Today I bring you a review, quite different from any other, I’ve had this book for months and just haven’t quite known how to review it because it’s been created for such a wonderful cause and has such an important message, I really wanted to be able to do it justice. The book was created by Catalina Willis, a young, and extremely talented illustrator who was just 15 at the time, not that you’d know it from the professional look of her drawings. She was inspired to create the book in memory of her Godmother’s son, Horatio, who very sadly died in 2011, aged 17, killed by a polar bear on an expedition to Svalbard. Horatio had planned to be a doctor and did voluntary work in a spinal treatment centre where his father worked, he realised there was a need for accessible gardens and set about helping create these, three have already been created in his memory with a further eight planned so that all 11 NHS spinal injury centres will have one, the proceeds from sales of this book will go directly towards this worthy cause.
The book itself is small at 20cm square, perfectly formed, and the ideal size to take on your travels and pop in your bag for colouring on the go. It’s paperback with flexible card covers with a lovely dark blue front and one of Catalina’s cute birds trudging his way across the cover. The spine is glue and string-bound and very durable but also easy enough to open the book fully and access the centre of each spread. The illustrations are printed double-sided and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads with the majority being single page images. The paper is bright white, thick and lightly textured, it doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens and pencils blend and shade nicely. The images themselves are a real mixture of content and style but all are very cute, quirky and whimsical. The book is arranged into 10 chapters: 1. The Gardens, 2. Activities, 3. British Animals, 4. The Sea, 5. Sleepy Animals, 6. People, 7. Sensible Animals, 8. Pangrams, 9. Silly Animals, 10. Patterns. The images are roughly arranged into these themes and include styles from normal black and white line drawings to greyscale type images, some with realistic greyscale photo backgrounds and even patterned or black backgrounds. The images vary from large drawings with thick lines drawn in a blocky style, to much more detailed images with much thinner linework and teeny tiny spaces and a huge range of everything in between. The majority of the images are animal-based and contain lots of anthropomorphic animal characters from poorly donkeys to nursing geese, dinosaurs offering rides to fez-wearing creatures and lots more. Some of the pages contain lots of random objects, others include food, some contain text and some of the loveliest images are of the current spinal injury gardens being enjoyed by poorly animals. Catalina’s illustration style is beautiful, hugely varied and much more mature than you’d expect from a 15-year-old, with a huge dollop of humour, whimsy and cuteness added into the mix. There is even a game of hide and seek going on through the book with Kit the fly hiding on each double-page spread.
In terms of mental health, this book has got everything needed to make it perfect for helping mental illnesses, it’s being sold in aid of a fantastic cause, it’s got a huge variety of content and style and it’s wonderfully light-hearted, making it ideal for children, adults, and the young at heart. As mentioned before, the linework is varied throughout from spindly thin to really thick and chunky and the intricacy and detail levels also vary hugely from teeny tiny spaces to much larger open spaces so the majority of the pages would be suitable for all levels of vision and fine motor control. The variety in content and style will also be ideal for those of you with varying conditions and symptom levels as you’ll always find something suitable for how you’re feeling on any given day and the pages are a really manageable size with many taking an hour or so if you want to block colour, or much longer if you want to take your time with blending and shading. There are lots of really natural stopping points so you can colour one animal or creature if you wish, rather than a full page. A number of them have printed backgrounds which really help to finish off the page but there are also plenty that have blank backgrounds where you could add your own imagery if you fancy though there’s no need to do so if you don’t want to.
Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it’s so cute and it’s been created for such a worthy cause. It would be a wonderful gift that’s sure to put a smile on the face of any child, or adult, receiving it. You’ll also be doing your bit to help those with spinal injuries be able to visit accessible gardens whilst in hospital and that can only be a good thing! Catalina’s illustrations are gorgeous, very cute and often funny and they’re sure to be a hit with the whole family, she’s clearly poured so much love and passion into her work and I really hope it’ll continue to raise much-needed funds for this cause.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, it’s available here, where all proceeds will go directly to the charity.
The image below was coloured using Stabilo 68 Fibre-tip Pens.