Most pages in “Eye spy” consist of large (25.4 by 33 cm) images of different animal faces and, over each creature’s eyes, a small fold-out section which is opened by a flap to reveal a pictorial scene: two white buildings, a Fresian cow, a dog and cat chasing a ball, a small paddling pool reflecting a blue sky, a hot air balloon, a bird of prey and assorted items in various sizes, shapes and colours.
But – and this is the book’s visual raison d’être – each fold-out section reveals a different rendition of what is recognisably the same scene.
This follows from the way each animal in the book – which include a chimpanzee, dog, cat, eagle, frog, earthworm, bee and bat (20 life forms in all, from amphibians and reptiles through to insects and molluscs) – sees the world in different ways.
This book carries an elementary but weighty insight into the nature of reality. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, it is nice to imagine, would have loved reading this book to their children. Eye-brain processing of visual data received by the brain varies according to the way an organism evolved in optical ways to help it find food as well as avoid becoming food for a predator.
This is explained, in information panels on the back of the flaps, in easy-to-understand language for young readers.
“Eye spy” is a superb picture book suitable for children from the age of four or five upwards. Younger children will engage with the large format and liftable flaps and they will see, even if they cannot read, the book’s epistemological message.
“You’re safe with me” and “You’re snug with me” are books from another innovative publisher and children who enjoy one of these two books will relish the prospect of seeing its companion piece.
What distinguishes both books are the gorgeous and intricate illustrations that fill every available space on their pages. Geometric patterns of dots and swirling lines blend melodiously with the gentle and reassuring rhythm of the text.
You’re Safe With Me has for its setting the baby animals of the Indian forest whose fear of the night is mollified by the voice of Mama Elephant: “You’re safe with me” “You’re snug with me” unfolds a story about an Arctic bear who digs into the snow for the winter and to give birth to her two cubs. The young ones have questions to ask about the world outside their den.
“What lies beyond the ice and snow?” they ask. “Beyond the snow is the ocean,’ said Mama Bear. ‘It is full of ice from long ago.’ She then adds, ‘Don’t be afraid. As long as the ice stays frozen, we will never go hungry.”
The undemonstrative message of the book is an ecological one and young readers will absorb it as they lose themselves in the beautifully illustrated text.