I Spy A Boardwalk in Soho

Have you ever seen those I Spy children’s books? Each page features a large picture of a whimsical location filled with detail, in which you’re supposed to search for various hidden items listed beside it.  I used to have a few when I was a kid, and while I enjoyed the colorful and intricate settings, I never really thought about how much work must go into each page.


Quite a lot, it turns out. There’s a great new window display in the front of the Scholastic store on Broadway in Soho that reveals just how intense each of these models is, and if you happen to pass by, definitely take a look.


On display is one of the insanely detailed models used for a page in the latest Scholastic I Spy-themed book, complete with painted backdrop.


The I Spy books were always full off places you wish existed in real life. Here, a beach-side boardwalk we’d all kill to spend a day at, and the detail work is really incredible:


Note the worn wooden planks, red paint realistically rubbing off. Also note the miniature sign for Rouses Point Bridge, located in upstate New York just south of the Canadian border.


The lower level:


OK, I can’t resist! I Spy…a clothespin, a dragon, $2, a totem pole, a telescope, and a penny:


There’s a store nearly identical to this in Cape Cod, filled with endless, endless amounts of touristy nautical junk. Unfortunately, I only took a picture of the ceiling, but it should give you some idea of the similarities:


The upper floor of the Jolly Roger:


Next to it is the Snack Shack…


…with detail right down to the pitcher of lemonade on the sill. Can you find the glass of lemonade?


Upper floor:


On the right is a toy shop:


If you peek between the buildings, you can see a boat yard supply shop offering live bait.


In between the Snack Shack and a shanty:


In front of the toy store:


Hanging beside the model is a step-by-step explanation to how each page of the I Spy pages is created: after initial sketching, a model is made, then painted; tiny props are added; a backdrop is created; finally, the piece is lit and photographed.


The man behind the I Spy pages is Walter Wick, an award-winning author and illustrator who has done a number of the I Spy books. Check out his Facebook page here for more info.


Definitely check out the window display if you’re in Soho this weekend, but be warned: you might find yourself standing there for a while.


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  1. So cool! And I know that place on Cape Cod. It’s the Marine Specialties store in Provincetown, right?

  2. Fantastic. Spent many hours with the I Spy books when my son was little, and many more were spent building our own tiny worlds on the floor of his room. He’s now 16. I plan to take him with me to look at the models. Can’t wait.

  3. I never met an I Spy book until I was about 24… but it was love at first sight. They are works of art… and I wish I had every single one of them! Loved this post!!

  4. Love this window! But it actually features a book from the author/photographer’s CAN YOU SEE WHAT I SEE? series (not I Spy).

  5. The other author behind many of the I Spy original books is Jean Marzollo, who lives close by. Our school children, myself once included, have seen so many fascinating videos and photoshoots of Walter Wick’s work that Ms. Marzollo had shown us. The set ups are phenomenal.