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I-Spy America

USA I Spy books Scholastic publications

I-SPY ON THE HIGHWAY (BOOK 1) (two covers)
I-SPY ANIMALS (BOOK 2) (two covers)
I-SPY UNIFORMS (BOOK 3) (two covers)
I-SPY DOGS (BOOK 4) (two covers)
I-SPY RAILROADS (BOOK 5) FEB 1958
I-SPY SPORTS (BOOK 6) FEB 1958
I-SPY AIRPLANES (BOOK 7) FEB 1958
I-SPY BUILDINGS (BOOK 8) FEB 1958
I-SPY SIGNS AND SYMBOLS (BOOK 9) NOV 1958
I-SPY AUTOMOBILES AND TRUCKS (BOOK 10) NOV 1958
I-SPY MY HOME TOWN (BOOK 11) NOV 1958
I-SPY WHEELS (BOOK 12) NOV 1958
I-SPY (BOOK 13) title unknown
I-SPY PEOPLE AT WORK (BOOK 14)
I-SPY THE WORLD OF MUSIC (BOOK 15) 1959
I-SPY RIVERS AND STREAMS (BOOK 16)

The I-Spy book concept was spotted by an American schools book publisher who licensed the rights to it. The series was launched in America in 1957 with four titles, published by TAB, the Teen Age Book division of Scholastic Publishers (set up in 1948.) The American titles sold for 15 cents, although there is no price on the books themselves. Scholastic specialised in books for children and teachers, sold through sponsored book clubs in schools and via catalogues.
I Spy On The Highway USA

The format was almost identical to the UK, though the first covers were a bit uninspired, with line drawings against a coloured background, with a different style logo and ‘hand-drawn’ titling.

I Spy On The Highway National Ranger

I Spy On The Highway [USA] original style cover

After the first four titles had appeared (*) the series was revamped in February 1958 with four new titles in covers which closely followed the British News Chronicle style. The illustrations were done back in the UK by Denys Ovenden. Scolastic also redid the first four titles in the new style. Perhaps Big Chief took a dislike to the early American designs. The third quartet of titles were issued in November 1958 taking the series to 12 in total. Four more books were issued probably in early 1959, bringing the series to a close with just 16 titles.

I Spy Sports USA National Ranger

I Spy Sports [USA] new style cover

Inside the books closely followed the style and layout of the British News Chronicle titles, but the illustrations and content were all unique to America. Some UK titles were used, but again the content was entirely new, reflecting the different cultures. Other titles were unique to America.
Perhaps not surprisingly the Big Chief and Redskin concepts were never used in America. Instead the National I-Spy Ranger Association was set-up in New York, and the books were fronted by Chief Ranger Tom Dixon (I do not know if this was a real person or not).
As in Britain a membership pack with a secret code and rule book was also produced (priced 50 cents), which came with three books, a pin-on badge and membership card. For dedicated rangers, six different coloured enamel pin badges were issued for completing up to six books.

US-I-Spy-badges

The American I-Spy books did not have any exclusive tie-in with a national newspaper in the way they did in Britain, so it was harder to foster the club feeling in the same way. TAB used three of their own magazines to promote the books, but these were only available in schools. However Tom Dixon did launch a syndicated I-Spy column, which local newspapers across the country could take up. For example the Erie County Independent and the Orangetown Telegram both started running the new column in April 1959. “Keeping On The I-Spy Beam” was mostly a plug for a selected title as well as a competition, which in April 1959 offered a Kodak Brownie Movie Camera for the ‘most interesting letter about the uniforms you SPY during the next two weeks.”
These early American I-Spy books were phased out sometime in the 1960s. Scholastic Publishers later relaunched the I-Spy brand in America but the current books are very different to those of the fifties. Larger format, they feature riddle based learning content and no longer had any connections with their UK cousins.
The American books are quite difficult to find today, probably because they were not sold in stores. If anyone has spares or scans to help please get in touch. I have some titles to trade.

I Spy Ranger certificate

 

3 thoughts on “I-Spy Ranger Series – America

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