As her eight-year-old daughter recovered from having her tonsils taken out, de Winter knew just how to cheer the little girl up – by writing a children’s book just for her.
That was 30 years ago and her daughter, communications director and former politician Luciana Berger, is now an adult, but that didn’t stop the author finally seeing Orion’s Messenger published for all to enjoy. De Winter’s son, Alexander, who lives with his family in Nashville, Tennessee, persuaded her to publish the book, with lockdown providing the impetus.
While the story is aimed at seven-year-olds upwards, de Winter says adults will also enjoy it, particularly if they appreciate books such as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Harry Potter.
Orion’s Messenger centres around Alex, a schoolboy at the end of a disappointing holiday. His eccentric Aunt Melissa wants to take him around the Museum of History, despite his reservations. After
a series of mystifying events, he is visited in his home by Orion’s Messenger.
“He agrees to go to the magical Blue Sky Island, because it’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime,” reveals de Winter.
The island is inhabited by intriguing talking creatures – brought to life by illustrator Daniel Sullivan – including Ordompom, a kindly but hapless wizard whose spells don’t always work as intended; Reema the squirrel and Pusspom the cat. There is a magnificent golden eagle, Orion, and
a magical legacy, the Magic Orb, but they have to beware of the scheming of ogre the Grizzly Grumpot and his mean gang.
De Winter is drawn to the genre of magical realism because, she explains: “It’s a magical flight of fantasy and that fires the imagination. You immerse yourself in the story because you can imagine it happening. With all the doom and gloom, it’s wonderful to transport yourself somewhere enchanting.”
A songwriter, poet and trained counsellor, de Winter runs an eponymous interior design and soft furnishings shop in Notting Hill that was originally established by her grandfather in the East End in 1925.
Along with her husband, Howard – whom she describes as an outstanding impressionist – she turned the tale into an audio book. “He went through a spectrum of voices until I found the right one for each of the characters. Even though we’ve been married for 45 years, he still took direction,” she chuckles.
De Winter has started to outline her next book and hopes to inspire others who have been thinking about writing to make it happen, saying: “If I can do it after 30 years, anyone can.”
- Orion’s Messenger by Antonia de Winter (Grosvenor House Publishing Limited) is available from www.amazon.co.uk and www.thebookdepository.com priced £13.99 (hardback) and £8.99 (paperback).
- The e-book and audiobook (via Audible and iTunes) will be available soon
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.