Ivy and the Inky Butterfly: A Magical Tale to Color (US Edition) – A Review

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Ivy and the Inky Butterfly: A Magical Tale to Color is illustrated and very kindly sent to me to review by Johanna Basford, it is published by Penguin Books. I am also being sent a UK edition of the book and will write a comparison post just as soon as I can, do subscribe to my blog on the right-hand side to be the first to know when it’s live. This book is the sixth colouring book illustrated by colouring queen, Johanna Basford and this meant it was time for a bit of a change, this time it’s a different shape, somewhat different style and contains a story that she’s written based on a bedtime story she’s told her daughter Evie but what isn’t different is the charm, beauty and wonderfulness that we’ve come to expect from Johanna’s books, this book has those in spades!

The book itself measures 21.8 x 25.4cm making it the same height as the US editions of Magical Jungle and Johanna’s Christmas but almost 4cm narrower as it’s not square. It’s paperback with flexible card covers with ½ French Flaps which open out front and back to reveal a flower, leaf and butterfly design that is fully colourable, this isn’t waxy and is very smooth so it should be fully colourable with most mediums including pencils and water-based pens, be very careful with alcohol markers bleeding through to the external covers. The spine and covers are white with black text, the cover has mint green text backgrounds and beautiful gold and green foiling which is really luxurious and aids the traditional storybook feeling! The spine is glue-bound which makes it quite stiff on opening because the covers are glued a little to the front and back pages of the book, you’re likely to need to crack the spine in order to get the book to open fully but do be very careful because pages can fall out of glue-bound spines and that would be a bit of a disaster if you want to keep the story in order! The paper is the same ‘Johanna Basford’ paper as used in the US editions of Magical Jungle and Johanna’s Christmas, this is not the same as the paper used in the UK editions of any of these books which was sourced through a global hunt to find a suitable ivory paper. The paper is a pale ivory colour, it’s a medium thickness and lightly textured and it’s perfect for pens and pencils; pencils are a dream to blend and shade with and pens go on really smoothly, they don’t bleed through unless you use alcohol markers and water-based pens only shadow if you colour too much in one spot, as always, do check all of your mediums on the colour palette test page to check how your they behave.

Upon opening the book, you find the beautiful title page, followed by the introduction and name page, the copyright page is at the back at the bottom of the End page. There isn’t an official treasure hunt in this book but Johanna has hidden over 200 butterflies throughout the pages for you to find, some are very obvious and some are much better hidden and there aren’t any answers or clues to where they are so you may be left scratching your head if you can’t find them all. The images are printed double-sided throughout, I know lots of people aren’t a fan of this but it really wouldn’t have worked with single-sided pages as the story wouldn’t have flowed and the book would have weighed a ton, as it is it contains 120 pages so it’s much thicker than all of the previous titles and has so much content packed in that this could be a lifetime project!  The story has been written by Johanna and it’s thoroughly lovely, exciting and far more complex than I expected. I’m not sure what age range it’s aimed at but there is some fairly complex language included so at a guess I’d suggest probably age 6-8 and above, and possibly older if the children are wanting to read it themselves, depending on their reading ability. The text isn’t on every page and those it is on it’s been very cleverly incorporated and illustrated around so that it doesn’t feel like a colouring book with text shoe-horned in, it feels like an illustrated storybook with images on every page and text on the vast majority. The images vary a huge amount, this book has by far the largest range of content of any of Johanna’s books and it’s absolutely packed with different items to really challenge you to learn to colour all sorts of types of things including gems, metal, feathers, fur, skin, water, wood, and so much more. The images are also drawn in a huge range of styles including ribbons, centralised images, full double-page scenes, mandalas, symmetrical sections, portrait-style images, illuminated manuscripts, borders, frames and more. The content of the images matches the story and without giving too much away, this involves Ivy following an Inky Butterfly out of a portrait, through a hidden door and into a magical world where she meets some lovely friends and creatures and encounters a gigantic flower garden, a magpie shop owner, a mouse, elves, dragons and more. The images contain all manner of things including flowers, leaves, mushrooms, food, lanterns, trinkets, bees, tree houses, stilted water houses, jewellery, maps, stars, berries, a griffin, treasure, and owl, I could go on forever! This book does still have a lot of flowers, leaves and trees but there are so many other things interspersed that you can certainly give your green pencils and pens a bit of a rest and start learning all sorts of techniques to really challenge yourself and make things look realistic if you wish. The images are truly beautiful, I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit flicking through this book for the last few days and every single time I find more items I didn’t notice before. One thing I really noticed and which I’m absolutely in love with about this book is the subtle nods to all of Johanna’s previous books, from a picture of flamingos on the wall in the Wonder Room and another of elephants (both from Magical Jungle), to the cuckoo clock on the wall that was pictured in Johanna’s Christmas, a crab postcard, fish and ships in bottles like those found in Lost Ocean, there are dragons, castles and treehouses similar to those in Enchanted Forest and flower upon flower from Secret Garden (as well as heaps of new ones, don’t panic), none of the content feels samey, boring, or repetitive, but it’s so lovely to have little reminders of the previous books which really helps tie them all together and certainly made me wonder if all of those previous books might have been places and lands that Ivy, or her grandfather might have travelled to in the past. Some of the images are really packed with illustrations and others are much more open with space to add your own imagery or backgrounds if you wish. There aren’t a great deal of images of Ivy because Johanna knows that a lot of us struggle with colouring skin tone and she’s not a fan of drawing people though she’s done a fabulous job of all of the images of Ivy that there are but this book certainly isn’t intimidating for those of us whose current level of skin-tone colouring is a block of peachy-pink!

In terms of mental health, I’m not sure this book could be better, it offers a great project in a number of ways and it is so distracting. The story itself is absolutely lovely and very absorbing, the images follow it really well but also leave plenty of room for you to use your own imagination and get lost in Ivy’s journey to Enchantia. The images are all different sizes so this book is really adaptable for those with fluctuating conditions and these range from small motifs of one bee or a couple of fish, all the way up to completely packed double-page spreads that have almost no un-illustrated spaces and everything in between, no matter how you’re feeling you’ll be able to find a section that’s suitable and that will give you a sense of accomplishment. You can really use this book to challenge yourself to learn new techniques if you wish but it’ll look equally beautiful block coloured in your brightest, weirdest colour combinations, the sky really is the limit! For those of us who often struggle to know what to colour or pick a page it could be a great idea to work through this book cover to cover and just colour each page in turn so that you don’t have to keep deciding, or you can just dive in to your favourite page and start there, it really doesn’t matter. I know a lot of people want to fully colour a copy of this book as a gift for children in their life and having now seen the book, this would make the most amazing gift and heirloom that children for years to come would adore and cherish but my goodness is it an undertaking, it’ll take such a long time to complete but it’ll be so worth it and you could even start it off for a child and then get them to carry it on. What a wonderful experience it would be to read the story and colour the book together! The line thickness is the same as always, thin and sometimes spindly thin. The intricacy and detail levels have increased again since Magical Jungle and are much more similar to Secret Garden and the less detailed parts of Lost Ocean so you will need pretty good vision and fine motor control because while the intricacy and detail levels do vary throughout, the majority are quite high because of the sheer amount of content and objects in each image. I have personally found this book really calming, the story is very reminiscent of those from my childhood and nostalgia can be very comforting, it’s just really heart-warming both in the words and the imagery and it really helps your worries melt away, it lifts your mood and the world doesn’t feel like such a dark place for a while, it’s perfect!

Overall, I really can’t recommend this book enough, it’s beautiful and I know some people were a bit upset about it having text added this time but it adds so much to the book and loses none of the illustrative content because of the larger number of pages. You don’t need to have kids or be a child to enjoy this book, I don’t have kids and my goodness have I been enjoying it, especially knowing that no one will be “adding” to my colouring or dog-earing the pages but it’ll make a wonderful project or gift for the children in your life if you choose to share it with them. Johanna really has outdone herself, the new objects and types of imagery are fantastic and really add a lot to the book and I honestly can’t express just how beautiful and perfect this book is when it’s actually in your hands, I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with it!

If you’d like to purchase a copy, it’s available here:
US Edition
Amazon UK – Ivy and the Inky Butterfly: A Magical Tale to Color
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Ivy-and-the-Inky-Butterfly-Johann-Basford/9780143130925/?a_aid=colouringitmom
UK Edition
Amazon UK – Ivy and the Inky Butterfly: A Magical Tale to Colour
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Ivy-and-the-Inky-Butterfly-Johann-Basford/9780753545652/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The image below was coloured with Holbein Artist’s Colored Pencils.

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