Around The World In 50 Birds Jigsaw Puzzle by Mike Unwin & Ryuto Miyake

I recently surprised myself by doing exceptionally well in the Learned League’s Birds-themed Mini-League, held in the long-running online trivia game’s off-season. I finished second in my group, which qualified me for the finals, tho I ultimately turned in a middling performance in the championship quiz. Still, it was a pretty good showing for someone who’s never really studied either birds or zoology. As I was bending over this jigsaw puzzle one evening, it suddenly struck me that my strange reputation as a go-to for avian-themed books and games targeted at the layman may have had something to do with why I’d gotten so far!

This reputation is also, I believe, one of the reasons I received this gorgeous jigsaw puzzle. I had the chance to review the book it’s based on, Around The World In 80 Birds by Mike Unwin & Ryuto Miyake, back in 2022 so absolutely jumped at the chance to take a look at the jigsaw puzzle derivative. It also gave me an excuse to finally set up my puzzle/craft table! Up until last year, I’d done all my jigsaw puzzles at my former best friend’s house, in order to protect my games from my kids’ itchy fingers. Now that my kids are a little older, I figured I could risk setting up my own table. My middle child could not, alas, resist the temptation of messing with the frame once I’d put it together, but a stern talking-to fortunately cured him of the impulse for the rest of my puzzle-solving duration.

Let me take a moment to brag about my puzzle/craft table before I continue. The square table has a cushioned top, and is set right next to a lamp I specifically bought with one fixed upward light and one directional light I can point wherever I need extra illumination. I laid my grey felt jigsaw mat over top, with four colorful felt trays to help sort pieces into. I’m honestly quite proud of it, and grateful I had a reason to finally put it all together with this jigsaw.

Around The World In 50 Birds comes in a sturdy box with a glossy fold-out poster that not only shows what the completed puzzle will look like, but also contains a description of the fifty birds selected for it. It was lots of fun to put together a bird then consult the poster for more information on it. Divided geographically, the birds are each described by their common English names and scientific names. Each bird also gets a surprisingly dense paragraph that’s often related to the way it’s portrayed in the puzzle.

Thirty other birds from the original book did not make the cut, and when I asked the publicist why (hi, Madison!) she told me that the editorial team felt that eighty would be too chaotic for even a 1000-piece puzzle, as this is. And as I put the jigsaw puzzle together, I had to agree! Fifty is an excellent amount that doesn’t crowd the puzzle art while also ensuring that there aren’t too many patches of irritating single-color pieces (YMMV regarding how annoying you find those, ofc.)

The pieces come in a sealed white paper envelope and come out dust-free, which is a very nice touch. The complexity of the puzzle itself is probably average for its size, if not a little easier. There are lots of gorgeous textures and shades that make it not too difficult to pick out where a piece should go. It is a surprisingly tall puzzle: there are no product dimensions on the box or poster (tho the website does state them) so I was a little surprised at the proportions of the frame as I was setting it up.

Once the frame was constructed, it was fairly easy to go from there, just by picking and sorting pieces that stood out and whittling the empty spaces down little by little. I felt like there was a lot less randomness in the “difficult” pieces towards the end, due to the fact that there was almost always some sort of identifying mark on a piece to hint as to where it should go. I was very grateful for this, as I deeply hate being at that point in a puzzle where you’re just turning various unmarked pieces to fit large featureless swathes of, say, sky or sea or field. I am obviously not the kind of person who enjoys large, single-color jigsaws, which seem incredibly monotonous to me. This puzzle, however, sat in my sweet spot of having a ton of pieces to sort through, some more obscure than others, but almost all making sense once sorted through. Overall, I think it took me about seven hours, on and off, to complete solo: so not an easy puzzle, but not at all a frustrating one either.

This jigsaw is a terrific gift for anyone who loves birds and/or medium complexity jigsaw puzzles. I wish my kids were into more than just sifting through the pieces with their hands, but perhaps one day they’ll join me in sitting down with a nice cup of tea and chatting over a fun puzzle like this one together. It’s certainly a step up from your average jigsaw, being subtly educational while using rich art to dial down the difficulty level. I found it to be a very relaxing way to end my day, listening to I Am Shelby Lynne for each session, as the length of that album is the perfect timer for me to stop puzzling before I put too much strain on my eyes and upper torso. This isn’t a jigsaw for people who scoff at “easy”, but for a puzzler like me who used to break out a beloved 500-piece Sailor Moon jigsaw just to have something to do with my hands for two hours while watching TV, it was the perfect combination of both complex and captivating.

Around The World In 50 Birds Jigsaw Puzzle by Mike Unwin & Ryuto Miyake was published May 28 2024 by Laurence King and is available from all good booksellers, including

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