Graeme Base's works provide examples of:
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The Sign of the Seahorse
- Added Alliterative Appeal: " . . . as Finny freed his friends"
- Appropriate Animal Attire: The amount of clothing worn varies from character to character. Bert sports elaborate officer's attire (complete with boots, epaulettes, and one white glove), Stan and Ted wear suit tops . . . but not bottoms, and Pearl is usually seen in only a pearl necklace.
- Civilized Animal: The fish and related undersea creatures have a human-like civilization and customs.
- The Dragon: The Groper's Swordfish.
- Dumb Muscle: Stan and Ted, the Groper's shark enforcers of "dubious IQs."
- Gang Bangers: Subverted. The Catfish Gang, described as "a motley mixture of rough diamonds" . . .. . . looked tough and mean, no manners, no respect.
But deep inside they meant no harm and dressed up for effect.
- Good Animals, Evil Animals: As far as we see, all crustaceans are in the military, all catfish are rebellious, all trout are unobtrusive citizens, and all predatory creatures like sharks, swordfish, and moray eels are evil.
- Green Aesop: The poison killing the Old Reef is chemicals from human pollution.
- Interspecies Romance: Pearl is a trout. Bert is a crab. Good luck, guys.
- Love at First Sight: Pearl and Bert knew the moment they looked into each other's eyes("first one stalk, then the other"). Unfortunately, he is called away on duty before the two can even speak.
- Medals for Everyone: Bert and Finneus both receive actual medals for their parts in the Groper's defeat.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Gropmund G. Groper. Huh. Sounds like a really nice guy.
- Punny Name: Pearl, Finneus, and Gropmund G. Groper.
- Throwing Down the GauntletFinneus: Let's see how you look with catfish claw-marks down your tails!
The Eleventh Hour
- Exact Words: Every party guest denies responsibility for stealing Horace's birthday feast, and a clue near the end confirms that they have all told the truth—yet one of them is still the culprit. The final solution explains that Kilroy the Mouse was correct when he gave his denial in the form 'one mouse could never eat it all' - he let in 111 fellow mice as accomplices and they stole and ate it together.
- Fair Play Whodunit: Although the book is packed with secret codes and messages that offer hints to the reader, it is possible for to solve the mystery simply by paying attention to the evidence that is present in the story and illustrations.
- Guide Dang It!: The complex puzzles in The Eleventh Hour provoked many such a moment. Originally you had to send off for an answer booklet, in later editions this was included with the book.
- Red Herring: The illustrations feature many clues, some of which are red herrings. One actually says, when decoded, "red herring."
- Try Everything: The final solution is unlocked by decoding a message on the last page using the first letter of the culprit's name as an alphanumeric cipher. The answer book acknowledges it is perfectly possible to brute-force the answer (especially since there are only 11 suspects and the leap of logic would suggest the 11th letter of the alphabet) but both it and several hidden clues near the end of the story advise that the reader will have more fun if they use observation and deduction to find the culprit first.
The Worst Band in the Universe
- All That Glitters: The glowing golden host of the Worst Band competition turns out to be the Musical Inquisitor in disguise.
- AllusionMusical Inquisitor: I have a dream, a Brave New World, where every note is fixed . . .
- A Planet Named Zok: Parodied with Sprocc's homeworld, Blipp. But then there's Planet Squaag.
- Appeal to Tradition: Blipp is a planet of music, but only the Ancient Songs are allowed. Creation of a new melody is grounds for banishment.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Subverted, then played straight. Everyone assumes the Musical Inquisitor earned his position by being the best at Splingtwanger playing (which passes for combat on Blipp), but when Sprocc confronts him, his citizens discover he can't play at all. He attempts to destroy the temple in revenge, but the Eldest One's talent on the Splingtwanger saves the day.
- Battle of the Bands: Sprocc and co. compete in the "Worst Band in the Universe" contest, an intergalactic competition to seek out the worst band in a rebellion against their worlds' hyper-controlled music conventions. It turns out to be a government ploy to root out the most disruptive musicians.
- Beatnik: Skat sometimes talks like one.
- Casual Interstellar Travel: Moving from planet to planet is fairly easy. There's even a SpaceBus.
- Challenging the Chief: Sprocc invokes his "Ancient Right" to challenge the Musical Inquisitor for power.
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: The PowerAxe-wielding, junkyard-ruling musical outlaw Skat is quite the stereotypical cool guy (and he knows it, too).
- Culture Police: Every planet has its own strict rules and conventions surrounding music, enforced by the Musical Inquisitor and his Prodmen.
- Disproportionate Retribution: On Blipp, playing a new song is grounds for banishment. On Squaag, playing any music at all is grounds for execution.
- Ditto Aliens: Averted with the Blippians, who do not look particularly similar to each other at all, apart from their skin patterning and giraffe-like ears.
- Enlightened Matriarchy: The Eldest One is a wise and benevolent leader, as opposed to her underling and attempted usurper, the Musical Inquisitor.
- Evil Chancellor: The Musical Inquisitor is the villain of the piece, as opposed to the benevolent Eldest One.
- Evil Wears Black: The Musical Inquisitor's outfit is mostly black.
- Faceless Goons: The Prodmen are described as "non-sentient techno-organic drones." Their function is to detect non-regulation sound waves and DESTROY.
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: How ya get from planet to planet.
- Five-Man Band: On WasteDump B19.
- Freudian Trio: Sprocc's band.
- Ego = Sprocc, the driving force and discoverer of self.
- Superego = Breather, the smart one who keeps the others in check.
- Id = Stickman, a semi-sentient but emotional Big Guy.
- Hero Protagonist: Sprocc.
- Humanoid Aliens: The Blippians, as well as most of the other species shown in the background, resemble humans in skeletal structure, but not much else.
- Instrument of Murder: Skat's signature PowerAxe is more useful for shooting things than actually playing music.
- Jerkass with a Heart of Gold: Skat is a little bitch to his cohorts, but it turns out his heart's in the right place.
- Kid Hero: Sprocc is only thirteen.
- Landfill Beyond the Stars: WasteDump B19, where the winners of the Worst Band competition are sent to get them out of the way.
- Most Writers Are Human: The Blippians could just as easily be humans.
- Multicultural Alien Planet: Squaag.
- Musical Assassin: Musical instruments are used as surrogates for weapons throughout the story. In particular, Skat frequently employs his PowerAxe to fry things with blasts of concentrated sound, and the Musical Inquisitor uses monotonous amplified dead noise as a weapon.
- Named After Their Planet: The Blippian Tribe.
- No Such Thing as Alien Pop Culture: Averted. On the ride to Alpha 10, Sprocc's crew watches a "sitcom starring some new band from Alpha 17."
- Plant Aliens: WasteDump B19 is infested with carnivorous vine-based life forms that prey on sound.
- The Power of Rock: Basically the premise. The final battle is a duel of instruments.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Eldest one is sympathetic to Sprocc's cause and eventually saves the day.
- Translation Convention: Unless all the alien species exhibited actually are speaking English.
- Two of Your Earth Minutes: Sprocc's age is given as "thirteen standard years."
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: Sprocc and his crew arrive back on Blipp just as the Musical Inquisitor is declaring himself the new "Ruler of the Universe."
- You Can't Go Home Again: As Sprocc was boarding the rocket off his homeworld, he "turned and looked at Blipp, his home—it struck a poignant chord— / Then took a deep, determined breath and boldly stepped aboard."