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Book Reviews, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Lovelace Award Nominee, Middle Grade Readers

THE PUZZLING WORLD OF WINSTON BREEN by Eric Berlin…a LOVELACE nominee

I enjoyed The Puzzling World of Winston Breen.  The main story revolves around Winston (about 11-12yrs old) who loves solving puzzles of all kinds.  He purchases an antique keepsake box for his 10-year-old sister Katie.  When she opens the gift Katie discovers a secret compartment containing four puzzle pieces.  Winston and his sister are drawn into a puzzle which becomes a real-life treasure hunt.

They must search for a treasure along with several other adults (and some help from Winston’s two best friends).  The story of treasure hunt is fun and has a nicely-paced, exciting conclusion.

The unique feature to this book is the number of puzzles that are embedded within it.  Because Winston loves puzzles he is constantly creating them from things around himself.  His family and friends also enjoy discovering puzzles for him to solve and giving them to him as small gifts.  Sometimes the ways in which  these extraneous puzzles are woven into the story are forced and disjointed, but on the whole they provide a great companion to the story itself.  If a reader is not interested in solving the extra puzzles (which in no way affect the outcome of the story) he can simply skip over them.  If, however, the reader enjoys puzzles–as I happen to–he can solve the puzzles on separate pieces of paper in between reading the story, or save them for later.

All the puzzle answers are in the back of the book.  Also, if you want to work directly on the puzzle, you can go to www.winstonbreen.com to download and print the individual puzzles from the book’s website.

I found Winston to be an engaging character and I enjoyed the story and solving the puzzles as I went along.  I can see this being a popular reading choice on the Lovelace nominee list because it offers an interactive aspect unusual to a children’s novel.  This might be a fun read-aloud choice in a classroom due to the inclusion of its many puzzle options.

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