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BOOK REVIEW: Where’s Wally? The Totally Terrific Tin by Martin Handford

BOOK REVIEW: Where’s Wally? The Totally Terrific Tin by Martin Handford

Walker Books
November 2017
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Children & Teenagers / Picture Books & Early Learning / Interactive Activity Books & Packs

8/10

Where’s Wally? The Totally Terrific Tin packages together the first three Where’s Wally? books. For Australian readers, Wally was the much-loved but elusive travelling man who was created by Martin Handford. Wally was mostly hidden in complex, crowd scenes in a series of different picture books. This tin seems like a nice little keepsake, and handy for travelling, but it is also a bit of a letdown to have such small versions of these books because this does a disservice to Handford’s amazing illustrations. It’s also rather disappointing that this is a box that could have housed all seven of the main Where’s Wally titles rather than just the first three.

Hi friends!
My name is Wally. I’m just setting off on a worldwide hike. You can come too. All you have to do is find me.

These books are fun and engaging ones that increase your visual awareness and observation skills. It’s fascinating to see that over time Handford’s illustrations have become more detailed and complex, as the number of figures drawn in each jumps up by several hundreds. But luckily Wally can always be found thanks to his distinctive outfit of red and white striped jumper, woollen hat, blue jeans and brown shoes.

In book one Wally travels around the world visiting the snowfields, zoo, beach, museum and airport. The text is set out like a postcard to his fans back home and in them he describes the things that he’s seen (and this is stuff that can also be found hidden away in the illustration on that page.) These things can be found along with Wally’s friends, Wenda and Wizard Whitebeard, his dog Woof’s tail and his evil nemesis, Odlaw. Each of these characters also has one personal item that they lose on each page. The following postcard is quite clever because it contains a film title and a good little pun:

Anchors away, Wally mates! Well, such wonders I saw at sea, ahoy, ahoy! A lobster bed! A capsized desert island! A shark fin in a swimming pool! The only question is, can you sea me? Ha-ha!

The second book sees Wally travelling through time and visiting such periods as the cavemen, ancient Rome, the Aztecs and the Vikings, to name a few. Like all of Wally’s books, there is also a checklist at the end with additional things for people to go back and find. This does mean having to flip through the book a lot, which can be a tad frustrating. This volume is quite clever because it also offers up a history lesson with each illustration:

The Ancient Egyptians were very clever people who loved goats, cats and sphinxes and invented pyramids. With great skill and hard work they built huge wonders in the desert. But for hundreds of years many people were puzzled by them. What were they for? Why were they so big?
Why were they that shape? Was it possible (or even likely) that pharaohs were buried under them? These magnificent monuments are still amazing people to this day.

In The Fantastic Journey the third book from this collection, Handford’s illustrations are the most accomplished. There is so much to be found here and you can look at the same illustration for ages and still spot new things, including little side jokes by Handford. The writing in this volume however, is not as proficient as the previous ones and it is also very repetitious. Each illustration begins with, “Then Wally and Wizard Whitebeard came to” before it mentions the place and confirms that it was a destination where “Many wallies have been before.” The latter is not a bad joke the first time but it wears thin after a while. It also ends with “And when Wally found the nth scroll, it was time to continue his journey.” This gets monotonous, which is a shame when you consider that these books usually encourage children to read and because the other titles in this set have text that is so much more interesting. This template of text is used for every illustration except for the final one, which takes place in the challenging land of the Wallies where Wally and his friends appear to be surrounded by clones of the eponymous character:

Then Wally found the twelfth scroll and saw the truth about himself. That he was just one Wally among many… And there in the land of Wallies, may Wally live happily ever after.

Where’s Wally? The Totally Terrific Tin is a fun collection that should provide entertainment for children who enjoy the visually stimulating activities and the adults that enjoyed this series when they were younger. This set is engaging but it could have been improved by being produced as larger books to make the illustrations easier to see and with all seven titles for completeness. In spite of these minor quibbles, Wally still proves to be an entertaining children’s character who gets up to interesting adventures and shenanigans, and you’ll have a blast venturing on holiday with this bespectacled man and his mates.

BOOK REVIEW: Where’s Wally? The Totally Terrific Tin by Martin Handford

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