Agent Arthur’s Puzzle Adventures

After writing an article on the benefits of puzzle books, I thought I’d write a review on my first puzzle book. So far I’ve ordered five of them, as a little treat for myself (I only wish they did ones for adults too :P), and will slowly review them all (very slowly, at the moment due to the stifling summer heat).

The first one is aimed at 10-12 year olds and called Agent Arthur’s Puzzle Adventure. It is at the higher end of difficulty, with challenging puzzles (even for some adults). Here are five things I noticed about the book after reading it, and how they can affect the children reading them.

1. The adventures

In this book Agent Arthur has 3 different adventures (which, if you wanted, can be bought as 3 separate books). There is Agent Arthur’s Jungle Journey, an epic intrepid adventure through the jungle. On The Stormy Seas, a mystery involving a ghost ship. And an Arctic Adventure, a rescue mission in the chilling Arctic (surprise!).

What I love is that each adventure has it’s own unique, destination specific, puzzles. So you’re not just doing the same types of puzzles just in different settings. In the jungle there’s a lot of map reading, whereas The Stormy Seas talks about the speed of boats and hurricanes.

This diversity means when children read them, they aren’t just developing problem solving skills, but also knowledge about the real world. Things like compasses and skidoos are introduced. As well as vocabulary like “groggily”, “marooned”, and “marine”. All of which broadens your child’s mind as they learn.

2. The Real World Puzzles

Some of the puzzles require you to use what you know about the world in order to figure things out. I really like this as it is more applicable to real life. Some of the puzzles require thoughts about safety. Other puzzles compare things you would find in the modern day. These things not only require abstract problem-solving skills but real world problem-solving skills too.

3. The Attention to detail

And it’s not just about problem solving. A lot of the puzzles rely on you to notice slight differences in the illustrations, and they are very clever. Some are obvious, while others you have to really concentrate to spot. This develops children’s attention to detail, which can be a fantastic skill to have. It is useful for exams where you need carefully check exam questions. As well as vocational skills outside schools. Lawyers, writers and scientists (to name but a few) all benefit from having good attention to detail.


4. The Comic Book Style Illustrations

I really like how the pictures tell the story, and that you really need to look at them in order to understand the story. This is great if you are reading with your child as they can spot the story in the pictures. As well as this, they can spot the details needed to solve the puzzles. This gives them a great confidence boost, and keeps them engaged throughout the book. Great for children who find it difficult to concentrate.

5. The variety of puzzles

There are codes you need to translate, routes to navigate across, and clues to find. Of the three stories Agent Arthur’s Arctic Adventure has the most diverse range of puzzles. Such adventures include navigating over treacherous routes and decoding secret messages. There were quite a few I needed tips to solve or couldn’t even decode at all (the password to get into the secret base was very clever). However, there are plenty of simple puzzles too.

This variety means children can develop their problem-solving skills with the ones they find challenging. While also improving their confidence as they solve the easier ones. It’s a win-win!

I really enjoy these books, even as an adult. They’re great intellectual stimulation, easy to read, and really interesting. And what’s fantastic is that they’re accessible to so many different children. While strong readers develop their problem solving skills, weaker readers can be read the story, then gain confidence by doing the puzzles.

As this is a more challenging book, the next book I’m going to review is one for younger readers. So keep a look out! And keeeep reading! 🙂

Additional Reading
  • Let your children make their own puzzles which they can give to you, their siblings and/or family friends to solve. It’ll help them learn puzzle making skills and give them great creative development.
  • You could even create one specifically for your child, containing a mix of puzzles they can do, and some that they can’t

Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles Review

Written by Tanya Alevropoulos

I came across Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles due to my obsession with the Kate Greenaway award. It has been nominated for the 2017 award, due to be announced in June 2017. I take great pleasure in reading all the nominated titles. Then trying to guess which will be selected for the longlist, the shortlist, and finally receive the award. I found it a few weeks ago in Foyles book shop in Waterloo and devoured it.

The story starts by stating that the green lizards and red rectangles were at war.  The red rectangles were smart but the green lizards were strong and thus neither could defeat the other. The fighting continued until they gathered for a truce. Could they find a way to make peace?  I don’t want to spoil it for you, so you’ll just have to read it!

Illustrated page of a book filled with green lizards looking at the top right hand corner

1 It has been nominated for the prestigious Kate Greenaway medal

If a book is nominated for a medal, I always think it’s worth taking a look. It is telling me that other people rate it as well.  Previous winners include personal favourites such as Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are and Anthony Browne’s Gorilla. Which would put this book into very good company indeed!

A red rectangle covers over half the page squishing the green lizards, which don't look very happy

2 The endpapers set the scene and !!!spoiler alert!!! illustrates the ending…

For those not in the know, the endpapers of a book are basically the first and last pages of the book after the front and back covers. These days many picture books have endpapers worthy of study; they relate to some aspect of the story (often in an amusing fashion).

For Green Lizards and Red Rectangles the front endpaper (see photo) shows a heaving mass of lizards, and they don’t look happy! Why might that be? You can talk about this with your child. The back endpaper, for those who like to read the last page of a book in advance (personally I never do), gives you your ending.

Mix of green lizards standing, crawling and fighting some red rectangles

3 It is a very clever story of war and peace

The pictures and printed text combine to demonstrate the absurdity of war and conflict in a way that small children can understand.

A mixture of different sized red rectangles on top of one another

4 The ending is inspired

I was hugely delighted with the ending. It really is very, very clever!

Book illustration with a crowd of green lizards, some standing on each others heads, to get a view of something happening of the paper on the right hand side

5 It should be a compulsory PSHE text

The Guardian review says it all “This book offers an easy, safe means to talk about the idea of war”. PSHE should, in my opinion, be a compulsory subject, but the New Curriculum does not agree. So now many schools are now only paying it lip service. By reading this book with your child you are giving them vital skills to consider the repercussions of conflict and the crucial ability to find resolution.

Page of a book saying the Green Lizards and the Red Rectangles were at war

Steve Antony’s genius is to have created illustrated characters as diametrically opposite as you can get.  Since the lizards are living, green, curvy and squishy, whereas the rectangles are inanimate, red, angular and hard. The history of mankind demonstrates that difference in race, creed or opinions, which has resulted in, and still results in, conflicts. Ones in which millions of lives have been lost.

This book could help your child consider these horrible but real consequences in the safety of a warm, comfortable familiar room. And just maybe, maybe, could make a difference to their life and to the lives of others. I think that’s worth £6.99, and 15 minutes of your time, don’t you?

Additional Learning Opportunities

Rather than listing them all, quite simply this book provides an excellent vehicle to talk about war. As an extra, you could ask your child to think of a different animal and alliterative shape who could be at war and let them create their own drawings, for example Grey Elephants vs Turquoise Triangles, and see how they manage to find peace.