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Literature / Can You See What I See?

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Can You See What I See? is Walter Wick's second search-and-find series after I Spy, started in 2002 and with the last entry published in 2013. In this series, Wick writes all the riddles himself as well as staging the photography. The idea is very much the same as I Spy: the reader is given a photo of a collection of assorted items, along with a rhyming riddle listing off a number of objects hidden in the picture. However, they differ from I Spy in that the last couplet of the riddle always contains an extra challenge. Readers find the listed objects and finish each puzzle by solving a last brainteaser, such as following a maze in the photo, locating all the scattered parts of a disassembled robot, or even identifying mirror illusions.

Unlike I Spy, Can You See What I See?'s photos tend to follow a linear storyline and feature miniature set pieces instead of simply object collections under a unifying theme. For example, Can You See What I See? Toyland Express tells the story of a toy train, from its beginnings in a workshop to a yard sale and a new life with another owner, and Can You See What I See? Out Of This World tells of a robot from the far future building a time machine and visiting a princess's castle. The series quickly proved to be just as popular as I Spy, spawning multiple spin-off series and Licensed Games for the PC. The books are still in circulation and a mainstay of nearly every elementary-school classroom.

The series is also notable for introducing Seymour, a little man made of beads and string hidden in every photo of every book. In On A Scary Scary Night and Dream Machine, he acts as a guide of sorts and follows the reader around their journey. He later got two books all to himself: Seymour and the Juice Box Boat and Seymour Makes New Friends.


The Can You See What I See? series provides examples of:

  • Audience Surrogate: Seymour, in On A Scary Scary Night and Dream Machine. He experiences the journey as the reader does.
  • Bookends: Treasure Ship's first image is of a single golden pirate coin. After a long series of zoomed-out photos, the last image is of a postcard sitting on the beach, with the same coin washed ashore.
  • Call-Back: Cool Collections is much more similar in theme to Wick's I Spy books than to the others of its own series; it features many photos of random object collections instead of set pieces telling a story.
  • Christmas Episode: Night Before Christmas.
  • Dream Episode: Dream Machine tells of the reader/Seymour's dream of visiting a city of the future and seeing the Dream Machine, a fantastical metal contraption that monitors everyone's dreams.
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  • Fairy Tale Episode: Once Upon a Time, a Fairy Tale Free-for-All featuring models of scenes from The Three Little Pigs, Puss in Boots, Rumpelstiltskin, and many others.
  • Halloween Episode: On a Scary Scary Night.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Santa Claus in The Night Before Christmas. The only signs of his presence are his hat in the chimney, his shadow on the wall, and a faraway shot of his sleigh in the sky.
  • Punny Name: Seymour, who encourages the reader to "see more."
  • Raygun Gothic: The aesthetic of Dream Machine, which depicts a futuristic city full of wind-up styled robots and shiny silver metal buildings.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The end of On a Scary Scary Night has the reader/Seymour dropping a bottle and accidentally unleashing a ghost. However, the ghost only wants to give the reader a little scare.
  • Staggered Zoom: Each of Treasure Ship's photos is a little more zoomed out than the previous. For example, the very first photo is of a single coin in all its detail, and the next is of the treasure chest containing the coin.
  • Time-Travel Episode: Out of This World.

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