The story behind our Search-and-Find5 Minute Read
The story behind our Search-and-Find books
Librio is a personalized children’s book company which has sold over 320,000 books worldwide.
A big chunk of those have been our incredibly popular search-and-find books. It was a book which wouldn’t have been made if it hadn’t been for a chance encounter with the original Wally / Waldo himself. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, let’s take a trip around the World of Wimmelbooks and the history behind them, before returning home to tell you how we came up with our very own modern version of classic.
Wimmelbooks – let’s start at the very beginning
If someone asked you when the first Wimmel – or hidden-picture – book originated, if you’re anything like me, you’d probably have said, ‘With Where’s Waldo’… and, just like me, you’d have been wrong. Surprised? So was I!
The very first Wimmelbook (A German word meaning, literally “teeming picture book”) was actually created around the end of the 15th Century. They’re characterized by full-spread drawings depicting scenes richly detailed with humans, animals, and objects. They’re typically made for children and the drawings are filled with characters and items that may be discovered.
Famous painter, Hieronymus Bosch is even considered to be a ‘founder of the art form’. I never thought I’d say that Hieronymus Bosch was related in some way to a ‘Where’s Waldo’ but there you are! Admittedly, his material is much less, erm, ‘child-friendly’ shall we say, but, nevertheless, he worked in a way that made his paintings definitively come under that term.
Wimmelbooks and Waldo – a history of our favorites
When the creator of the first modern German Wimmelbook, Ali Mitgutsch, sadly passed away earlier this year, it made us think back to the very early days of Librio when we first came up with the idea of following in his footsteps.
Some of you may not know this, but Ali Mitgutsch was a German author of picture books and a professional advertising Illustrator. He was also known as the brains behind the first modern Wimmelbook – published in 1968. They quickly became a huge success and the popularity of these kinds of books came into being.
In 1987, the English illustrator Martin Handford started the hugely popular ‘Where’s Wally?’ series, which, when it moved across to the States, became known as ‘Where’s Waldo?’. The reason for this change was that the publishers felt the name wouldn’t resonate with the North American readers and so they changed it for a better sell. The result was a resounding success and Wally, or Waldo – along with his stripy jumper and bobble-hat – became a Worldwide sensation, selling over 75 million copies! Incidentally, it’s not only the US where Wally changed his name, around the world he’s known as Walter (Germany), Charlie (France), Effy (Hebrew) and Holger (Danish).
How an ‘afterthought’ became a hit
In the 1980s Martin Handford was working as a freelance illustrator, specializing in drawing crowd scenes. Seeing some of his artwork, a business associate contacted the artist about developing a children’s book showcasing his singular talent. It was then that the character Waldo was conceived. Waldo provided a link between each crowd scene and set a focus and purpose for the book. Handford explained in an interview that “a book full of crowd scenes has no central theme, but adding a wacky character for the reader to look for adds a purpose to each page. That’s who Waldo is – an afterthought.”
The illustrations were so complex, that Handford would sometimes work for more than eight weeks at a time to create just one of the two-page Waldo spreads. Something I’m sure our illustrator Celine Geser – who did our Search-and-Find books could empathize with!
How a funny coincidence led to Librio’s own Wimmelbook
In 2017, two of our founders, Ed and Tim, were having a meeting with the National Literacy Trust to discuss Librio’s commitments to charity. At one point they turned around to find, standing right behind them, a near-lifesize Wally. Upon realizing this, Tim turned to Ed and said ‘We should do a personalized Where’s Wally? Book!’
Several months later our founders were busy searching for a video artist to help with our very first Librio video. In the strange way that Fate sometimes works, beneath the one they were looking at, they saw a post by Celine Geser who just happened to be – you guessed it! – an illustrator of Wimmelbooks!
Fast forward 4 years and not only does Librio now sell one Wimmelbook, but two! Our Search-and-Find World book has been our bestseller since its first production and our Search-and-Find Europe book has also frequently been named a favorite by our customers.
It’s crazy to think how a meeting at a charity event randomly inspired us to create something which has since become our bestseller. It’s also crazy to think that if Hieronymus Bosch and co. hadn’t had their great idea to create these kinds of images all those centuries ago, the books we’ve come to know and love since 1968 might never have existed. Fate works in mysterious ways, but we couldn’t be happier with how this one turned out.
In the name of Wally
**To thank the National Literacy Trust for their serendipitous contribution to Librio’s product portfolio, Ed exposed himself to the icy blasts of The Beast from the East in March 2018 to take part in the amazing Wally Run in London.