The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base

Horace the Elephant has decided to throw a party for his 11th birthday and has invited ten of his friends (making 11 guests total) to join him and play 11 games and share in a feast at 11 o’clock. However, when it comes time for their meal they discover that someone has already eaten all of the food. It is up to the reader to figure out the identity of the culprit, using clues left by author and illustrator Graeme Base in the words and illustrations of the story.

Base’s illustrations are incredibly detailed and different types of clues are utilized throughout the book, from hidden messages to Morse code. The final answer, along with the answer to all of the clues and secret messages, issealed at the end of the book. While the reader could just look at the answer right away, they are encouraged to solve the mystery first.

I first became familiar with this elaborate picture and puzzle book as a 4th grader when my teacher read it to our class and challenged all of us to figure it out. It’s impossible for me to even estimate how many hours I spent pouring over the pages, attempting to decipher the clues. I can’t remember what the answer ended up being, I just know that my 9-year-old self was unsuccessful. As an adult, though, I now kind of want to go back and try again and see if age has given me any more wisdom.

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