Follow the clues. Solve the mystery. Save the island.
Henry Hoakes is missing. His fabulous Hoakes Island Amusement Park is in danger of being torn down by developers. It’s up to us and the island’s talking animals to solve the mystery of Henry’s disappearance and save the park!
Set in the late 1950s, Hoakes Island: A Fiendish Puzzle Adventure by Helen Friel and Ian Friel is a book, a series of puzzles, an experience. It mixes story, puzzle solving, investigation, inquisitiveness, design, and—of course—adventure into one handy package that will keep kids aged 7-11 (or older) busy for hours.
Rita, the anteater who sends you a letter to start off your adventure, has also sent you a ferry ticket and has given you this notebook to help you solve the mystery. She has also written her memoir on the book’s pages, so there is plenty of extra story as you go. But you’re not in this alone; along with Rita, there are many other talking animals to help you along the way.
The letter directs you to the page on which you begin your journey. As you work your way through the book’s experience, you’ll be jumping from page to page, forward and then backward again. On each spread, there is a puzzle to solve. There are four answer options on a compass rose in the corner of one page. The correct answer will tell you which way on the map to go next. You can use a pen or pencil to mark your progress on the map, but I used one of those Post-It sticky plastic flags to mark my place. Keep going until you discover why Henry Hoakes disappeared!
Some of the puzzles are easy to figure out, some more difficult. And for some puzzles, first you have to figure out what it is that you need to figure out! (More than once I thought the puzzle was tricky when it was just staring me right in the face.) Kids will likely savor the challenges in this book, not hurrying to solve the mystery at the end. Encourage them to take their time on each page, as there is plenty to read, see, and explore.
To solve the mystery, you’ll need critical thinking skills, curiosity, an open mind, a mirror, and the tools that are included in the book. Hidden inside the front cover is a red handheld lens used to reveal clues throughout the book. Use it to “mask” the red ink in the book, allowing the blue, black, and white areas to stand out more. Use the lens to explore each page. Some of the revealed pictures may be pivotal to the adventure, but some are just plain fun. Also, wrapped around the book is a map of the island, which has a handy storage pocket in the back of the book. The back and some of the front of the map are covered with advertisements for local products and services, just like the free maps you can get from just about any town’s visitor’s bureau.
The book serves as your notebook and reference for this adventure, and includes diary entries, puzzles, hastily scrawled notes, drawings, music, mazes, letters, maps, snapshots, news articles, and more to help you piece together what happened and save the island and Henry (and the day).
The pages are filled with humor and little jokes. It’s a perfectly fun and deceptively educational book for the upcoming summer months. The publisher even suggests it be used for summer reading programs. The book’s puzzles include elements from math, language arts, geography, spacial relations, and more, which help keep your kids’ skills sharp until the next school year begins.
I won’t spoil it by revealing any of the steps of the adventure, but I do recommend this book for kids and adults alike. Or, better yet, go through it with your kids. Maybe do one puzzle per day. The book would last for almost a month that way!
If you or your kids get stuck while solving a particular puzzle, the answers are in the back of the book. But no fair peeking before you’ve given each puzzle a fair try.
Hoakes Island: A Fiendish Puzzle Adventure comes out today, May 15, 2018. It is put together by Helen Friel and Ian Friel. Helen is a paper engineer, and also did the book Midnight Creatures: A Pop-up Shadow Search Book. Ian is a writer and historian. I recommend this book for any curious kid or family.
Note: I received this book for review purposes, but my love of a good puzzle adventure is all my own.