Candlewick Press, $7.99, ISBN 1-56402-852-6
Puzzle Gamebook, 1996
A Puzzling Day at Castle MacPelican isn’t a typical gamebook – it’s more of a search-and-solve type of puzzle book aimed at younger kids. Unlike those annoying Where’s Wally? type of search-and-solve books, however, this one doesn’t require a magnifying glass to find things. In fact, looking for things in this gamebook isn’t a strain on the eyes at all. The uncredited illustrator did a spectacular job in making everything pretty and – more importantly – big enough to look at without having to squint.
Do you really want to know the plot? If one can even call it “plot”, heh. Basically, we have two kids, Thomas and Esmerelda, who visit their very wealthy uncle, Hector MacPelican, who lives in a huge castle. Yes, a Scots named Esmerelda. Don’t ask. Hector is clearly unmarried and lives with his unmarried sister, the forgetful Forgetlia. With a name like Forgetlia MacPelican, she probably wishes that she can forget her life, heh. The castle is also populated by a staff led by the butler Mr Snoddy, the head cook Mrs Edibles, the gardener Mrs Trellis, and a motley crew of unnaturally happy staff that look like they are barely out of their teens. These kids all share the same sleeping quarters with Hector, if the bedtime spread is anything to go by, but don’t ask what Hector is doing to these kids. You probably don’t want to know the answer.
This gamebook is divided into two-paged spreads, each spread depicting some fun activity in a specific room or area of the impossibly large and roomy Castle MacPelican. There are many things to do. Aunt Forgetlia will need help to recover something or some things she has forgotten, Mr Snoddy will have a task for you, a thief has stolen an item and you will have to locate him and the location from where he has stolen his prize from, and a delusional uncle sees some hidden animals in the scene are just some of the puzzles confronting you with every page. Throughout it all, there is a continuous “adventure” of seeking out clues that will lead to the location of the twins’ presents from Hector.
A Puzzling Day at Castle MacPelican is surprisingly fun and it may probably make you wish you can spend a day such as the one depicted in this gamebook, perhaps with a less creepy uncle. Some of the puzzles are actually quite challenging, so it’s not just only for kids. At any rate, bring this one on those boring long trips to liven things up.