The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile, by Judith Rossell

Dear Explorer,

This appeal for help just arrived from an archaeological dig in the Valley of Giants, near el Ephant. A student has gone missing, along with an artefact which may be one part of the broken Seal of Sobek.

The Archaeology Department at The Valley of Kings has sent a letter to the president of Explorers Club, asking for help in finding a lost student. The student was apparently taken by a group of mummies said to be guardians of Sobek’s (the crocodile god) tomb. The president in turn, asks her members to help find the lost student and perhaps the tomb with its marvellous treasures. The scene is set, the clues are there. All The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile needs is a sharp-eyed explorer to make their way through the numerous dangerous paths. If successful they will find the student, and gain access to the tomb of Sobek and its unbounded wealth.

The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile is the third in this series of maze books from Judith Rossell. This, like previous offerings, is full of Rossell’s trademark drawings, colourful and intricate. Maze books are a great way of engaging all manner of readers, from reluctant to confident. For the reluctant reader they are accessible, encourage observation and reward effort. For the confident reader they enrich visual literacy. The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile introduces readers to Egypt and the wealth of history there. There are tit-bits about archaeology, villagers, gods and kings, burial tombs, landscape and fauna. Recommended for 5 yo + readers.

The Mystery of the Golden Crocodile, by Judith Rossell
ABC Books 2007
ISBN: 9780733319433

Take 2, by Philip Blythe

The detective-thriller movie, Quest for the Golden Ibis, has just finished filming. For every scene, the director has filmed two different versions, each from a different angle. But there are a number of errors in every take, because a saboteur has been trying to ruin the film…

This is a puzzle or spot-the difference book with a special difference. Instead of presenting two identical pictures and asking youngsters to search for changes, Take 2 presents two shots of each scene, taken from different angles. The differences then are in details – clothing, props, the set and so on.

Readers are asked to act as an Assistant Editor and search for the differences between each pair of takes, then choose which shot will actually work in the final film. They are also asked to act as detective and figure out the identity of the saboteur.

As well as being a mind-bending and fun puzzle book, Take 2 also serves as a good introduction to film making and film language. Children are introduced to words such as cast, take, director and scene, as well as concepts such as continuity.

Suitable for primary school aged children.

Take 2, by Philip Blythe
Little Hare, 2006

Peril Space Tours, by Richard Morden

My name is Captain Peril. When touring with us you’ll encounter many strange and possible dangerous puzzles.

Peril Space Tours offers a tour around the galaxy and is chock-a-block with unusual creatures on even more unusual planets. There are ‘flappadons’, ‘null masters’ and ‘wuffers’ for readers to meet as they complete mazes, number, pattern and visual puzzles. Not even the crew are safe as the space tour flips from planet to planet.

Space travel should be this much fun! Humour and maths blend in outrageous colours across the universe we have never known. Puzzle books have ceased to just be a collection of activities and have become a genre of their own. Another high quality puzzle book from Little Hare Books, Peril Space Tours is certain to find new space fans. Fun for early-mid primary readers.

Peril Space Tours by Richard Morden
Little Hare Books 2006
ISBN: 9781921049545

This book is available online at Fishpond.

The Twelve Tasks of Hercules, by Dion Hamill

Hercules was one of the most famous characters in ancient Greek mythology. He was the son of the great god Zeus and the mortal woman Alkmene.

Beginning with an outline of the story of Hercules, this puzzle book presents some innovative alternatives for readers to help him achieve each of the twelve tasks. It introduces the tasks set Hercules, but instead of the often violent solutions evident in the traditional myth, it offers puzzles. There are mazes and clear thinking exercises.

Myths and legends are a rich source of learning and entertainment for each new generation. Hercules is a popular figure who continues to attract new fans. Puzzle books like The Twelve Tasks of Hercules introduce younger readers to age-old stories in an engaging format. These are quite sophisticated illustrations and puzzles designed for a mid-primary reader, but could also be read to a younger child as an introduction to both myth and puzzle books.

An enjoyable addition to the strong collection of puzzle books from Little Hare Books.

The Twelve Tasks of Hercules by Dion Hamill
Little Hare Books, 2006
ISBN: 9781921049538

Two Interactive Puzzle Books

Kids love books with an interactive element and these two new offerings from Little Hare publishers offer plenty of interactivity in the form of puzzles and mazes.

Amazeing Ruins offers a series of mazes for children to find their way through. Each maze is a path through a lost civilisation – from the Colosseum in Rome, to the Great Wall of China and Babylon in Iraq. Hamill uses various art mediums to create each double page spread, with the paths of the mazes being woven into the detailed illustration. In Ancient Egypt, for example, the path is etched in hieorglyphics, whilst in Bayon, Cambodia, the path is made of vines.

As well as a page showing soltions, Amazeing Ruins also includes a brief note about the history of each site depicted in the mazes, so that the book is not only fun, but also educational.

Puzzlemazia by Rolf Heimann also includes mazes, as well as puzzles of various types. Many youngsters will already be familiar with Heimann’s work and this offering includes Heimann’s trademark bright illustrations, with a range of challenges from relatively easy to mind-bogglingly confusing.

At a rrp of $10.95, this pair make affordable and entertaining gifts and would be great for long car or plane trips.

Amazeing Ruins, by Dion Hamill
Puzzlemania, by Rolf Heimann
Both from Little Hare , 2004