I started off with the Famous Five, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Gerry Anderson, Edith Piaf, Spiderman, Geoff Love and Big Chief I-Spy.
Big Chief I-Spy was Charles Warrell, a retired headmaster who started a series of spotter’s guides in the mid-1950’s called I-Spy. There were some forty volumes, which were intended to encourage young British children to take an interest in the outside world.
Each book focussed on one subject - I-Spy Creepy Crawlies, I-Spy Birds, I-Spy Working Vehicles, I-Spy Trees, I-Spy Wild Flowers, you get the picture, pocket books with various things to “spy”, with pictures, information and a few dotted lines to be filled with where you saw them.
Once all the contents had been marked up, the book was returned to the Big Chief (c/o his address at “Wigwam by the River”), who then sent you a feather and an order of merit. The I-Spy books lasted from the 1950s-1980s, and hundreds of thousands were sold to enquiring youngsters. In 1991 they were relaunched by Michelin, and again in 2009.
I’ve always thought it probable that the I-Spy books led to a generation of youngster taking greater interest in their environment, who then went on to become involved in various ecological or political groups. Charles Warrell died in 1995, at the age of 106, which suggests an active mind keeps you young.
The publisher and writer, Callum James uploaded these original I-Spy covers onto his website Front Free Endpaper, which is worth dipping into for its interesting book collections.
Via Front Free Endpaper