Thursday, 8 January 2009

I Spy I-Spy Books

I-Spy books can be confidently said to be part of the cultural history of this planet, on par with the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and the holy books of Christianity. Well, actually, no, that was a lie, just a pathetic attempt to make this subject sound remotely interesting.

Childhood was a funny time. So what if there are millions of cartoons on TV, thousands of toys to play with? Sometimes you just wanted to sit outside in the cold clutching a pen and a small book feebly, waiting hopelessly to see the "Black Spotted Filliby bird" needed to get the 1000 points needed for a special badge. I-Spy books were perfect for this, and bought by those for whom the words 'social interaction' meant as much as 'Nuclear Particle Dynamics' ...though thinking about it, those sort of people WOULD probably know what Nuclear Particle Dynamics were. Anyhow, despite all this, I seemed to have had a ton of these books. Not because I'm sad... but to ironically mock those who were sad. Yeah!
Just as proof of how old these things are, here's one from... well, I'm not quite sure, but it uses d instead of p for monetary units, so I'd assume it was the 1600's. This one is special because it is in colour! Cor! Such use of this new 'colour' technology would be useful for spying such things as birds, which are all the same save for different colour feathers. Oh yes they are. Trust me.
Earlier I mentioned badges. Now I'm not bitter that I never got one, since that would have meant that I was sad enough to spot enough signposts or whatever to actually get a badge. But the modern(ish) day ones only had one style of badge. Let's take a look at the sort of things available in the 1600s then...

"For a score of 1,000 points you get the Tribal Rank of BIRD SPOTTER (2nd class), and a scarlet notched-edge feather. For 1,500 points you are awarded First Class honours, and another feather. Odhu'ntinggo, REDSKIN"

Cor. I'm not sure what the random "Odhu'ntinggo, REDSKIN" was for, but it looks pretty damn impressive. I want a skanky feather! Waa!
We come now to the more recent I-Spy books. Branching out from such exciting topics as "I-Spy Birds" and "I-Spy Trees" and even "I-Spy Small Inanimate Objects," more... stranger ones were created, such as "I-Spy London"

Look - there's London! I win!

Ahem. It's not quite that simple. This insanely thick book has every single thing in London in it, from Buckingham Palace to little signposts and backstreet gambling joints. The only catch it that since there's so much, each item is worth only one point. Which means you actually need to live in London forever to get that all-important badge. Ah well.
Getting desperate? Of course not! What an obvious choice this book was... actually I don't know why I have it. Inside are such amazing things to find such as a microwave (20 points) and a field (15 points)

In order to spice up car journeys, this book was created. No longer would the kids moan in the back. No, they would laugh and squeal with joy at every new sign or strangely shaped tree they passed, able to tick them off in their book. Who knew driving could be such fun? Somewhere I also have the I-Spy book of Car Numberplates. I'll fish it out if enough people want me to...

That was a threat, by the way.
I-Spy Aircraft - probably the most useless in the series... ever. Come on, admit it. How many different aircraft have you seen in your life? Where do you normally see an aeroplane? The sky. How big do they seem? 1mm. Yup, easily identifiable. Also there's the insanely low points value.. you'd have to see and identify at least 67 different aircraft before getting your badge. And that's helluva lot. The only way you would ever complete this would be to live in an airport.. though I suppose the sorts of people this is aimed at would have no problem with that sort of thing
Of course, after you've finished your plane flight, you need to disembark. But wait - what joy! There's another book especially dedicated to the airport! Instead of tiredly dragging yourself back home after having tramped 500 miles across the globe, you can leap and bound, taking in the glorious sights, such as...
A sign

Wow - 10 whole points. See what fun an average sign can be when it lives in an I-Spy book? And they say people are entertained easily...
Ha ha... points for watching an aeroplane taking off. FUN. Oh wait.. I ticked it. Moving swiftly on... nothing to see here...


  1. I still remember I-Spy On The Road. "We don't know what this is either. If you do, tell us please. I-Spy for 50."

    I used to worship my numberplates one. XXXCore.

  2. hi , iwas a keen i-spyer , and still am ,use my books and wear my badge! odhu/ntinggo redskin meant good hunting when out on the trail . . i won pens and books and later badges and there are new books coming out at the end of this year and a new club --cant wait! i collect i-spy books and have quite a lot from the news chronicle, polystyle david bellamy books (he`s a friend of mine) amd michelin books and other i-spys too. i love getting about and exploring and my books whether old or recent always come in useful! I-SPY IS GREAT FUN !

  3. Great news, Michelin have re-launched the I-Spy books. You can find out more information and buy copies through and join us on Twitter @ispymichelin.

    Happy I-Spying!

  4. @XXXCore It's not I-Spy on the road it's on the motorway with i don't know what this is please tell us I-Spy for 50, double if you know what it is, I got 100, it's a weather station

  5. if you want more about i-spy books go to

  6. have you got the car number plates book

  7. Please let me see the car numberplates book. I really tried to complete this one! but gave up in my very late teens. Im desperate to see it again, it started off my interest in car numberplates. Can it be true that there is no website explaining UK numberplates??? (Eg Q plates, X plates, Diplomatic, army etc) Can I really be the only person interested in this stuff????

  8. Dave (Melbourne, Australia) Previously from London. 196428 May 2013 at 20:42

    I still have an old I-SPY AIRCRAFT paperback book that I bought in England as a kid for 6d. (pre Michelin).
    It has a colour front cover and Black and White printing inside.It was published by THE DICKENS PRESS.4,Upper Thames Street London, E.C.4 Their Postal address was:- Big Chief I-SPY. Wigwam-by-the-water. 4,Upper Thames Street London, E.C.4 and was printed by Blake & Mackenzie Ltd Liverpool 3,