The Bee On The Comb by Kit Williams, author of Masquerade, sets off another "armchair treasure hunt" to search the story for clues to the book's title.
Written and illustrated by Kit Williams. 1984, first American edition. A Borzoi Book for Alfred A. Knopf.
Kit Williams, author of Masquerade, which set off a nationwide treasure hunt in the UK, launched another albeit less frenzied contest to name this magical story about a day in the life of a beekeeper.
"I have words to offer wisdom
And pictures to delight,
A story of a tragic Queen
And a fearless knight.
But my name remains a secret
It's hidden here within,
If you can but find it
More treasure you might win."
Known as "The Book Without A Name/Title", the story contains clues to the title, and contestants were required to submit creative non-verbal representations of the title. The winner was to be announced on May 25, 1985, "a year and a day" from the date the book was published. The clever person who won the contest entered a handmade bee box that revealed the answer upon turning the handle. He won a queen bee statuette and a special signed copy of the book.
Kit Williams also wrote Masquerade, Pebbles From The Brook, and Bobbing For Apples. We currently have Masquerade.
Next time you're in England you may want to look for at least one of his fabulous clocks on display at these locations: Regent Arcade shopping center, Cheltenham; Telford Shopping Center; Central Milton Keynes Shopping Center.
Visit TheCharmedBookshop.com for more first edition children's books.
Condition*: Very Good. Without dust jacket, as issued. Illustrated cover boards show only minor shelf wear. Book was untitled until someone won the naming contest.
*Based on guidelines from the Independent Online Booksellers' Association.
The Untitled Book (a.k.a. “The Bee Book”)
Before Masquerade was solved in 1982, Kit had already set about creating a second treasure book, no doubt at the intense urging of his publishers. When the second book was published on May 24, 1984, its title was its puzzle. Another elaborate storybook tale was presented for exploration, this time involving bees, the changing of the seasons, and Kit’s woodcuttings. The challenge: Discover the name the book and express it without using the written word to claim the prize. No doubt due to the insanity that surrounded the hunt of Masquerade, the second book required no actual digging, and it came with a year-and-a-day time limit; the answer would be revealed on May 25, 1985.
Now, the answer/title to Untitled (also referred to as “Book Without A Name” and “that one with the bees”) is available if you go searching around the Internet, but I am not going to post it here. The book is out of print, but copies can still be located–and whether it was due to the complexity of the first book’s puzzle, the time limit, or a combination of the two, I think the second book is much easier to solve than the first. At one point when I was working on it as a kid, I had the answer written in front of me and did not see it. This either means I am brilliant and dense at the same time, or this is a very solvable riddle. There are also several red herrings–some of which I consider to be harder than the book’s true solution!
As a result, I have not wanted to spoil this one for anyone who does not yet know the answer, but wants to give it a try. Since Kit is no longer creating books like these, I figure…let’s make this one last. Locating a copy of the book is easier than I thought thanks to the Advanced Book Exchange, so for those of you who would like to give it a shot, I will not reveal the answer here. I will be glad to confirm your guesses in e-mail on a personal basis. Again, other sites tell all, so if you would still like to try to solve it yourself, don’t surf too hard–just drop me a note.
In the meantime, Harold Benney has sent me some excellent detail and a few worthwhile photos for inclusion in the site, for which I thank him greatly:
“The prize for naming the ‘Book with No Name’ was presented by Kit Williams to the winner on a TV chat show here in the UK called Wogan. The winner’s name was Steve Pearce and he lived in Leicester. I did tape the programme at the time but the tape seems to have long since disappeared. If I remember correctly there were 6 finalists and the winner was announced by Kit live on National TV. The only titled copy of the book was contained in the marquetry box which was the prize and the segment of honeycomb with the bee was supposed to be removed to reveal the title–in the heat of the studio lights it could not be opened!The winning entry was a large blue cabinet about 10 inches in height with a handle and a window through which you could see a rooster. When the handle was turned the sun would rise and the rooster would move forward and…”
Sorry–the rest of the description gives too much away as to the book’s true title. However, I will post this picture of the winning entry, which Harold scanned in from the rereleased and fully-titled second book’s dust jacket:
Mural artist Philip Lowe offers some more personal detail: “I submitted a painting to Kit and was delighted that although I hadn’t won the comp I was chosen from thousands of entries together with about 50 other contributions for an exhibition. This exhibition, called ‘Hive of Industry’ took place at the Usher Gallery in Lincoln. I have still (I think) got the tickets and photos of Kit at the opening which I’ll scan and send if you like – Kit also signed my Bee Book with the legend ‘Bee Bountiful’. I was later contacted by a writer who was thinking of putting together a book about the exhibiting entrants but this never came to anything.”