Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery

Base, Graeme (Author/Illustrator)
Penguin Random House 1997. 32 pages
First published: 1988
ISBN: 9780140561609 (paperback)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Horace the elephant is turning 11, and to mark the occasion he has organized a lavish costume party.

In iambic, rhyming couplets (arranged, for most of the narrative, in quatrains) and deliberately lofty vocabulary, we meet his guests and their disguises: “The Mouse came as a Musketeer, his head and hat held high,” while “masquerading as a Judge, was Sam the Crocodile.” Horace has prepared an incredible banquet, but the guests must wait for “the eleventh hour” to dig in. In the meantime, they play all manner of games, from conventional to chaotic (a game of musical chairs ends in “piles of splintered wood”). However, when the time comes to break bread, the feast has been eaten! The guests each plead innocence and it is up to the reader to find the culprit. A key is provided at the back, as is a “Top Secret” section that divulges the clues.

Several of the illustrations hold clues to the mystery, including those written in code in the decorative text frames. The mixed-media art is rich and elaborately ornamented. Intricate scenes rendered in watercolour, gouache, ink and pencil show the costumed animals carousing in Horace’s ballroom, tumbling over each other in a sack race or shooting pool in the library. Each page contains a clue to the mystery, though the poetry and images provide plenty of details to delve into, even without the whodunit.

  •  Go for a picture walk and discuss what you see. Explore the structures and features of the text. What sports and activities are the animals playing?
  •  

    What do you notice about the borders around some images? Are you able to read the coded messages? Try to find the solutions to these codes. As needed, go to the last pages to understand how to find the solution.

  •  Plan a celebration in the same style for your own birthday. What would you include?
  •  

    Choose one of the codes that interests you. Research the code, if necessary, to ensure that you understand it correctly, then use it to write secret messages to a partner.

  •  

    Go for a picture walk and notice the structures and features. Examine the pictures and discuss what you see. Look at the content of the borders.

  •  Discuss the games, sports and activities that are proposed for the celebration day. What do you know about them?
  •  As the text is read aloud, discuss the elements that are part of the illustrations.
  •  

    Go back and read the various coded messages. Try to find the solutions to these codes. As needed, go to the last pages to understand how to find the solution.

  •  Plan a celebration in the same style for your own birthday. What will you include?
  •  

    Research the various codes featured. Use them to write secret messages to a partner.

  • To cooperate with others
  • To solve problems
  • To use information
  • Media Literacy
  • Personal and Career Planning