A Year in the Wild is a wonderful illustrated book. The text takes a back seat initially because the images completely grab our attention. They are simply breath-taking. Helen Ahpornsiri has very painstakingly taken hundreds of pressed leaves and flowers and transformed them into collages of animals, birds, insects, and plants.
The book has four sections, each devoted to a season in nature. There is an introduction and a glossary, as well as a note from the illustrator. There, Ahpornsiri tells us that the flowers and foliage she used have been ‘paused in their life cycle; kindled with a new story’. That sentence made me stop and revisit some of the pages.
The illustrations are intricate and delicate and exquisite. She constructed each collage using plants that were responsibly grown or foraged in the wild. She used traditional flower-pressing methods, she says, and adds “There is not a drop of paint in these pages.” I particularly love her hibernating hedgehog, and the cute little line of sparrows. The summer night image of the owl, and the winter night image of the fox are arresting in their beauty. How does she make that fox seem to be so deep in thought?
The text is carefully wrought. Alongside the longer pieces of text, Symons has added little informative notes to complement the images: we learn that flattened grass can indicate hares in the area; that harvest mice are the only species of mouse to have prehensile tails; that rutting stags adorn their antlers with bracken to make themselves look more intimidating, and that crickets’ antennae are longer than grasshoppers.
This book will be one of the most visited in homes and classrooms. As children pore over the images they may begin to look more closely at the natural world around them.
I would have loved A Year in the Wild as a child!
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