‘A magical flight of fantasy’
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‘A magical flight of fantasy’

She waited 30 years, but author Antonia de Winter has finally seen the publication of her debut children’s novel, Orion’s Messenger,

Alex Galbinski is a Jewish News journalist

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.

Aunt Melissa

“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.

Grizzly Grumpot

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
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