Where’s Wallace

Written and illustrated by Hilary Knight (1964)

A precursor to the similar Where’s Waldo series by more than twenty years, this was a book that I studied, not for the text, which is fairly brief, but for the art. Wallace is an orangutan who lives in a zoo but keeps escaping to large public settings like the beach, the circus, a baseball game, where his long-suffering keeper and you, the reader, have to locate him.

The two-page panoramas in which Wallace is hidden are hilariously intricate, and I was delighted to discover the incidental humor and recurring characters sprinkled slyly through them. I felt so clever to have spotted these details, as if they were in-jokes that most people wouldn’t notice, as if the author and I were on some exclusive plane of existence together, nodding at each other and chuckling knowingly. Authors who can do this with their readers, by the way, are on a highly exclusive plane of existence themselves.

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