Friday, April 4, 2008

Masquerade

Masquerade
Kit Williams/ published 1980 by Schoken Books


Just so you all know, yes, I admit it. I am a huge Jim Henson fan. From the time I was really small, I was absolutely in love with the man and used to sign all my paintings and letters Mrs. Henson. Dorky, I know. I never actually realised liking the Muppets made me a dork until I went to work for the company in their children's publishing department. Henson fans used to show up by the droves on the doorstep of the Muppet mansion, and believe me, they were oft-mocked at the lunch table. It was my secret shame that years before getting the job, I too had shown up at the door looking for a handout tour. As an employee, it took me a while to figure out I wasn't the only fan who had infiltrated the ranks, and later, when I quit to move to a better job at a publishing house, I secretly mourned leaving my cosmic home...

Anyway, what I'm getting at is the only other person that I felt such a close affinity to growing up was Kit Williams. Sure it helped that the men looked like brothers, but for more than two years, Kit's book Masquerade was all my sisters, my mom and I talked about. In the summer of 1980, this book was released to mass hysteria in both America and the UK. It is a haunting tale of a love between the sun and the moon, and within the story hid the secret to where a REAL buried treasure was located -- a golden jewel handcrafted by the author and artist himself. I was only 8 at the time, but our whole family would spent hours upon days pouring over every page trying to find the keys to where the gold was hidden in England. Our original copy eventually fell apart from so much wear, which only made it that much easier for us to share the search. My mom more than anyone was absolutely obsessed with finding it. She would form all of her correspondence guesses to the author in the shape of a rabbit (the main character of the story and the actual form of the jewel), and once even found his home phone number and bothered his wife for clues.

According to the author, you didn't have to live in the UK to be able to discover the answer, but come on... These were the days before cyberspace, and believe me, after you've spent two years getting to know that book inside and out, once you see the answer, there was no way you could have figured it out without some pretty detailed knowledge of Great Britain. Still it made for a few magical summers. Williams went on to publish another treasure hunt a few years later, with the mystery being the actual title of the book, and though we spent a few months decoding the puzzle, it wasn't the same. You had to guess the name of the book, and then make something to relay the answer without actually writing the name. My mom did construct a bee hive out of balsa wood and bee's wax that she covered in designs with a wood-burning gun. Man, would I like to know where that thing is now! Anywho, I ramble..

Regardless that the treasure has long since been recovered (by someone who cheated no less!) and those summers are only a memory, the books stands the test of time and remains as a lavish testament to the heart of the young reader. And so the tale begins....

Within the pages of this book there is a story told
Of love, adventures, fortunes lost, and a jewel of solid gold.
To solve the hidden riddle, you must use your eyes,
And find the hare in every picture that may point you to the prize.


The romance between the two unlikely soul mates is heartbreaking and wonderful, and the paintings that illustrate are something of another world all together. A paperback edition was published with a full explanation of the jewel's ultimate hiding place. Do your kid's imagination a favor and eBay this one.

Also by:
The Bee on the Comb

3 comments:

Stefan, Sarah and Lukka said...

oh wow. You have me hooked. That is so cool *said in the nerdiest but most enthusiastic voice ever*

I can't wait to get the book!

Melody said...

It's so beautiful! Can't wait to get my hands on this one. (Thank you, public library.)

Mom101 said...

Oh my GOD I loved that book! I can't believe I wasn't the only nerd who spent endless hours (I was 12) trying to figure it out. In fact of the few books from my childhood that I still have in my home now, that is one of them.

Thanks for the memory - and found you via Jr Society. Awesome blog.

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