Magical Jungle: An Inky Expedition and Colouring Book – A Review

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This review is of the UK edition of Magical Jungle published by Virgin Books. I also have a US edition published by Penguin and have written a comparison post about the differences between the two which can be found here. Both copies of the book were purchased by me as I was unable to secure review copies, I purchased the UK edition from Amazon UK and the US edition from Book Depository. This UK edition of Magical Jungle was printed in Italy.

Magical Jungle is a paperback, square book (25cm x 25cm) which is exactly the same size as Johanna’s previous three titles, Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest, and Lost Ocean. It has a black spine with white text, the same as Secret Garden and Lost ocean 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, 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 jungle foliage 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 (alcohol markers are best for this and don’t bleed). This dust jacket is a little looser than the first two and feels a little thinner, it is off white and not cream (see the photo below to see the difference) so it does look a little different from the first two and is similar to Lost Ocean but not quite white. Under the dust jacket, the book is paperback with bright grass green card covers which have an inky black orchid and leaf design on the outside and inside covers. The paper is NOT the same as any previous titles or editions of Johanna’s books and also IS NOT the same as the US edition of Magical Jungle. The paper is most similar to the Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest paper but instead of being a yellowy-creamy colour, this is much whiter and more of an ivory hue. It feels equally as thick as the SG and EF paper and has a good level of texture so it’s not difficult to cover the gaps but you can layer and blend well with coloured pencils. I didn’t experience any bleeding or shadowing with water-based pens but everyone colours differently so do make sure you test them on the brand new colour palette test page at the back of the book (a very handy feature where you can not only check for how your mediums behave on the paper but also test colour combos on the new ivory paper).

The images are printed double-sided with no border and the spine is glue and stitch-bound, normally this would mean a little of each image was lost into it but Johanna has taken on board the concerns of us colourists and has deliberately left the spine as clear as possible in the vast majority of the images so this frustration is mostly gone! The book contains 80 pages of stunning images, the same number as in Lost Ocean, 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 style of the images has somewhat changed and Johanna has added more double-page spreads and ribbon pages (those with an illustration running across the middle but not filling the entire page) and put in fewer patterns and mandala-style images though there is a running theme of images with symmetry which I know are a bit like Marmite within the colouring community. One issue specific to the UK edition is the print quality, I have checked with a couple of friends of mine who also have a UK edition printed in Italy and all of us have pixelation throughout the images. This is very subtle and is only noticed when you look very closely at the lines but nevertheless, it’s there and the lines aren’t crisp and neat as the original drawings would have been or as they are in the US edition (see comparison post for more information on this). This pixelation doesn’t particularly affect the enjoyment of the book but it is there and is present on all colouring pages throughout the book, see photos below for clarification.

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 animals 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 Magical Jungle where you will encounter turtles, snakes, monkeys, parrots, and butterflies galore. The images range from double page jungle scenes, to mandala style images of insects, fruity repeating patterns, to single creatures taking centre stage in bordered images, and so much more. Your journey into the jungle starts with a double-page spread where you encounter a waterfall and a croc-infested lake. Walking through the jungle you discover tigers, pandas, tropical birds and tree frogs. There are scenes of gigantic leaves, jungle pools, monkey-filled canopies, jungle houses, ponds and so much more. Finally, at the very end of the book are 4 single-sided perforated pages printed on the same paper as the rest of the book with beautiful images that you can colour and then remove and frame. These pages would be perfect for wetter, more-likely to bleed mediums like watercolours or alcohol markers. These perforated pages have replaced the fold-out spreads of Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean and while some people have been disappointed by this and in some ways I am too, they’re also really beautiful illustrations that will be wonderful to frame and I’m pretty sure this was Johanna’s way of appeasing the people who’ve been consistently asking for removable pages (which can’t be done throughout the book due to cost) and not have to wait until the Artist’s Edition is published next year in order to colour with alcohol markers or be able to frame some of our work. A number of the images in the book have large blank spaces where you can add your own inky leaves and creatures 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 venturing into the foliage and colouring their own leafy jungle.

In terms of mental health, this book has different benefits from Johanna’s previous titles. This book is definitely less distracting and requires much less concentration because there are fewer elements on the majority of the pages and these are larger and less detailed. The line thickness is the same as her previous books and is very thin however the intricacy and detail levels are drastically decreased and this is her least detailed book to date which means it will suit far more of you, especially those of you with poorer vision and fine motor control who were just overwhelmed with the teeny tiny sections of her previous books. Fineliner colourers may be quite disappointed as there are very few images in this book that specifically lend themselves to colouring with fine nibs and if you’re wanting to use pens you’ll be much better placed using gel pens or fibre-tips (steer clear of alcohol markers, they’ll bleed through). The illustrations in this book are ideal for pencil colourers because there is so much space to blend and shade; there is also plenty of space to add your own backgrounds if you wish. The images aren’t arranged into a storyline and are more of a collection of jungle-themed illustrations, this means that the book doesn’t especially take you on a journey though it does definitely transport you to a far off place and offers a good level of escapism. The variety of image styles means that there is something for every concentration level as well as good and bad days of symptoms. There are ribbon images which could take you just a couple of hours to colour, centralised single images which will take a few hours, all the way up to jam-packed double-page spreads depicting jungle scenes which will take days or even weeks depending on what mediums and techniques you use to colour them and whether or not you add a background. 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. The lack of intricacy is a shame for some of us but I know this increases anxiety in some colourers and for those of you who experience this, this book will be ideal for you! You can always add your own intricate patterns and details if you wish meaning you can combine colouring and zentangling if you choose.

Magical Jungle is a huge step away from the detail and intricacy of Lost Ocean and is most similar to the larger more open-spaced designs of Enchanted Forest. The content is very plant-heavy and is filled with leaves and flowers with lots of animals featured throughout; there have been some complaints from people who were expecting it to be animal-centric and who were disappointed so please do check out the images below and Johanna’s flick-through here. I personally really love this book, the print quality issues with the lines being pixelated in the UK version are a real shame and I do miss some of the detail of Johanna’s previous titles but in general this book is beautiful, I do wish there was more of a storyline with the images rather than it being a themed collection but overall it’s gorgeous and will be so lovely to colour and I can’t wait to get started on my next page.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Magical Jungle it’s available here:
UK Edition
Amazon UK – Magical Jungle
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Jungle-Johann-Basford/9780753557167/?a_aid=colouringitmom
US Edition
Amazon UK – Magical Jungle
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Magical-Jungle-Johann-Basford/9780143109006/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured using Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils.

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