Walter Wick Biography (1953-)
Walter Wick's books for children are known for their inventive, original photography. He trained as a photographer and worked for magazines such as Games and Psychology Today before he got his start in children's books. Wick uses tricks of perspective and collage-like techniques to create intriguing puzzles and visual riddles in his work. Several critics have deemed Wick a photographic genius for his intriguing optical illusion puzzles.
Wick is well regarded for his work on the "I Spy" series, on which he collaborated with Jean Marzollo. In the "I Spy" books, Marzollo created riddles that the reader solves with visual clues in Wick's photographs. The first in the series, I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles, was praised by a Publishers Weekly reviewer for its "excellent, sharp photographic work combined with ingenuity and imagination" that made the book's challenge "surprisingly great." Many reviewers have praised the series for its educational uses as well as its entertainment value; the books help children learn colors, numbers, shapes, patterns, and more. One of the most critically acclaimed in the series is 1993's I Spy Fun House: A Book of Picture Riddles, in which Janice Del Negro, writing for Booklist, praised Wick's use of "riotous color and cheerfully surreal designs." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called this "I Spy" book the "best yet." For I Spy Treasure Hunt: A Book of Picture Riddles, Wick created a "stunningly detailed miniature village," as Lisa Gangemi Krapp wrote in School Library Journal, and readers of this book are challenged not only to find the hidden objects but also to solve a mystery involving pirate treasure.
As Carolyn Phelan wrote in a Booklist review of I Spy Extreme Challenger!: A Book of Picture Riddles, "once bitten by the 'I Spy' series bug, kids can find relief only in another volume." Expanding their collaborative efforts, Marzollo and Wick produced several "I Spy Challenger" books that combined favorite photo spreads from other volumes in the series with new, more challenging riddles. Some reviewers felt that these books were less interesting because of the reused pictures, but others appreciated the opportunity to look at familiar images in a new way. Wick and Marzollo also used sections of pictures from the "I Spy" books in "I Spy" board books, which generally have titles starting with I Spy Little . . . . Along with the "I Spy Junior" CDROMs, they introduce younger children to the "I Spy" concept with smaller, easier puzzles.
The first book that Wick both wrote and illustrated was A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder. In this book, Wick combines his interesting photographic techniques with an informative text about water in all its forms. A reviewer for Resource Links praised the "exceptional photographs . . . and well-written text" that draw in young readers and make the book "a truly aesthetic reading experience." In a review for Booklist, Carolyn Phelan noted Wick's use of simple techniques and unifying photographs to introduce complicated properties of water, such as capillary attraction and surface tension, calling A Drop of Water "a fine, eye-catching introduction to a well-focused topic."
Wick's next solo venture was Walter Wick's Optical Tricks, in which he uses a variety of photographic techniques to create illusions and visual surprises. At the end of the book, he reveals the tricks he used to make the puzzles. Some critics worried that the puzzles might be too difficult for younger readers, but others praised the book as fun for all ages. Daniel J. Brabander, writing for Horn Book, concluded that "Wick's elegant yet bold style of photography is ideally suited for the task of visual deception," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book "visual catnip."
Wick followed this book with 2002's Can You See What I See? Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve, another book of photographic puzzles. Each themed picture puzzle in this book includes both a rhyme with objects to find, as in the "I Spy" books, and another kind of puzzle, such as a maze or optical illusion. In a School Library Journal review, Marianne Saccardi wrote that Can You See What I See? Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve would give children "hours of puzzle-solving fun," calling the book "'I Spy' and much more." A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that readers who enjoy the "I Spy" books "will be thrilled with a new challenge while newcomers will become immediate devotees."
Whether they are focused on science, optical illusions, or just plain fun, Wick's books are alike in their use of unique artwork and photography to enhance the reader's experience. Wick has found that children's books provide an outlet for his creative methods of photography, and that children are interested in subjects such as visual illusions and science just as he is. On his Web site, Wick wrote: "In all the years I've worked as a photographer, I've never had a more appreciative audience than children. I suspect I'll be doing children's books for a long time to come."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, May 15, 1993, Janice Del Negro, review of I Spy Fun House: A Book of Picture Riddles, p. 1694; February 1, 1997, Carolyn Phelan, review of A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder, p. 940; October 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of I Spy Extreme Challenger!: A Book of Picture Riddles, p. 342; April 15, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Can You See What I See? Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve, p. 1404; November 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of Can You See What I See? Dream Machine, p. 598.
Horn Book, September-October 1998, Daniel J. Brabander, review of Walter Wick's Optical Tricks, p. 626.
Publishers Weekly, January 6, 1992, review of I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles, p. 65; April 19, 1993, review of I Spy Fun House: A Book of Picture Riddles, p. 58; June 29, 1998, review of Walter Wick's Optical Tricks, p. 59; January 7, 2002, review of Can You See What I See? Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve, p. 63.
Resource Links, June, 1997, review of A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder, p. 214.
School Library Journal, January, 2000, Lisa Gangemi Krapp, review of I Spy Treasure Hunt: A Book of Picture Riddles, p. 124; March, 2002, Marianne Saccardi, review of Can You See What I See? Picture Puzzles to Search and Solve, p. 223; November, 2003, Genevieve Gallagher, review of Can You See What I See? Dream Machine, p. 132.
Walter Wick Home Page, http://www.walterwick.com/ (January 20, 2004).*
Brief BiographiesBiographies: Carlos Watson Biography - Was a Student Journalist to Stefan Zweig (1881–1942) BiographyWalter Wick (1953-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights