Monday, 2 March 2015

The Gruffalo Puzzles (2 x 12-Piece) by Ravensburger

To celebrate World Book Day we were sent this new Gruffalo puzzle set from Ravensburger.
It's two bright and colourful high quality Gruffalo puzzles are inspired by the Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's wonderful book and designed especially for children aged 3 years and over. 


There's no such thing as a Gruffalo? Find out how the Gruffalo is ready to scare the Fox, Owl and Snake in the deep dark scary wood with these great looking puzzles.



An excellent puzzle set perfect as a gift this World Book Day (5th March 2015)


Available from Amazon

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Alphablocks Giant Floor Puzzle

I love Alphablocks for encouraging phonics learning with my children. They’re familiar with the show from watching CBeebies so seeing the characters on a puzzle immediately appealed to them.
If you’re not familiar with the Alphablocks, they are a set of 26 characters – one per letter of the alphabet, each taking on their own personality. For example T is often tutting and making the sound t, t, t.. and also likes to drink tea. These personalities help children to associate the letter sounds with each letter.
Ravensburger alphablocks giant floor puzzleThe Alphablocks giant floor puzzle has 24 pieces which are all a nice big size. I find this larger puzzle format is great when the children want to work on it together, since they can all get down on the floor and sit around the puzzle together, and these large pieces also last really well when handled by young children.
Ravensburger alphablocks giant floor puzzleThe puzzle is bright and appealing, and features all of the Alphablocks in order from A to Z.
All of the children enjoyed recognising the letters and matching them up but this puzzle is particularly suited to my 3 and 5 year olds who are in nursery and reception and are working on their letters and early reading skills at the moment. It’s definitely a fun and simple way for them to get in some extra letter practice at home during their play time.
Ravensburger alphablocks giant floor puzzleThe pieces fit together well and are easy to handle. I always find the quality of Ravensburger puzzles to be good and they last well.
Ravensburger alphablocks giant floor puzzleThis Alphablocks giant floor puzzle is a great addition to our playroom and is one that we will return back to often. It would be ideal for any child from about 2.5-5 to help support them in learning letter sounds, as well as general cognitive development, spacial awareness and all of the other skills that can be developed by playing with puzzles.
Review by In The Playroom 

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Red Box 1000 Piece Puzzle

This month I have another wonderful Ravensburger jigsaw puzzle to share with you – The Red Box 1000 piece puzzle.

The Red Box 1000 Piece Puzzle
I knew I was in for a treat as soon as I looked at the box for The Red Box 1000 Piece Puzzle.  There’s so much going on in the jigsaw, lots of interesting details and I love things with an oriental flavour.  It looks as if the artist, Colin Thompson has come up trumps again.
The Red Box 1000 Piece Puzzle
I’ve written before about the quality of Ravensburger puzzles so I knew the pieces would be well made and the finish would be excellent.  Down to some serious puzzling!
The Red Box 1000 Piece Puzzle
As always the edges are done first but it’s nice to be able to pick out some interesting areas to put together too.
The Red Box 1000 Piece Puzzle
With Chinese New Year being celebrated on 19th February, the The Red Box 1000 Piece Puzzle might make a lovely gift.  Can you spot the Great Wall of China in this puzzle?
The Red Box 1000 Piece Puzzle
The Red Box 1000 Piece Puzzle has been a puzzlers dream to complete and I’ve enjoyed every evening spent on it.  Finding something new to look at, enjoying the design.
Until finally I’d completed it!
The Red Box 1000 Piece Puzzle
Priced at £11.99 I think this puzzle is a bargain and I can thoroughly recommend (see Amazon Affiliate link below if you fancy trying it yourself).
If you really fancy a challenge why not give a 5000 piece puzzle a go!  You can see how The Soup Dragon Says got on recently with another Colin Thompson designed puzzle – Bizarre Town.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Heroes & Heroines Ravensburger Puzzle Review


When I was younger I used to love doing puzzles, I’d get a new one and not leave it alone until I’d finished it. My mum and I would sometimes do them together and it was her that taught me my strategy of doing the outside first (then working my way into the middle) and also grouping like colours together so it’s easier to find the bits I need.
As I progressed into being a fully fledged adult and the Christmas presents dried up I stopped getting puzzles and never got round to buying them for myself either – tut! I kept meaning to and then suddenly I had children and the only puzzles I’ve bought for the last 4 years have been children’s ones.
When I got sent the Heroes & Heroines puzzle from Ravensburger last week I was ultra excited.
The gorgeous design is inspired by some of the world’s greatest love stories and  shows a bookcase that has come alive with heroes and heroines from over 3000 years of myth, legend, fiction and fact. The characters include Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Guinevere and Lancelot, Robin and Marion, Heathcliff and Cathy and Elizabeth and Darcy as well as others.
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I finally had my own puzzle again and couldn’t wait to get into it and get it completed, it’s aimed at 12yrs+ and I’m  almost 3 times that …it was going to be easy, right?!
Wrong! It’s not the fact that it’s a 1000 piece puzzle, or that the design is quite intricate – much more so than the picture on the box suggests, it’s because I always have a 2 or 4 year old nearby wanting desperately to ‘help’.
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I opened it whilst Scott was at school and I’d set Alexa up happily watching Sofia the First. Within seconds of me opening the box and then the bag containing the pieces, she was up at the table informing me that she can help as she’s good at puzzles. Hmmm, her most recent puzzle is a Sofia one (also from Ravensburger), has a maximum of 35 pieces and they’re fairly large pieces at that …plus she often gives up after doing the edges and leaves me to it!
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Scott was just as bad when he got home, ‘Oooh Mummy, I can do this, look these pieces MUST go together because they have the same colour’ …cue him then attempting to push two pieces together that clearly didn’t go!
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I’ve had the puzzle for a week now and I’ve had to pack it away and start all over again around 6 times thanks to little helping hands knocking completed bits off the table, messing up all the pieces, taking various bits onto the floor so they can ‘finish it for you mummy’ and just generally getting me to the point of wanting to sit and cry because they’ve decided to use the table for other things and scattering my puzzle! I think if I’m going to start up doing puzzles again I need one of those puzzle mat things so I can put it out of reach without having to start all over again.
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Have I managed to actually finish it yet? NO!! I’ve put it away for now until my sister next has the kids for the weekend and then I shall be able to sit here for a few hours and finally get it completed.
Although I’ve not done as much as I would have liked of it, I have to say that I’m really impressed with the amazing quality of the puzzle itself. Not only is the printing impeccable and very detailed, but the puzzle pieces themselves are excellent quality and include Ravensburger’s Soft Click Technology meaning that the pieces makes a small click sound when put together correctly – I listened out for it and …it works!
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I think this just may be the start of my renewed love for puzzles :)
Review by Two Little Pains 

Monday, 2 February 2015

HAPPY DAYS, BRIGHTON - A jigsaw puzzle by Ravensburger

The Artist

Artist, Kevin Walsh produces beautiful oil paintings depicting British culture and town and countryside scenes, mostly from the middle decades of the last century. As I mentioned in a previous Happy Days' jigsaw review entitled 'Happy Days, Blackpool'  published here, is that Walsh often includes a mechanical/motorized vehicle from the 1950s in his artwork. Vintage vehicles appearing within a nostalgic topic have attracted interest from collectors worldwide in many of Walsh's designs, and in the various formats on/in which they feature; including jigsaws.

The Theme

Motor bikes and Scooters entered the fast-paced world of the 50s and 60s, when a happy day, for many, was spent hanging out with friends at a British seaside resort. In the forefront, of Happy Days, Brighton is a couple of rocker pals with their motorbikes, chatting with a young girl at the road side (see figure 1)


While the rest of the busy scene includes other road vehicles, famous Brighton landmarks and people promenading.

The Product

This, as always, is a premium jigsaw consisting of 1000 pieces and which demonstrate soft click technology. As with all Ravensburger puzzles for 12 years to adult, there is a leaflet included in the box with the artist’s biography plus an additional picture. This jigsaw is rectangular on completion, and measures 700 x 500 mm approx. Not suitable for children under 36 months (small pieces).

The Promoting

There is a range of ‘Happy Days’ themed jigsaws available with artwork by Kevin Walsh. As well as Brighton and Blackpool mentioned, the seaside range includes Sidmouth and Weymouth.

Happy Days, Brighton will soon join others from the Happy Days range including Happy Days, Blackpool that are currently selling on Amazon



Thursday, 29 January 2015

PUZZLE MAKER INTERVIEWS: GEOFF TRISTRAM

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I’m thrilled to have Geoff Tristram on Jigsaw Junkie today! Geoff is an artist and cartoonist who does a few of my favorite puzzle series. He’s the artist behind Ravensburger’s “Best of British” series, their “What If?” series, and “Cat-ology”, published by Masterpieces. I’ll be sharing images of his work throughout this interview.
JJ: Please introduce yourself and tell us where you are from and where you live now.
GT:  My name is Geoff Tristram. I’m a professional artist and cartoonist, and I just completed my 40th year! I live in Wollaston, Stourbridge, England.
JJ: How did you get into drawing cartoon art?
GT: I’ve always loved cartoons, but also I am a ‘serious’ painter. by that, i mean that the paintings are serious. I’m not!
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Above: Geoff’s “Best of British” #11 was released fall of 2014.
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Above: From “Best of British” #9, “Country Show”. Barking Madleigh. lol.
JJ: What’s your educational background?
GT: I went to grammar school, followed by Wolverhapmpton College of Art, where I achieved a BA(Hons) in illustration and graphic design.
JJ: How did you get into doing art for puzzles?
GT: My first puzzles were called Cat Conundrum, and were done for Past Times. then I moved on to Ravensburger. My American Licensing agent also sells my serious cat art to many puzzle companies, such as Bits and Pieces. Ravensburger are the only firm I produce bespoke paintings for though. [NOTE for non-UKers: ‘bespoke’ means commissioned, custom made.]
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Above: Geoff’s first two puzzles were “Cat Conundrum” puzzles published by Past Times. These are no longer in print but pop up on ebay UK every so often.
JJ: How did you come to work with Ravensburger and how long have you worked with them?
GT: I introduced myself to them and they made two cat conundrums, but they preferred my cartoon ideas I think!
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Above: Geoff’s first puzzles with Ravensburger, “The Ship’s Cat” and “The Artist’s Cat”, were part of Geoff’s “Cat Conundrum” series of illustrations with built in riddles. “Artist’s Cat” has since been republished by Cobble Hill.
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Above: Bits and Pieces published another the “Cat Conundrum” series. This one is called “The Old Curiosity Shop”.
JJ: Do you work on puzzle art full time? From home or in an office?
GT: I work in my home studio in the garden, and I do all manner of artwork, not just puzzles. I’ve done postage stamps, album sleeves, adverts, packaging, book covers, murals for restaurants, cartoons, caricatures, you name it!
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Above: Geoff’s “What If: Santa and Rudolph” published fall of 2014.
JJ: Are you exclusive to Ravensburger?
GT: Only for bespoke puzzles. I love Ravensburger, and they’re good to me too!
JJ: Currently, you’re producing a number of puzzles a year in two Ravensburger series “Best of British” and “What If?” Are there any other images you do besides these?
GT: Not many, but I’m just working on a couple of new things for them which I can’t reveal just yet or they’ll kill me!
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JJ: Can you tell us about the idea behind the “Best of British” and “What If?” Series?
GT: Yes, “Best of British” is just typically British scenes, such as the supermarket, the high street, whatever. “What If?” was created by me and then Ravensburger took that initial concept and spent a lot of time and money perfecting it and getting the idea and the packaging just right. The What If statement on the box lid changes the scene inside from that of the cover. Fiendishly clever!!
JJ: Tell us how “Cat-Ology” from Masterpieces came about. Can we expect more of those?
GT: Not sure. Lance in the USA deals with all that and I don’t get too involved. I did around 25 cat paintings quite a while back, which were used in England first on plates etc, and then Lance landed the jigsaw contracts afterwards. You might notice that the pictures were designed to work as circles, but I added the corners anyway so as not to restrict future uses!
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Above: Two of the “Cat-Ology” puzzles published by Masterpieces, art by Geoff Tristram. You can see more here and here.
JJ: Do you come up with ideas for new puzzle images or do you work with a creative director who does that?
GT: I liaise with the ‘new products’ manager and we come up with an idea between us. There’s often a lot of laughter involved. Then I go away and create the puzzle and the jokes. Sometimes, she’ll suggest a scenario which I can use, or tweak something I’ve done.
JJ: How do you research your images, for example when a cartoon is set in a historical setting or town?
GT: It’s easier now we have the internet. I create a large empty outdoor scene or room on tracing paper, and then draw the people and scenarios individually, just roughly. I cut them out and stick them on the street scene with selotape to see where they fit, and when I’m happy I redraw it all neatly on tracing paper, trace it down onto watercolour board, ink it in, and then colour it with Pantone Tria pens. It takes 2 weeks from start to finish and it’s exhausting.
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Above: Geoff’s new Jan 2015 release “What If #11: Elizabeth & Raleigh” certainly required a bit of historical research.
JJ: Are the characters based on people you know? Stock art? Other?
GT: They come from my warped head.
JJ: Do you find it hard sometimes to come up with those ‘funny bits’ or does that come easily to you? Where do you find inspiration?
GT: I always think it’ll never happen, but somehow it always does. Out of desperation cometh inspiration, is my motto! My other one is ‘Impatience is also a Virtue!’
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Above: Work in progress for “Best of British #13: The Cricket Match”, new Jan 2015 from Ravensburger.
JJ: Do you assemble jigsaw puzzles yourself? If so, what kind do you like to do?
GT: I never do. I’d rather create them to be honest. Not my kind of hobby. I’ll be shot for that probably.
JJ: That’s okay, Geoff, as long as you keep making them!
JJ: Tell us about other puzzles you’ve done in the past.
GT: My fave is the car boot sale (or trunk sale in American) Best of British. Apart from the cartoons, the cat conundrums are the cleverest. My fave joke is the chap selling seagulls on the beach for a pound each. A kid gives him a pound, and the man points high in the sky and says, ‘That one’s yours’.
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Above: Ravensburger “Best of British #5: Car Boot Sale”
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Above: Ravensburger “Best of British #6: British Holiday” (2×500 piece puzzles)
JJ: What can we look forward to in the future from Geoff Tristram? Any plans in the works for new series/puzzles?
GT: We’re always discussing new ideas and more cartoon themes for “What If?” and “Best of British”, but I can’t tell you much about new stuff until after it’s launched!
Thank you for the lovely interview, Geoff! We look forward to many, many more Geoff Tristram puzzles in future!
JJ

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Puzzle Factory

I have my first jigsaw of the year to complete from Ravensburger.
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It’s quite a strange one this time as it’s actually called The Puzzle Factory. The puzzles picture shows what looks like a chaotic bizarre factory with many workers, lots of machinery and puzzle pieces and some rather strange oddities which I very much doubt are in any actual puzzle factory. For a start there is what I consider to be a swimming pool. The pool has a swan swimming around along with a hovercraft and divers.
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There’s even a mermaid at the bottom too!
Moving on from the strange pool is what I can only describe as a jigsaw dump/recycle bin which looks very unsafe indeed.
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The Puzzle factory is by far the strangest factory I have seen with various areas full of pure chaos and madness. There is lots of small fine details to this jigsaw once completed. Many of them I had to look quite hard to spot them.
The puzzle took me 2 weeks to complete. Whilst being unwell I made a start and got there with a lot of help from others.
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It’s a 1000 piece puzzle and the pieces are quite small.
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It’s by no means easy and there were times when I felt like chucking the whole thing off my table. I just could not find what bit goes where but eventually got there.
The artwork is by Edmond Davis and there is a leaflet included in the box with a little info about the artist.
I am a firm believer that jigsaw pieces should come with numbers on the back of each one, for those of us who enjoy the easy life ha.
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As for cost and purchasing- I’m sure it can be found in many good toy and puzzle shops as with all Ravensburger puzzles and I have found it on AMAZON for just over a tenner £10.75.