Record high gas prices have many Minnesotans staying close to home this vacation season. Now, I’m not one for suggesting that a book (or any product, for that matter) can do much to ease that mid-summer wanderlust, but if you’re on the market for some reading material to offer your children a glimpse of the Minnesota you remember from your own gas-guzzling, road-tripping formative years, I Spy With My Little Eye: Minnesota might do the trick. Written by Kathy-jo and Ed Wargin and published by Sleeping Bear Press, this book paints a portrait of Minnesota that might be straight out of the gift shop at Lake Itasca State Park (you know, along with the rock candy and the birch bark piggy banks).
I Spy With My Little Eye: Minnesota, a book by Kathi-Jo Wargin and Ed Wargin. Published by Sleeping Bear Press (2008). $13.95.
Each page features two colorful pictures: on the left, the original, and on the right, an altered version. The game is to find the differences between the two. Simple rhymes and a few “fun facts” are the only text in a book that is largely interactive. Each page has its own Minnesota-specific theme—fishing, Split Rock Lighthouse, the State Fair. The pictures are fun and colorful, and they evoke the kind of feeling I still get while looking at summer camp brochures. While I hope that my own child will eventually develop a more nuanced idea of the culture and history of our state, at least the book doesn’t subject us to any “brave pioneers” or condescending platitudes about Native American generosity. It’s a simple book about taking your time and having a careful eye. I like things that help kids pay attention.
Nostalgia aside, what I like about this book from an educational point of view is that it is appropriate for a wide range of ages. Some of the differences are subtle and hard to catch; others jump right out at you. And while my own one-year-old didn’t engage much with the boo—beyond playing its cover like a drum—I have to admit that I kept looking at it (and obsessively counting differences, aiming for the target number noted on each page) long after he went to bed.