Friday, May 16, 2008

Book Review: The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery, by Graeme Base

A book is read, a story ends, a telling tale is told. 
But who can say what mysteries a single page mayhold?
A maze of hidden codes and clues, a clock at every turn,
And only time will tell what other secrets you may learn...

The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery is an irresistible invitation to try your hand at solving a most fantastic conundrum. Horace the Elephant is turning eleven, and has invited 11 friends to celebrate with a grand costume gala filled with 11 games and tons of fun. Everything is set to begin at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. But, when the friends all gather at the appointed hour for the feast after a day full of fun and frolicking, a curious mystery is revealed, and the culprit remains afoot. Can you figure out who?

This oversized, beautifully illustrated picture book is written entirely in verse. It is 32 glossy, high-color, insanely detailed pages jam-packed with clues, codes, cyphers, and hidden objects to be taken in through picture and poetry and ingenuity. But be careful! The author has thrown in a fair helping of red herrings to keep things interesting.

Whether you're an expert mystery solver, or a novice starting out, take heart! Graeme Base has purposely designed the book so that everyone - tall to small, right-brained to left-brained, detail person to big picture thinker, and everything in between - can find a way to solve this riddle. The journey to find the culprit is the real fun here, as the reader searches for clues amongst the chaos. Even so, if the things just aren't adding up, and you're at your wit's end, and you just gotta know whodunnit, a built-in safety net is included so you won't be left hanging.

For Teachers and Librarians:
Where to begin? This book has so many possibilities for use in the classroom or library. The mystery unit is most obvious, but you could also launch into a lesson on Roman Centurions or the Fall of Rome; discuss what a "red herring" is, as well as the origin of the term; use it as a springboard for teaching your charges to look for clues both in pictures and text; culminate your unit on nutrition with a grand feast of your own. There are references to math, history, games, literature, crime solving... truly endless possibilities. Try it out - how many ways can you find to use this book in your classroom?

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers: 
You will love this book! Your kids will love this book! Pull it out on a rainy day, a sunny day, a there's-nothing-to-do-today day, really any day, and you are guaranteed to begin a journey that you may find it hard to tear yourself away from. The pictures alone are a veritable feast for the eyes, and you and your child could spend hours just searching for all the hidden and not-so-hidden gems the author has packed into each illustration. Even without the pictures, the story is enchanting and fun. Work together to find those clues, but don't be surprised if you find yourself searching for this book to do some solo sleuthing when the kiddos aren't around...

For the Kids:
Do you love searching for clues? Do you think it's fun to solve mysteries, look at really cool pictures to find all the hidden ones mixed in, read a really awesome story full of fun and parties and costumes and talking pigs? Would you think it's funny to see lions, giraffes, tigers, mice, pigs, cats, zebras, elephants, swans and crocodiles all charging along trying to win a potato sack race? Then The Eleventh Hour is the book for you. The story is great, and the author has written it so everyone from kids to adults can solve the mystery. Just in case, there's a section included to help - but try not to peek unless you really, really just have to! Trying to find the answer on your own is so much fun!

For Everyone Else:
Mystery lovers, puzzle fans, clue solvers, cypher fans, and all those who enjoy a rollicking story full of twists and turns will simply not be able to put this book down. You could spend literally hours scouring these pages for clue after clue, solving puzzles and brain-busters, getting side-tracked by several red herrings, guessing and second-guessing to try to get to the bottom of this mystery. The real clincher? This can be as easy or as hard as you care to make it, be you a kid, a kid-at-heart, or somewhere in between, or even well beyond. Take a crack at this romp of a mystery. You won't be disappointed.

Wrapping Up:
The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery is a book that appeals to all ages and all kinds of people on all kinds of levels. Grab a pencil and some paper, grab the book, find some clues, solve some riddles, and have a great time.

Title: The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery
Author and Illustrator: Graeme Base
Pages: 32
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Publisher and Date: Harry N. Abrams, September 1, 1989
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $18.95
ISBN-10: 0810908514
ISBN-13: 978-0810908512


  1. well if you had a summary it would be the best site ever

  2. Hi Sierra, and thanks for visiting. There actually is a summary. It's the paragraph right beneath the quote from the book.

  3. Our class was so interested that our teacher wants to buy it for us this weekend! We love mysteries!

    1. Hi, Joanne. So glad to hear this! The Eleventh Hour is one of my favorite picture books.


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