Award-Winning Books Crime, Thriller, Mysteries and Puzzles Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Visual Codes and Clues in Graeme Base’s Multi-award-winning Picturebooks and Launch of July-September Reading Theme: Crime and Thriller, Mysteries and Puzzles in Literature

"Enigma" and "Uno's Garden" by Graeme Base


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

We are also announcing the three Literary Voyagers who happen to be the lucky recipients of the following titles for the #LitWorld2018GB (Literary Voyage Around The World Reading Challenge):

  1. April Literary Voyager: Belinda for her review of Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (UK) – Lola Offline by Nicola Doherty.
  2. May Literary Voyager: Emily for her review of Han Kang’s The White Book (South Korea) – White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht.
  3. June Literary Voyager: Trisha (Tale of a Bookworm) for her review of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone (African country) – The Girl’s Guide to Summer by Sarah Mlynowski.

Please email gatheringbooks (at) yahoo (dot) com for your postal mail addresses and contact numbers so that Pansing would be able to send your book over to you. It is never too late to join – here is the linky for July-September. Do sign up!

The first half of the year is officially over – my, that was fast. As such, we are launching our new reading theme until end of September this year: Crime and Thriller, Mysteries and Puzzles in Literature. Essentially, we are hunting down titles that will fit the following criteria:

  • cozy mysteries, whodunit
  • murder, mayhem, thriller stories
  • books about detectives, police officers, soldiers, army, navy, airforce
  • books with clues and missing things that need to be discovered/found
  • books with puzzles and codes

To launch our reading theme, I have two books created by Graeme Base who happens to be a master when it comes to visual codes and clues.

Enigma: A Magical Mystery

Written and Illustrated by: Graeme Base
Published by: Harry N. Abrams, 2008
ISBN: 081097245X (ISBN13: 9780810972452). Literary Awards: Canberra’s Own Outstanding List (COOL) Awards Nominee for Category 1: Picture Books (2009), Edgar Award Nominee for Best Juvenile (2009). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I have a collection of Graeme Base’s picturebooks because I truly believe the man is a genius. Knowing that he is a master at embedding visual codes and clues in his picturebooks, I dug out a few of his titles that I feel would fit our current reading theme.

The story begins with an alliterative introduction to Bertie Badger and his grandfather, “Gadzooks the Great” who was once a “conjurer of note,” a world-famous magician who traveled to Prague, Kathmandu, Antipodes and Timbuktu. When Gadzooks the Great retired, however, he performed only to an audience of one, his grandson, Bertie. That is, until one terrible day when Grandfather’s magical props magically disappeared. And it was not just his props, but all the other residents who used to be conjurers as well.

Bill Bison, pictured above, lost his queen of hearts which made him unable to cut his magical cards. Monkey is missing his interlocking rings making him unable to perform his usual tricks. Sadly, Miss Poodle is also missing her ball and cups.

Where all these missing things have gone, I shall leave for you to discover. There is a way to crack the code to all this, however, but it would require some serious code-breaking.

Once again, Graeme Base has created a complex, multi-layered narrative filled with visual codes and clues that an eager young reader will be more than excited to unlock.

Uno’s Garden

Written and Illustrated by: Graeme Base
Published by: Harry N. Abrams (2006)
ISBN: 0810954737 (ISBN13: 9780810954731). Literary Awards: Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature for Picture Book (2007), Young Australians’ Best Book Award (YABBA) for Section 1 – Picture Storybook (2008), Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year for Lower Primary (ages 5-8) (2007), Green Earth Book Award for Children (2007), Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) Nominee for Australian Book of the Year for Younger Children (age range 0 to 8 years) (2007). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

This multi-award-winning book begins with a riddle and rhyme:

The animals go by one by one
A hundred plants, then there were none
And all the while the buildings double…
This numbers game adds up to trouble

Check out the code above indicating how many plans there are in Uno’s Garden, and all the creatures found within. First there were only two buildings, with plants aplenty.

As the story progresses, and more people and tourists come, more houses and roads built, the plants and the creatures diminish disproportionately and quite rapidly too.

Similar to Jeannie Baker’s Home and Window (see my review here), the narrative shows graphically how resources diminish as people simply take what they want without replenishing its loss or ensuring its sustainability and survival. In the image above, the infamous snortlepig still exists, but just barely.

It is inevitable, then, that all the plants will die and wither away, and all the buildings abandoned by people as they have consumed all there is to take in what had been Uno’s Garden. And then there was one again: 1 snortlepig, 1 leefytree, and 1 old shack.

This time around, the development is more gradual but also a bit more balanced, as Uno’s descendants learned from the previous inhabitants’ mistakes. The mathematical conundrum posted in the image above, not to mention how it encourages counting the said creatures and plants on the page make this a highly interactive and visually compelling reading material, with an environmental message very subtly thrown in.

While young readers would most likely be riveted by all these fantastical creatures, the older ones would marvel at its seeming-simplicity, yet also astutely aware of the Lorax-like fable to it: with notions of survival and sustainability, progress and the question of renewability of resources. What did I say? Graeme Base is a genius.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: Australia

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

13 comments on “[Monday Reading] Visual Codes and Clues in Graeme Base’s Multi-award-winning Picturebooks and Launch of July-September Reading Theme: Crime and Thriller, Mysteries and Puzzles in Literature

  1. I don’t think I’ve read any books by Graeme Base, but it sounds like I should!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Graeme Base’s books have soooo much to look at! The art is really astounding, even though it’s not exactly my preferred style. I don’t know that I’ve ever read the words in one of his books–just looked at the art!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lindabaie

    I have The Eleventh Hour and Animalia, but the ones you shared are new to me. I’ll find them for the girls, who love puzzle books. I have an 80’s edition titled The Ultimate Alphabet that I bought for my class. It isn’t easy, comes with a book listing all the ‘words’ (concepts) to discover. Now I see that he’s come out with a 2nd one to add to the 1st. You might enjoy it, but it’s for older kids & up:

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Graeme Base’s artwork is stunning! When you add that to a great text, it’s a masterpiece. Thanks so much for sharing! Have a wonderful reading week, Myra!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Graeme Base’s work is the kind of art it’s easy to get lost in. You can spend hours pouring over his books as I have seen many children do.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. bookandmorebd

    AWWWW!! thank you!! Mailed you already ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This looks like a FUN week in books. I loved all of the beautiful pictures. I haven’t read anything by Graeme Base, and I am regretting this!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sarah Sammis

    Oh. Graeme Base. My kids used to love his books. It’s been five or six years though since we’ve read one. My weekly updates

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jana Eschner

    Those are beautiful picture books that I’ll definitely need to find at my library. Thanks for sharing and have a terrific week!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love that nature book. It looks like it has a good message. Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I really need more Graeme Base books in my library next year. Thanks for the great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I don’t know either of these! Thank you for sharing them–I love learning about books from you. You definitely help extend my knowledge!

    Happy reading this week 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I used to grab his books for road trips — if the scenery gets dull, there’s lots to see on the page. And picture books seemed less likely to cause travel sickness.

    Liked by 1 person

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