Wednesday, August 15, 2007

BAR HARBOR — Pel Stockwell, a Boston based artist, and his brother, Los Angeles based screenwriter Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terebithea) have written a book together titled Fandango. It is both a fantasy story and a real treasure hunt “map” with an actual cash prize of more than $10,000 for the first person to solve the riddle.
Mr. Stockwell who grew up summers in Vinyl Haven and has visited MDI many times (his sister Lilea owns the Town Hill Market) has picked the Island as the place to hide the key to his 10 grand treasure.“Well it is a rather magical place,” he says. “I also like that it is both self contained and easily accessible — you don’t have to take a ferry to get there.”He says when he and his siblings were growing up on Vinyl Haven, his grandmother used to create treasure hunts for them — scattering clues about the woods, which, with some deciphering, led to a fun object that had been secretly salted away by “pirates” “I guess I just wanted to recreate that experience for other kids.” He says.The idea really began to percolate when British illustrator Kit Williams created Masquerade, about 15 years ago, a book that was both a story and an actual treasure map, with clues leading to a jewel encrusted golden rabbit. That treasure was eventually found by some clever reader about three years after the book came out.Mr. Stockwell confesses that he based the design of his book after Masquerade. While his illustrations are not nearly as elegant as Mr. Williams’ intricate images, they are packed with intriguing little hints and visual teasers that excite the imagination and, no matter how hard you try to resist—get one—and start to dream about solving the riddle and finding the treasure. And if the drawings are a bit primitive, it makes them seem more accessible than Williams more elegant illustrations. More like something you, or I could actually figure out.The text by Mr. Stockwell’s brother Jeff is imaginative and fun, too, once one gets used to the unusual rhyme scan.“No fox an island but here in MaineWe can, at least, be islanders. My storyThen, unfurls on Island territory.Acadia. An old jewel on a chainOf stone……..”The story he tells is about a wily fox, Fandango, who makes off with a key that Neptune, the god of the sea, had intended to send to his love, the Lady of the Wind.Readers are invited, by Fandango to participate in the quest for a real physical key that is hidden somewhere on MDI. Whoever finds it may claim the cash prize.Mr. Stockwell says the riddles can be solved without ever stepping foot on MDI, although a certain familiarity with the island’s interesting geography and history would be helpful.“One can figure it all in the comfort of their home and then come get the key or even send someone else to get it,” he says.He stresses that while the key is indeed hidden, it is not buried and he hopes treasure hunters won’t be running around with shovels digging up people’s lawns or Acadia National Park property.While he would like his treasure hunt to be a challenge, he does want it to be solved in a reasonable amount of time and the cash claimed.“I’d like to do one of these every year, with a new hunt,” he says.But if it does prove too difficult, in 13 years, the year 2020, the secret will be revealed and the prize given to a worthy cause.Pel Stockwell will be coming in person to sign copies of Fandango at Sherman’s Books in Bar Harbor, Aug. 13, 7-9 p.m. Aspiring treasure seekers are welcome to try to get a few hints from the mapmaker himself, but it probably won’t work. Believe me, I tried. Visit