Lost Ocean: An Inky Adventure and Colouring Book – A Review

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Lost Ocean: An Inky Adventure & Colouring Bookis published by Virgin Books and illustrated by the very talented Johanna Basford. It has been released early in some UK stores (including WHSmiths, Waterstones and Sainsbury’s but do phone ahead as not all of them have stock yet) and is set for general release in the UK on the 22nd of October and worldwide on the 27th of October. This book is the most hotly anticipated colouring book of the year and is from my personal collection.

So, without further ado, here’s my review of it. In short, Johanna’s done it again – it’s fabulous and everything you’d want from a watery-themed colouring book. It is worth noting here that the UK and US editions are different and I’m reviewing a UK edition. I have written a comparison of the UK and US versions because there are a number of obvious and subtle differences and this can be found here. The biggest difference is that the dust jacket in the UK version is removable, like the previous two books by Johanna, but it is not removable on the US edition. Both versions are sold on Book Depository and the links to each are at the bottom of this review.

Lost Ocean is a paperback, square book (25cm x 25cm) which is exactly the same size as Johanna’s previous two titles, Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest. It has a black spine with white text, the same as Secret Garden and it looks beautiful with the other titles on the shelf (see photo below). The UK edition has a removable dust jacket which has gold foiling accents on the front and back, really adding to the luxurious feel of this book. The jacket is made of thick paper which you can colour and the inside of it is covered with a beautiful fish pattern which has a waxy finish and can be coloured but only with certain mediums because most pens and pencils are repelled by the shine. This dust jacket is a little looser than the previous two and feels a little thinner, it is also bright white and not cream (see the photo below to see the difference) so it does look a little different from the other two. Under the dust jacket, the book is paperback with bright blue card covers which have an inky black seaweed and coral design on the outside and inside covers. The paper is NOT the same as in any of the Secret Garden or Enchanted Forest editions. They had thick (almost card-like), cream, lightly textured paper; Lost Ocean has bright white medium thickness paper which cannot be mistaken for card and is smooth. I found blending and shading with coloured pencils quite a bit more challenging in Lost Ocean than in Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest, it’s not impossible but the tooth dies pretty quickly so you can’t create as many layers as you might like to. Water-based pens don’t bleed but they do shadow so be very careful when using them and always test each brand in an inconspicuous place to make sure you don’t ruin any pictures. The images are printed double-sided with no border and the spine is glue-bound meaning a little of each image is lost into it which is a real shame because the images are so beautiful that you want to be able to colour all parts of them. However, this is a minor niggle in an otherwise near perfect colouring book. The book contains 80 pages of stunning images, fewer than Johanna’s first two books (96 Secret Garden, 84 Enchanted Forest) but I have to say, I didn’t notice this at all until I looked at the specs on Amazon.

The book starts with a “This book belongs to …” page where you can add your name and then goes on to show all of the items of treasure that are hidden within the pages for you to find (at the back of the book all of the items are listed under a miniature image of each page they are contained within). You are then transported into Johanna’s Lost Ocean where you will encounter jellyfish, octopuses, mermaids, shipwrecks, seaweed, coral and fishes galore. The images range from double page sea life scenes, to mandala style images of sea creatures, fishy repeating patterns, to single creatures taking centre stage in bordered images, and so much more. Your journey into the ocean starts with patterns of octopuses and turtles before you happen upon the fishy seabed where crabs and lobsters lurk. You board a ship before encountering pirates and becoming shipwrecked amongst the jellyfish, seahorses and sharks and get your first glimpse of what lies ahead. Travelling past starfish and eels, you find a beautiful double-page spread of the stunning underwater city. As you leave, you swim through beds of seaweed, coral reefs and even visit a pair of friendly dolphins, a gorgeous patterned whale and shoal upon shoal of fish before being escorted home by some mermaids. Finally, at the very end of the book is a fold-out 4 page spread which is very different in format from the one in Enchanted Forest – no spoilers here but if you’d like to see it then click here where I have taken photos of both sides of it if you’d like to see. A number of the images in the book have large blank spaces where you can add your own inky seaweed and fish or just leave them blank if drawing isn’t your forte and unlike in Secret Garden there are no written hints so you’re free to create whatever your imagination can conjure up. If you need inspiration then head online to google, pinterest and Facebook colouring groups where there will be finished pages cropping up daily from people worldwide who are delving into the deep and colouring their own watery world.

In terms of mental health, this book is brilliant because it is so intricate and detailed and requires a lot of concentration thus distracting you from anxious thoughts and low mood. The line thickness is consistent throughout and is very thin so you will definitely need very good vision and fine motor control to get the most out of this book. Not only is it drawn in a spindly thin line, the images are also created with lots of teeny tiny parts so you’ll definitely need to invest in a decent set of fineliners and/or some easily sharpened coloured pencils to really get into all of those detailed nooks, crannies and crevices. The detail and intricacy in Lost Ocean has definitely increased in comparison to Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest – not all of the images are more intricate but those that are will be a real challenge to colour because they are just so tiny. I personally think you’d struggle to use even the sharpest pencil to colour a few of these images successfully so I’d strongly recommend investing in a good set of fineliners – you can read my reviews of the two bestselling brands here Stabilo and Staedtler. The nature of the imagery in this book is superb for calming you down and helping you to zone out. I find nature scenes the best thing for calming down my anxious racing mind and this book really does that. Do be aware though that if you don’t like intricate books then this won’t be for you and may actually increase your stress and anxiety levels so don’t push it if it’s not for you! Generally though, this book is wonderful for keeping you occupied and distracted but you will need a pretty good attention span and ability to concentrate.

If you like Johanna’s previous two books then you’re sure to like this one. It took a little bit of getting used to because instead of leaves and flowers, this is filled with seaweed, coral and fish and contains quite a number of patterned images at the beginning however, the further through the book you get, the more traditional it becomes and very inkeeping with Johanna’s previous titles. If you like underwater themed books then this is perfect for you and I’d highly recommend it to anyone with good vision and fine motor control who wants the next instalment from the worldwide bestselling illustrator. This book is truly beautiful and I congratulate you if you’ve managed to make it all the way through this epic review – as you can tell, I’m hugely enthusiastic about it and I have loved looking through it and reviewing it. If you’d like to pre-order a copy then head over to Amazon here Lost Ocean: An Inky Adventure & Colouring Book

UK Edition Book Depository – http://www.bookdepository.com/Lost-Ocean-Johanna-Basford/9780753557150/?a_aid=colouringitmom

US Edition Book Depository – http://www.bookdepository.com/Lost-Ocean-Johanna-Basford/9780143108993/?a_aid=colouringitmom

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