13 Best “I Spy” Books for Kids Who Love Fun and Challenging Puzzles

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I Spy cover

Since the first volume’s release in 1992, Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick’s I Spy books have intrigued and delighted kids (and many adults). They can’t resist the books’ intricately detailed still-life photos (designed by Wick) and the clever riddles (written by Marzollo in dactylic tetrameter rhymes) that lead readers to search for objects hidden within each scene. The popular series has spanned many books—award winners and bestsellers alike—and even computer and phone games as well as other merchandise. While the books tend to state they’re best for younger kids, anyone who loves puzzles might catch themselves searching the pages to solve the clues. Here’s our list of 13 favorite I Spy books.

1. I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles

I Spy Picture Riddles cover

The book that launched the series—first released in 1992—makes it obvious why reader-seekers clamored for even more titles from Wick and Marzollo. Each page spread includes an inventive setup of toys, knickknacks, and other objects that are photographed in brilliant color. A riddle leads the reader on a hunt to find objects concealed within each layout, and there are bonus riddles to solve at the back of the book too.

Buy it: I Spy: A Book of Picture Riddles on Amazon

2. I Spy: School Days

I Spy School Days

Recently updated with new riddles, this I Spy entry feels like gazing in awe at a particularly eccentric teacher’s colorful classroom. Kids will seek out odds and ends hidden amid letters, numbers, chalkboards, and building blocks.

Buy it: I Spy: School Days on Amazon

3. I Spy: Treasure Hunt

Treasure Hunt I Spy cover

Kids with a taste for adventure will find a perfect quest on every page of this book. They’ll get to pursue a pirate’s hidden treasure, seeking objects nestled within an intricately crafted miniature village. This book also includes tips for I Spy lovers to create their own seek-and-find scenes.

Buy it: I Spy: Treasure Hunt on Amazon

4. I Spy: Spooky Night

I Spy Spooky Night cover

Whether you’re getting ready for Halloween or your kid is simply obsessed with spooky stuff, I Spy: Spooky Night sets the right spine-tingling mood. Kids can tiptoe through scenes including a creepy graveyard, a mad scientist’s lab, and the various rooms of a haunted house, all in search of the objects listed in each mysterious riddle.

Buy it: I Spy: Spooky Night on Amazon

5. I Spy: Fantasy

I Spy Fantasy cover

While the I Spy books may use everyday objects to create their detailed seek-and-find scenes, in this entry, those commonplace objects meld together to form fantastical settings for young seekers. For one spread, artist Wick used two tons of sand to make a castle for knights to attack; for another, he used kitchen gadgets to make an elaborate space station scene.

Buy it: I Spy: Fantasy on Amazon

6. I Spy: Gold Challenger!

I Spy Gold Challenger cover

This I Spy book is not for the faint of heart. Best for older kids and seasoned I Spy fans, this Challenger edition features some of Marzollo’s most complex riddles. This one is the perfect book to get for kids who think they have seen—or spied—it all!

Buy it: I Spy: Gold Challenger! on Amazon

7. I Spy: Letters (Board Book)

I Spy Letters cover

While many of the I Spy books listed here are best for school-age kids, this board book entry is the perfect foray into the series for toddlers and preschoolers. Those youngsters will delight in finding the objects embedded in each spread, and the riddles also gently nudge kids into learning their letters as they go.

Buy it: I Spy: Letters on Amazon

8. I Spy: Animals (Board Book)

I Spy Animals cover

Can’t make it to the zoo? Look for the animals hinted at in each riddle of this preschooler-friendly board book. Little kids will love poring over 13 spreads featuring favorite creatures. And because this is a board book, it’s very portable and perfect for long car rides or as a diversion to keep on hand in diaper bags.

Buy it: I Spy: Animals on Amazon

9. I Spy: Extreme Challenger!

I Spy Extreme Challenger cover

Like the Gold Challenger option above, this I Spy book is another one crafted for the kid who’s gotten too good at their I Spy searches. Pulling some of Wick’s classic photo spreads from previous I Spy volumes, this Extreme edition offers up fresh mind-boggling riddles from Marzollo.

Buy it: I Spy: Extreme Challenger! on Amazon

10. I Spy: Mystery

I Spy Mystery cover

When the original I Spy book was a massive hit, of course Scholastic continued the series. This edition features more of Wick’s absurdly imaginative sets, paired with Marzollo’s devilishly clever riddles. The book’s notes also include details on how Wick created each scene—a delightful behind-the-scenes reveal for curious, building-minded kids.

Buy it: I Spy: Mystery on Amazon

11. I Spy: Christmas

I Spy Christmas cover

Whether you’re counting down to Christmas or just want to feel merry in the middle of April, this I Spy volume will deck any holiday lover’s halls of imagination. Each setup revels in the Christmas season’s bright colors and festive decor, and will lead kids on hunts for snowflakes, elves, and, of course, Santa himself.

Buy it: I Spy: Christmas on Amazon

12. I Spy: Fun House

I Spy Fun House cover

Much like a hall of mirrors, this volume will have readers mesmerized. Wick and Marzollo capitalize on the fun-house theme with the still-life photos throughout, from a magician’s supplies to a puppet stage. Some of the painted puppets that appear throughout the book might put off the clown-adverse, but this offering is one of the most fun I Spy books in the series.

Buy it: I Spy: Fun House on Amazon

13. I Spy: A Skeleton (Scholastic Level One Reader)

Skeleton cover

This softback, totable I Spy volume is one of several designed not only to serve up picture puzzles but also to teach kids who are just beginning to read independently. The same great I Spy riddles and photos abound, making this a great option for more reluctant readers. 

Buy it: I Spy: A Skeleton on Amazon

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Plus, check out our list of fairy tales for more inspiration.

Start searching with some of our favorite picks of the best I Spy books, sure to deliver tons of nostalgia!