July 15, 2019

Beastly Puzzles: A Brain-Boggling Animal Guessing Game

Written by Rachel Poliquin
Illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 7-10
May 2019

Every book can be considered interactive, being an interplay of communication between reader and text and illustrations, but some, like Beastly Puzzles, demand more of the reader. In fact, there's no skimming over words or art in Beastly Puzzles because every little bit of each double-spread with fold-out requires attention to detail and problem-solving skills extraordinaire to answer the question What animal could you make with...?
From Beastly Puzzles: A Brain-Boggling Animal Guessing Game, text by Rachel Poliquin, art by Byron Eggenschwiler
The first animal puzzle provides seven clues in a billiard room of purple shades and tints. The clues are: dinosaur feet, black toenails, three billiard balls, a hose, the speed of a greyhound, several feather dusters and a lion-killing kick. They are a perplexing assortment of clues so Rachel Poliquin provides more details in a "Here's a hint" that is actually more than just one. I won't reveal what feathered animal is showcased beneath the foldout but information about it's morphology, behaviour and more are explained in terms of those seven clues. Thirteen animals which include mammals, birds, crustaceans, fish, amphibians, reptiles and insects are featured throughout the book, extending around the world. 
From Beastly Puzzles: A Brain-Boggling Animal Guessing Game, text by Rachel Poliquin, art by Byron Eggenschwiler
The clues are tough and Rachel Poliquin is accurate in calling them "brain-boggling." I could not guess a single animal but, rather than being frustrated, I was fascinated by learning interesting facts about over a dozen animals and seeing the connections between the clues provided and the characteristics depicted. Kids who love learning about animals will appreciate this unique presentation but puzzle-lovers will similarly be entranced by the marvelous riddles embedded in Byron Eggenschwiler's monochromatic illustrations of rooms, inside and out, of a large house.  Only the clues and the hidden animals are enriched with colour to highlight their importance so little ones won't have to search for the clues, only interpret them, and that is hard enough.

Whether you're travelling for the summer and want to occupy a little one, or have an animal lover who would revel in the unique learning that Beastly Puzzles presents, this picture book will be a hit of information–there is a lesson in natural history and a glossary–and entertainment.

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