See What I See: Toyland Express"
  • Walter’s Studio 4 of 5
    Walter's Studio
    Every single scene in the book was built in Walter's studio.
  • Chugging Along 5 of 5
    Chugging Along
    The book follows the journey of a toy train through various decades in time.

Walter explained his theory behind creating his books a bit during an interview I had the opportunity to do with him. Here is an excerpt:

Mary: Out of all your books, do you have a favorite?  And I guess this ties in with it.  Is it hard after you’ve, you know, for a year worked on this one and put all this love into it, and then having to say, “Okay, done.  Next?”

Mr. Walter Wick: I don’t have a favorite because I try so hard to make each book my favorite. What I like about the books, when I’m successful, is that I’ve succeeded in doing that particular type of concept that I set out to do.

When I did “A Drop of Water”, I really loved that book.  It’s not a search and find.  It’s a science book.  But, I can’t say it’s my favorite. I’m also really proud of the first “I Spy” or “I Spy Treasure Hunt” or “Treasure Ship.”

I do have some books that I don’t think are as successful as those ones that I mentioned.  For instance, “I Spy A Mystery” — there are some really successful photographs, but I don’t think it’s as successful with the mystery idea as it could have been.

And as far as when I’m done with a book, the hardest thing for me is not being done.  It’s actually a joy to be done.  The hardest thing is when I’m starting the next one and I have so much material to compare it to.

My staff and Linda will experience this.  They can see me pulling out some of these old books.  I know I’m covering some familiar ground, but I’ve got to do it differently. There’s only so many ways you can reshuffle objects.

That’s where the stories come in.  That shot of the still life of the yard sale, that could be from “I Spy”, the first “I Spy” book.  But, what I like with “Toyland Express” is that still life could be a shot that you took at a flea market.  Sometimes I could just take a camera and take a picture, and I’d have a search and find game.

And what I’m so proud of is that kind of picture, but also that the whole history of that train is there.  There’s so much more meaning to the elements of that photo for the reader because they know where the train started and they’re going to eventually know where it ends up.

When a kid goes into a museum and they look at a painting with a lot of complications to it like a grand Old Master painting, I’m hoping that I have given them a basis by which they can look at a painting, a complex image, and if they don’t understand what’s going on, they can at least understand the concept that there is meaning to all the elements of those photographs–or to the painting.

I can’t thank Walter Wick and Scholastic enough for giving me the opportunity to attend this event. It was a truly fascinating day, and an important reminder of where vision, hard work, and dedication can take you.

If you are looking for a truly unique holiday gift for a special child in your life this year, then I highly recommend picking up a copy of Walter Wick’s “Can You See What I See: Toyland Express.” What better gift is there for a child than giving them the gift of true imagination?

To see and hear more about Walter Wick’s books and his studio, take a look at the video clip below:

Article Posted 5 years Ago

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