Illustrator: Kristjana S Williams
Author: Jenny Broom
Publisher: Wide Eyed
Comments: This oversized picture book has serious wow factor. It’s hard to tell from the flat image, but all of that yellow on the cover is actually sumptuous gold foil. The Wonder Garden is a visual feast. The illustrations really do take precedence over the text, and it is fitting that Williams’ name appears before Broom’s. Fellow lovers of non-fiction picture books will recognise Jenny Broom as the author of bestseller Animalium.
The name Wonder Garden is a metaphor for untouched wilderness spaces around the globe. Readers are taken on a visual tour of five diverse remote habitats. While the Great Barrier Reef is hopefully already familiar to young Australian readers, the other environments may be less so. The book journeys through the Amazon Rainforest, up to the Himalayan Mountains, deep into the Black Forest, and perhaps most unusually, into the Chihuahuan Desert.
This is the first time I have encountered Icelandic born Kristjana Williams’ work, which is well known in the graphic design industry. Her distinctive style combines black and white engravings with contemporary pops of colour. Keen eyes will notice repeated engravings, often in different sizes or orientations. (See for example the black caiman above and below, or the repeated butterflies and flowers.) This technique would be very interesting for students to experiment with in the classroom.
Unfortunately my eyes couldn’t overlook an error in the text. A typo is disappointing in a book of otherwise high quality, and hopefully it can be corrected in any reprints.
Despite this, The Wonder Garden is a gorgeous book that begs to be put on display. It’s so big it probably won’t fit in your bookshelf anyway! Young and old will be happy to lose themselves in these lavish illustrations.
Parent Tip: This is the kind of book that makes a wonder(ful) gift for any age! It’s big, beautiful, and the gold on the front makes it something special.
*I received a review copy of The Wonder Garden courtesy of Allen & Unwin. No payment was received for review and all comments are based on my own professional opinion.