How Winston Delivered Christmas / How Winston Came Home For Christmas

Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books for sending these wonderful Alex T. Smith seasonal Winston books for review

How Winston Delivered Christmas


If you missed this terrific tale in hardback two or three years back then mouse Winston’s first adventure told in 24½ chapters is now in paperback with black and white illustrations. It tells what happens when said mouse, rummaging around for food comes upon a letter, a letter to Father Christmas eight year old Oliver thought he’d posted in a post box.

Now being a literate mouse, Winston realises that in order for it to reach its destination, there’s just one thing to do: although he has absolutely no idea of the way, to the North Pole, he must take the letter to Santa. His journey is far from easy but he eventually makes it and receives an unexpected surprise as the story ends. It’s a surprise that will remind readers that that in real-life there are people who need understanding, shelter and food at Christmas.

Designed to be read throughout advent this seasonal tale is jam-packed with festive delights and leaves the door open for another Winston festive adventure …

How Winston Came Home For Christmas

A year has passed since Winston’s first adventure and now the mouse and his human friend, Oliver, are back in a new seasonal story that begins five days before Christmas as Oliver is reading aloud to the little rodent, but having reached a cliffhanger the story is set aside and Oliver goes off to sleep. 

Not so Winston though. Beset by strange feelings and foggy memories he becomes certain that someone of great importance to him is lost. Now being a determined little creature, having left a note for Oliver promising to return for Christmas, Winston embarks on a mission – a Very Curious Mystery – to find the singing figure from his memories – a search that involves travelling first to Paris. Now how on earth (or in an appropriate sized envelope) can he do that?

There he is met with much kindness but doesn’t find the character he seeks so on he goes to Germany. There too he encounters helpful characters – human and animal – but the search must go on and now Winston takes to the air courtesy of kindly owl Hilda. 

By this stage of the story readers know the identity of the character Winston seeks but I won’t reveal that; merely bid them a safe journey and allow the travellers to continue towards nordic lands, Winston with the words of that lullaby running through his head; but what is it’s language? 

More importantly will he ever find its singer and be able to return to Oliver as promised?

Once again, readers and listeners will be swept away by the wonderfully warm tale Alex T. Smith has spun. It’s full of drama, friendship and that good-will spirit of the festive season. The full colour illustrations are suffused with humour and between each chapter is a seasonal activity, be that baking, crafting or otherwise creating, that all family members can share in.

With its star scattered cover, this is another 24½ chapters of sheer delight to make somebody’s Christmas special this year.

It’s a Great Big Colourful World

It’s a Great Big Colourful World
Tom Schamp
Prestel

Otto the cat wakes one morning wondering why everything is so grey. His chameleon friend, Leon is on hand to show him the delights of the various shades of grey and the multitude of beautiful grey things around.

Thereafter Leon takes him on a journey through the wonderful world of colour starting with grey’s components, the complementary black and white.

Moving on from those it’s a veritable riot of colours each represented by a plethora of characters and objects large and small. Yellow includes a yellow submarine, a big yellow taxi, a variety of cheeses, a butterfly and banana peel.

One orange spread is dominated by a magnificent tiger that’s found its way to Orange County and as yet, hasn’t consumed the tomato soup, clementines or orange juice on the previous spread.

There’s a wealth of transport on the red pages that also include Red Square and tulips – no not from Amsterdam but Turkey.
Flamingos strut their way across the pink spreads maintaining their colour courtesy of the pink algae and shrimps they dine upon.

Rather more restful on the eye the blues have a whale that swims through all four pages at once and the greens with dinosaurs, crocodiles, plants aplenty and the occasional caterpillar,

not forgetting Greenland.

Beer, cupcakes, tanned sunbathers, brownstone houses, a toffee even, are part of the brown spreads; and both the colour tourists Otto and Leon are hiding in plain sight on every spread, each  cleverly adapted to their surroundings. In the final pages the friends are thrilled by the coming together of all the colours for a glorious final journey through the four seasons.

However many times you look at this ingenious, intricately detailed offering from Tom Schamp, you’ll always find something new.

In addition to being a feast for the eyes, with his playful linguistic imagination and references, Schamp guarantees that this book will have a wide age appeal. No matter what you bring to it, you’ll emerge richer and wanting to dive straight back in, hungry for more.

 

Alice in Wonderland: A Puzzle Adventure

Alice in Wonderland: A Puzzle Adventure
Aleksandra Artymowska
Big Picture Press

When it comes to totally breath-taking puzzle adventures, Aleksandra Artymowska is your artist.

This one, again inspired by a classic novel, has mazes to tantalise, hidden objects to locate – not as easy as you might think (unless you’re familiar with Aleksandra’s work) – and a wealth of clues to ponder upon as we join Alice on her awesome subterranean adventure that begins as she tumbles down that famous Rabbit Hole.

According to the White Rabbit whose invitation to the Mad Hatter’s tea party is on the opening spread, there are 80 puzzles in all to solve; but if you get totally lost you can always turn to the back of the book for help.

Much better though to spend ages pouring over such out of this world wonders as the floating islands,

the carousel ‘caucus race’, the potted mushroom, the flying cutlery, the plethora of pepperpots, the funky teapots, the crowns of the Red and White Queens,

the incredible card constructions or the beguiling flower faces, until you finally come up with the solutions.

In fact this isn’t just one visual story, it’s an absolute wealth of them, all seamlessly woven into a totally immersive narrative.

This is most definitely a book to enchant readers of all ages, whether or not they are familiar with the Lewis Carroll classic. Alice’s Day is celebrated on 6th July but with this stunning book you can make every day one to celebrate Alice.

Midnight Monsters / The Ultimate Spell-Caster

Midnight Monsters
Helen Friel
Lawrence King Publishing

Billed as a ‘Pop-up Shadow Search’, this is a really clever take on the search for hidden objects book. To make it work you need these two things:
a) a largish blank wall, and b) a torch (the powerful kind is best).

Now, turn off the lights, stow away any screens that might be lurking (unless you happen to be using your mobile as a light source), place the book on a flat surface, open up the book, power on your torch and prepare to journey to five pop-up scene locations starting with the wild woods’ Therein, lurking among the branches are a jabberwock, a bigfoot, a werewolf, a dingonek and a headless horseman. (Brief descriptions of each are supplied).

Other settings are creepy caves, mysterious mountains, a misty lagoon and a haunted castle, in each of which hides five creepy creatures whose whereabouts you should seek among the shadows cast on the wall.

What a great thing to produce at a Halloween party; it will keep your guests absorbed for ages as they hunt for all those mythical beasties – a grandylow, a krampus, a tikbalan and a grootslang to name just a few.

Perfect after dark reading of the spooky kind: Spellbinding indeed.

The Ultimate Spell-Caster
Mike Barfield
Lawrence King Publishing

Can you imagine a magical book that offers potential witches and wizards more than 60 million spooky spells of the silly kind? No: then you definitely need Mike Barfield’s splendidly interactive, spirally bound volume that provides the means of doing just that.
If incantations are your thing then the five interchangeable strips presented in a variety of fonts, providing spooky or daft phrases along with the occasional contemporary one for good measure will keep you entranced for hours.
Here’s one spellbinding possibility:

And another: ‘Flap of cat and gum of boot, turn your dad into a self-propelling snot bottler.’

Embellished with speckled strips, luminous green endpapers and the occasional splattering of potion, the book has the appearance of an ancient tome.

Why not gather together with a group of fellow spell-casters suitably clad and have some fun conjuring up some weird and wonderful spells this Halloween.

Cackles and giggles guaranteed.

Where’s the Mermaid? / Crossword Puzzles for Vacation & Word Search Puzzles for Vacation

Where’s the Mermaid?
Chuck Whelon
Pop Press
Meria mermaid and her 10, finned friends, no make that 9 since one’s a ball, visit sixteen different locations, some I’d say highly unsuitable for aquatic beings but the mad characters have gone and hidden themselves in such crazy places as a hair salon, a circus big top (they need help to escape from here) and a pop concert, as well as some rather more fitting ones including the Mer King’s sub-aquatic palace where a special celebratory parade is taking place;
under the Arctic ice of at the North Pole where they engage in a plastic pollution clean up and a lido-type thing at beach Hotel Bliss.

It is, according to the PR from Penguin Random House, the year of the mermaid. Really? I must have missed something, somewhere. No matter, I know quite a few young mermaid fans (some are also unicorn enthusiasts) who will be delighted to lay hands/fins on a copy of this search-and-find adventure book.

The entire book is pretty crazy but lots of fun. It’s likely to challenge even the most practised spotters as they search each scene for Meria and her entourage frolicking among the crowds.

Hours of fin-some fun assured for those that take the plunge into the colourful spreads and become caught up in cartoonist Chuck Whelon’s funny scenarios. Oh, I forgot to say, the Mer King’s precious golden mer-treasures are rumoured to have been stolen and tracking them down will entail another round of searching and puzzling: there are more than 30 golden objects as well as over 30 suspects. It’s as well that all the answers are provided on the final spreads.

Crossword Puzzles for Vacation
Trip Payne
Word Search Puzzles for Vacation

Mark Danna
Puzzle Wright Junior

The first title contains 40 crossword puzzles for young solvers from 8ish to enjoy. Most of the content is likely to be within the knowledge range of youngsters though the odd clue here and there may well need some adult or older sibling/friend in-put.
And just in case everyone is completely flummoxed, the answers are all given at the end of the book.

The 58 word searches in the second book are thematic with topics ranging from things made of glass –‘Looking (for) Glass’ to ‘Seuss on the Loose’ – I particularly like that one. To add to the fun, the word searches are a variety of interesting shapes appropriate to the particular puzzle theme; so for instance ‘Just Say No’ wherein every word contains the letters NO, the puzzle is shaped thus …

whereas ‘Tree-mendous’ is a tree-shaped puzzle. (Note: the spelling of some words is American)
There are also puzzles within puzzles too, and every one contains a hidden message; it might be a silly saying, a riddle or perhaps a pun.

Hours of fun sans screens guaranteed with these two pocket sized paperbacks and they’re just right to tuck into a bag for a long car journey or for holidays.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Aleksandra Artymowska
Big Picture Press

Graphic designer and illustrator Aleksandra Artymowska has taken Jules Verne’s novel and created an absorbing picture book puzzler.

At the invitation of Captain Nemo, readers are invited to set sail seeking adventure and a treasure beyond price. All they have to do is to enter the hatch of the Nautilus and descend, then search the seven seas for seven locks with which to open his secret sea chest.

Easy enough surely? Not quite, especially as there’s a giant squid lurking somewhere ‘neath those seas.
Those who embark on the treasure hunt will however be participants in a unique sub-aquatic experience taking them deep, deep down under the sea..

First of all there’s the correct button to find that will get the submarine started and of course, the steering wheel, to make sure you stay on your chosen course.

With a variety of challenges including hidden symbols and keys to detect, mazes to navigate, art works to locate, corals and shells to compare,

a reef to steer through, weird and wonderful creatures aplenty to surprise and perhaps alarm, all of which are part and parcel of the host of strange seascapes and labyrinthine mazes explorers encounter. Surreal sights abound.

Dive down in Nautilus and you’ll more than likely remain submerged for several hours, before you surface, with or without having spotted the compass hidden in plain sight in each and every scene. And just in case you haven’t solved all the posers, the author/artist has provided the answers at the back of the book. Happy exploring.

Search-and-Find Alphabet of Alphabets

Search-and-Find Alphabet of Alphabets
Allan Sanders, Mike Jolley and Amanda Wood
Wide Eyed

There are countless alphabet books for children, mainly aimed at youngsters who are learning about letters and their order. This is altogether different: a search-and-find book where each of the 26 letters in the alphabet has a different theme.
Thus A is for Alphabet and introduces the remaining letters and their topic – B is for birds; C for Creepy-Crawlies; D is for Dinosaurs, E is for Earth and so on.
Within each topic is another A to Z, so for instance, readers need to find the bird that represents each letter from Albatross to Zebra finch.

In some spreads the items to find are captioned …

whereas in others such as the Forest spread there’s a key on the edge of each page showing and captioning the things to look for within the main illustration, adding an extra dimension of fun.

The vocabulary is at times fairly challenging: the Toyshop spread for example includes a Zoetrope while Neighbourhood has a Viaduct and an Underpass as well as a Duck pond and a Road.

Two of my favourite spreads are W whereon we’re welcomed to a ‘wacky wardrobe of things to wear’…

and School where it’s the pupils’ names that represent the letters of the alphabet and we have to name their associated objects.

The authors admit to the odd spot of rule bending when it comes to X: some of the words don’t begin with X but have it somewhere within them and as for Q well, there’s a crown wearing queenie who insists on popping up everywhere!

Allan Sanders has a superb eye when it comes to design: every spread looks totally different and enormously inviting.

All in all, 1 crackingly clever, original book; 26 awesome alphabets and 676 terrific things to find.