a bit of brain gym tied up in provocative story-based art

by Theo Guignard – Wide Eyed Editions, 2017
ages 6 years to adult / coffee table, picture books, s.t.e.m.

Is there a more universal and constant battle for western parents than the fight to limit technology? We so want all the benefits of technological immersion but also feel instinctively that lives need a bit of analogue in them too. 

Labyrinth is like a book bridge—it crosses the chasm between story and interactive play. There’s no one single story happening, but within each of the 14 mazes there are wordless stories to imagine and talk about. And, there’s the challenge of the mazes themselves.

My family has been picking Labyrinth up from the coffee table while talking and listening to music or podcasts—it’s fun to sit and let your brain engage in a bit of gentle multitasking. Here are a few more things that make Labyrinth great for homes and schools:

It’s all about way-finding and that’s a really important maths and reading skill. Way-finding means looking for alternate paths, exercising your eyes to see new ways to get somewhere. Mazes, of course, are perfect.

The art lends itself to imagination and storytelling. Each page seems to beg a story or two—each has a simple sentence with a starting point for a story, then you’re, gloriously, on your own. Sentence starters include: “Make your way through the magical mansion to deliver the present at the birthday party.” And “The king has laid down the red carpet for his royal guest. Can you find the way to his throne?”

There’s more to do than just figure out the maze. Each page also offers things to look for along the way. And of course you could play ‘I Spy” with the pages too.

It’s formatted really well—wide enough to fit across two laps but small enough to get an overview of a page in one glance.

There’s a good range of difficulty in the mazes—just because your 6-year-old can manage the first one without your help (it’s about finding your way through a kaleidoscopic crowd) doesn’t mean you’re redundant. They’ll probably need your help when trying to get Square back to his friends. (Or to be fair—maybe you’ll need their help!)

There are answers! Hooray. The very last page has a small black & white version of each maze with a solution. (And the things to look for are circled in the solution too.)

And, if you have a non-reader, this might be just the ticket. You don’t need to read actual words to fully immerse yourself in Labyrinth and, by following the maze, you’ll be getting some good eye exercise which is so important for tracking—one of the most common troubles for kids who have to work harder to read.

A small reading hint:

Depending on how you feel about books, you could choose to allow light pencil markings to find the path around the maze. For some kids that act of holding the pencil and physically tracing the path, with something that leaves a mark, really helps with way-finding, and it’s good pencil control practice.

Our copy of Labyrinth has been sitting on the coffee table for the last couple of weeks now—that means lots of people have had a go. But if you have a car trip coming up I think it would make a brilliant distraction from too much screen time.

As well as being a bit of brainwork, Labyrinth is also a visual feast. It has a wonderful mix of order and chaos going on in the pictures, and it’s beautiful to touch and hold. (I do love a textured cover.) That’s a winning combination for me.

P.S. Be sure to click the images to open them up—all the better to find your way!

Amazon  -  Book Depository

Book Depository has free postage anywhere in the world and great pricing, but Amazon might be cheaper for North American readers.