Parents' Guide to

The Windeby Puzzle

By Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Violent, doomy tale mixes history, imagination, mystery.

Book cover-The Windeby Puzzle, with Iron Age girl and boy

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 1 parent review

age 10+

This book is a lot of things, fiction, non-fiction, a writers’ manual, and might be considered too violent for some readers - let’s just get that out of the way. But it is riveting and would be great to use in a middle-grade classroom. The story takes place in Iron Age Germany, and the setting was very attractive to me as an educator because I immediately thought about all the historical context I could include as a part of this book to inform the student. Also, it is unusual to read a book, especially a middle-grade book, set in this period. Lowry explains to the reader how anthropologists found a preserved blindfolded “bog person” in Germany and she pre-supposes a story for two different teens. She switches between fiction and nonfiction, and perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of the story is how she examines her writing process. She talks about the steps that go into fictionalizing something that happened in the past and how she handled it with her modern sensibilities. Yes, the stories are fairly tragic (I mean, the person ends up blindfolded in a bog) and there is talk of war and violence, and women are treated differently, but it is in alignment with the time, and I think it makes it even more interesting to hear how these characters faired through a such a hard time. I loved this book and immediately went out and gave it to students that I knew would enjoy the historical aspect of this novel while being ok with the brutality involved. I think it is fresh and different and I love to see Lowry expanding her oeuvre to include such a unique novel.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

Newbery Award winner Lois Lowry's history-based fictional tale of an ancient bog body and its owner's brief, mysterious life is dark and violent, raising happy possibilities only to dash them. More about the writer's creative process and the craft of storytelling than an engaging portrait of long-ago teens, The Windeby Puzzle never escapes a sense of horror and brutality, as doomed lambs cry for their moms before their necks are slashed, and young humans fare little better.

The Windeby Mystery and its imaginary child characters start out with the knowledge that things will end very badly for its protagonists, and there's a no-good-deed-goes-unpunished vibe throughout, in a not entirely successful effort to make the characters engaging (by 21st century standards) before they meet their doom. Underlying all this is the author's fascination with the mysterious discovery of a child in a bog, and a writer's insatiable curiosity of how the child got there, and why.

Book Details

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