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The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery

Last updated Monday, October 8, 2012

Author: Graeme Base
Date of Publication: 1993
ISBN: 0810932652
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Oct. 2012

Synopsis: Review
Reading The Eleventh Hour is like running a marathon: one finishes exhausted but satisfied. Graeme Base, creator of the popular Animalia, has crafted another intricately wrought, gorgeously illustrated picture book, this time a mystery in verse. When Horace the Elephant decides to throw himself a party for his 11th birthday, he never suspects a crime will be committed by lunchtime. Who has stolen the birthday feast? As with any good mystery, everyone is guilty until proven innocent. The proof lies in the myriad clues embedded in each glorious illustration. Young sleuths will delight in decoding the complex messages that pop up in unexpected places. Graeme Base used the buildings he saw during his travels through Africa, Asia, and Europe to design and decorate Horace's fantastic house. Astute readers may recognize Roman cathedrals, Scottish palaces, and stone carvings from India. Best of all, secreted in these walls are cryptic messages in Egyptian hieroglyphics, anagrams, and even Morse code to challenge the perceptive and deductive abilities of any reader "of tender years or long in tooth." The Eleventh Hour is a brilliant, rigorous, creative romp that no child (or adult) should miss.

Note to readers:
β€’  Do a "picture walk" after reading in which you talk with the kids about the illustrations, or maybe read through the book twice to find the thief (there is a detective game going on). Ask the kids what animal is missing in each picture, and try to solve the mystery! You can find the answer at the back of the book.
β€’  The book rhymes, so try to read it like a poem
β€’  There are many details in the book that you can point out along the way
β€’  The solution can be found in the sealed “inside story” at the end of the book.

Discussion topics for before reading:
β€’  How many animals are on the cover?
β€’  How do you solve a mystery/puzzle?
β€’  Why do people wear costumes?
β€’  What are the animals on the cover? Why are they dressed up in costumes?

β€’  Intriguing – interesting, something you’re curious about
β€’  Contrived – obviously planned or forced
β€’  Bejeweled – decorated with jewels
β€’  Musketeer – a soldier armed with a musket
β€’  Swagger –to walk or behave very confidently or sometimes arrogantly
β€’  Masquerading – to put on a disguise or a mask for a costume party
β€’  Devour – to eat something really fast or swallow it whole
β€’  Fore – first in place, time, order, rank, etc.
β€’  Croquet – a game played by knocking wooden balls through metal wickets with mallets
β€’  Procured – to get something through special care or effort
β€’  Blundered – to move or act stupidly or without direction
β€’  Espouse – to support a cause or belief system
β€’  Prima Facie – at first appearance
β€’  Countenance – facial expression
β€’  Initiative – readiness in taking action
β€’  Flourish – a bold or extravagant gesture

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
β€’  Have you ever been to a large party?
β€’  When you meet up with your friends, do you play games and eat feasts?
β€’  Have you played any of these games before? Which is your favorite?
β€’  Who do you think stole the feast? Are you surprised?
β€’  Which is your favorite costume? Are you dressing up for Halloween?

Craft ideas:
β€’  Make foods with construction paper, cut them out, and build a feast
β€’  Make costume pieces out of construction paper. Make masks based on the characters (use paper plates)
β€’  Draw your favorite animal with a costume. You can use cut-outs of different colors and shapes for the costumes

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!