Fiction | 18 September 2015Exploring a Magical World: The Wonder Garden Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Publisher Rachel Williams tells us how non-fiction books for young readers can feel like exploring a magical world, and how The Wonder Garden achieves this. Kristjana Williams, artist and debut children’s book illustrator, gives us an insight into how she created this magical world… Rachel: “When we first began talking to illustrator Kristjana S Williams about The Wonder Garden, we knew one thing: a book illustrated by her would be nothing short of extraordinary. As an established fine artist best-known for her textile, furniture and interior design, her work blurs the line between real and imaginary, and has the ability to transport you to another world: a sky filled with animals in hot air balloons, a technicolour jungle or a city overrun with wild animals. Inspired by the landscape of her native Iceland, Kristjana’s inimitable style of collaged Victorian engravings and bursts of vibrant colour have won her multiple D&AD awards, a New York Festival Grand Prix and a shortlisting for the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. So, could we create a book that merged the magical world of her fine art with real information that readers as young as seven could enjoy? We knew that we wanted the book to be big, so that one felt as though they were traversing a real environment when exploring it; we also knew that it should print in five colours to best reflect Kristjana’s work. Wide Eyed’s editorial director and award-winning author Jenny Broom set the tone for the text, with a plan based around five real habitats: a jungle, an ocean, a desert, a forest, and a mountain. Briefed to create a cast of real creatures from these habitats, Kristjana and her team hunted through hundreds of Victorian engravings to find flora and fauna, adapting animals and environments where needed. Working with esteemed designer Sinem Erkas, each page was artworked around Jenny’s lively, lyrical texts, which act as an anchor for the book, mooring it in a sandbank of fact. We originally entitled the book The Animal Garden, the title of one of Kristjana’s fine art prints. Mid-way through the book, we settled on The Wonder Garden, feeling that this title better reflected its contents: a wonder-filled discovery of 100-year-old engravings, brought to life afresh with vibrant colour and text for young readers. So, can a non-fiction book make the real world feel magical? If it reflects the real world with a sense of wonder, I think it can.” Kristjana: “My favourite spread was the Great Barrier Reef, with the octopus.” Kristjana: “Growing up, I was really fascinated with the Icelandic landscape. I was surrounded by books, and my Mum and my Great Uncle would tell us a lot of stories. All of the stories were essentially about Icelandic nature – if you look deeply into any Icelandic story, everything is shaped by the weather and landscape. Essentially all my work is made from old Victorian engravings, which I take in and rework. All the different engravings I found came from different periods, and so I had to treat them all to find a way to make them work harmoniously together. When I create a scene, I’m actually taking different landscapes apart, and it’s slightly theatrical creating a whole new landscape from 12 or 15 different plates. I have to make the grounds blend seamlessly together to create depth, as though you were walking through somewhere. And from this I can make my own landscape from my imagination, one totally unique to what someone else would do with the same materials. This was my first book – before now I have created fine art and furniture – and putting together each scene was very much about finding the right elements, and combining the animals, trees, and landscapes until I’d created a new universe. For The Wonder Garden I focussed on five habitats: The Amazon, the Black Forest, the Chihuahuan Desert, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Himalayas. And to do this I had to find all the elements that fit within that environment. Making a book was such a different project to anything else I have done before. It was a much more collaborative experience, and I wanted the end result to talk to young people by being brighter and clearer than my other work. Working a non-fiction book made the artwork more direct and real. It was a wonderful experience.” Kristjana: “I found the desert hard to do, artistically, as I had less decorative elements to work with, but what I love about this book is that it feels rich and full, and without the desert it would be quite empty and missing that quiet space.” – – – The Wonder Garden Author: Jenny Broom Artist: Kristjana S Williams Format: Hardcover, 48 Pages Age Range: 6-12 ISBN: 9781847807038 September 3, 2015 Buy from an Online Retailer In North America: Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.