Base, G. (1993). The Eleventh Hour: A curious Mystery. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
Not to be confused with the TV series, this classic picturebook shares the story of Horace, an elephant who is turning eleven. While the story seems to be a simple tale of him planning and having his birthday party (only to discover SOMEONE has eaten the great feast he prepared for everyone), there are codes, clues, references to Base's other books, quotes from other works and hidden messages or images on each page (there's also an explanation of them all at the end).
While the narrative does have a happy conclusion, it does not give the answer to who ate the majority of the party treats. So, if a student is at all curious, he or she will have to review the book and try to discover the thief's name to discover the key to the code and the answer.
The colorful and amazingly detailed illustrations will keep students staring for minutes upon minutes (a major accomplishment for some kids).
The poetry, although sometimes forced, includes a lot of larger vocabulary words that will be worth students struggling through.
I have to admit, as I child I never read Base's books. I tended to open them, see the amount of text on each page, and put the books back on the shelf. What can I say. I was lazy. Still kinda am. But became curious enough to try to figure out who the thief was to get the answer.
Activities to Do with the Book:
While this could be a read aloud for younger readers, The Eleventh Hour will probably be loved by eight to eleven year olds who like secret codes and hidden messages.
In response to this book, students could research elephants, zebras, tigers, giraffes and the other animals included, sharing with other students what the various animals eat, live, etc.
A parent may want to share this book with children as it comes time to plan a birthday party, Halloween party or other gathering, so the child sees all that goes into planning or could get game, food and costume ideas.
"When Horace turned Eleven he decided there should be
Some kind of celebration. 'For my friends', he said, 'and me.
For though I've been the age of eight and nine and six and seven,
This is the very first time that I've ever been Eleven!'"
"But if the Guests had hoped to eat the Banquet there and then,
They soon found out their Host had plans for what they'd eat and when,
For Horace told them firmly not a crumb would they devour,
Until the time that he had set--THE ELEVENTH HOUR."
"A little later in the day some Guests played Snakes and Ladders,
Upon a board that squirmed and turned with Pythons, Asps and Adders.
The board was set, the race was on, the game had just begun,
Then Thomas went and ate the dice, so no one ever won."
"They raced each other up the stairs (Eleven steps in all),
Then past the marble statues leading to the Banquet Hall.
And there they stopped. No body spoke. They stood in disbelief.
For all the food had disappeared. Aghast, they cried: 'A Thief!'"