By Eric Berlin
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Copyright © 2007
Move over Encyclopedia Brown there is a new detective on the block, Winston Breen puzzle genius.
Winston Breen is a 12 year old puzzle aficionado. He breathes, eats, and sleeps puzzles. He sees puzzles in the oddest places like on a piece of wrapping paper or on a pizza. Oddly enough the biggest puzzle he has ever come across is one that he did not know was there.
Winston buys a last minute birthday gift for his 10 year old sister at his favorite store, Penrose’s Curio Shop. Used to his puzzling ways Katie assumes that there is a puzzle hidden in her gift. Even though Winston didn’t provide a puzzle this year Katie still finds one. This puzzle created by a local inventor decades ago, is going to send them on a wild goose chase with an odd group comprised of two treasure hunting enthusiasts, the town librarian, and an ex-policeman. Can a puzzle that is very intricate and very old be solved by this group? With Winston and Katie’s help it can.
I really enjoyed this story. It was fun and mysterious from the very beginning. From the beginning it demonstrated that the best way to solve a problem is through teamwork. In addition it is chock full of puzzles for you to solve. I like crosswords, word searches, and I’ll do the occasional number puzzle so it gave me the opportunity to test my smarts. Some of the puzzles were easy and others were hard. I’ll be honest and admit I couldn’t solve some of them and others I didn’t even try. However I tried enough of them that it really did get me into the puzzling spirit of the book.
While I recommend this book for pleasure reading, the connection between puzzles and school is obvious. Puzzles help teach logic, reasoning, and observation; they fit in well in math and language arts classes. Here is a little puzzle of my own, see if you can find the Encyclopedia Brown connection as you read this book. While the writing style and story lengths are different, both Brown and Breen rely on knowledge and deduction. I think Eric Berlin has written a timeless character, maybe not quite on par with E.B., but a nice homage to him.