In the preface to Optical Tricks, author/photographer Walter Wick cautions, "You may never see things the same way again!"
Indeed! Wick's new book [Cartwheel Books/Scholastic, Inc., 1998] engages students -- and adults -- in careful observation and heavy-duty critical thinking!
Our eyes and brains work together, often resulting in preconceived or ill-conceived notions of what we see, Wick warns. In Optical Tricks, Wick's colorful, crystal-clear photographs train readers to look beyond what they think they see!
The tricks start on the cover. The title letters appear three-dimensional. But are they? The letters are actually wrinkled blue paper behind cutout letters!
Wick doesn't ease up with his "Dear Reader" preface page. The torn white papers set on a bright yellow background are not what they appear to be! The shadows beneath the paper pieces trick our brain into seeing them that way. But flip the book upside-down and you see them for what they really are!
After those opening teases, readers are treated to 13 more optical illusions from Wick's substantial bag of tricks Images of children's toy pieces appear to be pressed into a blob of clay. Right! But turn the page upside down and you'll see them in a different way -- as raised images! In an image Wick titles "In Suspense," the objects reflected in the mirror must be suspended in mid-air. But Wick challenges readers to rethink the appearance with hints such as "An object and its reflection make a pair" and "What do two halves make?" Ah, yes -- now you see it! That suspended checker piece is really half of a checker piece that sits on the mirror.
Students in the young elementary grades and above will be amazed by Wick's optical tricks -- tortured by these mind-bending puzzles, perhaps, but nonetheless amazed!
The great thing about this new book from Wick (photographer of the popular I Spy series and last year's award-winning A Drop of Water) is that he takes the time to ask questions that will challenge students to think and rethink their perceptions. His words actually help students develop their powers of observation and their (visual logic) critical thinking skills!
Then he shares in the back pages of the book brief descriptions of the "tricks" he uses. His descriptions are short and simple. After learning the "trick" used in a photograph, students can return to the photo to revisit their initial -- often wrong -- perceptions.
Greatest of all, however, are Wick's full-page photo images. They are stunning masterpieces of light and color and shadow!
"The illusions in this book are not meant to be an intelligence test, but a playful and entertaining introduction to the mysteries of visual perception," says Wick in his closing remarks about the book.
For sure! Students will be captivated and entertained for hours on end. They'll return again and again to these amazing photographs, and each time they'll amaze themselves by seeing and learning something new!
Walter Wick's Optical Tricks, published under the Cartwheel Books imprint by Scholastic Press, is available at bookstores. If you have difficulty locating a copy, ask your bookseller to order one for you or contact Scholastic Press, Inc., 555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.
Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1998 Education World