A Forest of Wonders

Bright yellow letters glow out from a dark wood that is captured in a deep midnight blue. The mysterious cover of A Forest of Wonders beautifully matches the contents of this non-fiction book, which can be seen as a declaration of love to nature, and is supported by Medy Oberendorff’s hyper-realistic illustrations.

Original title
Wonder bos
Jan Paul Schutten

Oberendorff has used pencil to create large, almost photographic pictures, with backgrounds that are made up of shades of grey and contrasts between light and dark. All kinds of animals turn out to be hiding among the leaves, combining the educational element with the playfulness of a look-and-find book. The illustrations are meticulous in their design and reveal a loving craftsmanship; the spores of a mushroom, the minute details of a frog’s body, the reflection of snowy trees in a pool – all depicted in a naturalistic way and with great precision.

Each spread is accompanied by an entertaining text by Jan Paul Schutten about the cycle of nature, about parasites that are parasites of other parasites and about the deadly beauty of the forest. Those pages are followed in turn by spreads in which individual elements of the forest are highlighted in further detail, in words and pictures, this time in colour, which Oberendorff added digitally to the analogue pictures.

Black and white is the new colour.

Het Parool

This way of working results in a photorealism that bears a resemblance to the work of the English illustrator Ben Rothery, although his habitat is the African savanna and Oberendorff has opted for the nature of the Low Countries. The colour illustrations create a cheerful rhythm in the book, but would the reader have missed them if they weren’t there? Used in the right way, black and white can be just as evocative as colour, as this book convincingly demonstrates.

A wonderful book.

Jan Paul Schutten
Jan Paul Schutten (b. 1970) is one of the Netherlands’ most celebrated writers of non-fiction for children. His work, in which the emphasis is on history, nature and science, has twice been awarded the Gouden Griffel for the best children’s book of the year.
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