The Clock without a Face: A Gus Twintig Mystery by Scott Teplin, Mac Barnett & Eli Horowitz plus faces by Adam Rex and numbers by Anna Sheffield

The Clock Without a Face, as a picture book alone, is AMAZING! I have spent hours poring over it just looking at the pictures. Which is what you are supposed to do with a picture book, right? Right. Unless it is a book from the wildly creative, innovative, envelope pushing (at least in the world of kid's books...) mind of Mac Barnett and the talented people he has a knack for teaming up with. Barnett is the author of the Brixton Brothers Series, the first of which, The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity just came out in paperback and the superb picture books Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, Guess Again!, and the soon to be released Oh No!. Mac's first three books are illustrated by the always amazing Adam Rex, who provides illustrations of the people (but not the places) in The Clock Without a Face. Oh No! is illustrated by another heavy hitter in the world of picture books and beyond, Dan Santat.

But, as stated above, Mac is not alone in this venture. Eli Horowitz, managing editor and publisher of the Dave Eggers' founded (Eggers is also the founder of the non-profit tutoring center for kids 826National) publishing concern McSweeney's (which also puts out the fabulous ad-free magazine Believer AND is the publisher behind the über-unique The Clock Without a Face) helped write the book. The incredible artist Scott Teplin, who provided the cover for the collection of art and essays, McSweeney's 27, as seen above, created the artwork for the rest of the book.

As always, the gals at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast, the fascinating blog about books where authors and artists stop by for a cup of cyber-coffee and a breakfast interview with Jules (and, in the past co-founder Eisha, who recently retired) are three steps ahead of me. On April 27, 2010, Scott Teplin stopped by for a chat that proved to be enthralling. Besides learning that Scott had a passion for disguises (you HAVE to check out his driver's license photo that kicks off the interview) and pyrotechnics, I learned about his career as an artist, his influences, work habits, that he and Eli Horowitz are working on a kid's ABC book, illustrations for which can be seen by at Alphabet for Alphaville, and (drum roll) a TOP SECRET black leather clue book....

Little Black Clue Book??? YES!!! This isn't JUST a picture book, like I said before I got sidetracked by all the mind blowing talent involved here... This book is a mystery, it's more than a mystery, it's a TREASURE HUNT and the clues to the buried treasure(s) are buried in the pages of the book. Those of you of a certain age might remember Kit Williams and his gorgeously illustrated picture book/treasure hunt Masquerade. For those of you who don't remember, Masquerade was a picture book with clues hidden in the text and illustrations of the story. The prize was the rabbit pin seen below. Apparently, woman who was in a relationship with Williams while he was creating the book was in on the secret location of the pin. Within a year of the book being published, she secretly teamed up with a third party who she helped to uncover the treasure and reap the rewards. If there are any hoaxes linked to The Clock Without a Face, though, I have a feeling that Barnett and rest of the gang will be behind it...

This time around, the jewel encrusted treasure has been designed by Anna Sheffield, who's designs can be found online and at high end department stores like Barney's and Le Bon Marché.

Now, the book! Gus Twintig, dear friend and confidential assistant to the genius detective Roy Dodge, is interrupted by a phone call in the midst of plucking the marshmallow shapes from among the crunchy bits in his cereal bowl. The cursed clock the Emerald Khroniker, has been burgled, and Gus needs to get to Ternky Towers, the home of Bevel Ternky, current owner of the clock, asap to help Dodge solve the mystery. Ternky Towers has thirteen floors, the top floor being the penthouse home of Bevel Ternky. As Dodge and Ternky investigate the crime, floor by floor, they learn that the other twelve residents of the Towers have been burgled as well. The floor plan and contents of each apartment serve as clues to the hiding places, for, "the twelve numbers of the Emerald Khroniker slumber underground, awaiting your sharp eyes and sharper shovels."

There is already a website for searchers to post their findings (or non-findings, as the case has been thus far.) There are some very entertaining reports about missing taco-night dinner, driving for hours and finding a pile of broken televisions deep in the woods - but no treasure YET! This is super fun and much has been made in other reviews about this being a low-tech venture in a high-tech age as well as where on the shelf, in a bookstore or library, this quirky tome will end up. Yes, it is a giant, pentagonal board book, and rightly so. This book is going to be toted all over the place, read and re-read and maybe even written in, at least by those who are true treasure hunters.

Now, I have to admit, I STINK at things like this. Remember Graeme Base's marvelous, gorgeous book The 11th Hour? I got that book when I was in college and I could not figure it out. Finally, I caved in and unsealed the answer packet at the end of the book. I am impatient and not observant in the right ways. HOWEVER, I have had a TON OF FUN picking out the cultural references in the story which may or may not have anything to do with clues to where the treasures are hidden...

First off is twelfth floor resident PK Quello, who happens to be an ALCHEMIST. Get it??? There is a very popular fiction author from Brazil named Paulo Coelho who's most popular book is titled The Alchemist. The fifth floor is home to the elderly oddballs Vera Mazel and Josie Grey. Mazel? Maysels? Grey Gardens? Albert and David Maysels made the 1975 documentary about the odd reclusive socialite mother and daughter and the estate home in East Hampton, NY that they never left named Grey Gardens. Is the number 5 hidden somewhere near East Hampton? I DON'T KNOW!! And then there is Krieger Manzarek who lives on the second floor. KREIGER??? MANZAREK??? THE DOORS??? Half of the Doors? Robby Krieger, guitarist, and Ray Manzarek, keyboardist, were members of the band fronted by Jim Morrison, The Doors. Is the number 2 hidden somewhere in LA?? Maybe near The Whisky night club??? And why is the character Krieger Manzarek so strange???

I dunno. Maybe I am just driving myself X-Files-like batty. Bring on the crazy sauce. But I'll tell you this, this book makes me want to write in ALL CAPS. This book makes me happy. And I didn't even mention the pink doughnuts, of which one is hidden in almost every apartment, I think. I love doughnuts...

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