The Orb of Chatham, by Bob Staake, Commonwealth Editions, 2005
Truth be told, I bought this book for me. But my little boy saw it when I opened the package, and he said "Have it!" I'm not even going to try to explain to a three-year-old why he can't have a picture book, so I guess we'll have to share.
I bought this book for the illustrations. You may not know Staake's name, but most likely you know his artwork; it often graces the covers of the New Yorker, and shows up in many other places. His works features clean lines, remarkable shading, and simple subject that virtually jumps off the page. It is always beautiful, in a sort of modern Art Deco way. The illustrations in this book are all that and a bit of film noir -- and nothing short of breathtakingly brilliant.
The story, which I thought would be secondary in this book, surprised me with its Goreyesque quality. I was delighted. And heartened, because even though Edward Gorey is no longer with us, Bob Staake still very much is.
I should confess that I have yet to unlock the key. I started at 11:30 last night, and I made a half-hearted effort for about half an hour before I gave up for the night and went to bed. So I'm no puzzle whiz, or I'm just really bad at math.