Garden Jungle

Image of Garden Jungle
Release Date: 
February 11, 2020
Thames & Hudson
Reviewed by: 

Garden Jungle as a piece of art is original and noteworthy.”

Hélène Druvert is back with another beautiful, artful project: Garden Jungle. Like her other children’s books, this, too, is made up of intricate diecut pages that infuse texture and depth to the visual story.

There is so much similarity between Druvert’s Garden Jungle and her 2018 release New York Melody that the review (published here in October 2018) could almost be copied and pasted word for word with just the title swapped out.

Instead of following a little music note around the city as we did with New York Melody, we are following a youngster named Tom who is chasing a butterfly around the garden to fill up an otherwise boring afternoon. Garden Jungle’s graphics build up further than New York Melody’s, and we are treated to an array of richer green, blue and salmon colored images in addition to the two-toned silhouette pages.

There is a lovely balance between the seven diecut color pages and the beginning and ending gray spectrum pages. The effect corresponds well with the story, reminding one of the integration of color in the movie The Wizard of Oz; the beginning and end were filmed in black and white while the excursion in the Land of Oz lives large in full technicolor. Tom’s journey into the garden plays with color and gets darker the farther into his jungle he ventures. This is beautifully done.

While the elegant presentation of the book is aesthetically pleasing and genuinely creative, the same criticisms of New York Melody also apply to Garden Jungle. The rhyming narrative is painful and sluggish for something that needs to be graceful and poetic, again, not aligning with the style of the artwork.

The story is basic, there is really nothing but sweet, good-natured flittering around garden plants that are, in Tom’s imagination, bursting with jungle intrigues. Text does nothing more than describe what Tom is doing and seeing in the pictures. “He glimpses the butterfly, high in a tree. But when he climbs up there, it’s gone, flying free.” Tom does, however, eventually realize that boredom is nothing more than an invitation to explore, and this he can do anytime he wants.

Age range continues again to be mismatched, and Garden Jungle’s audience is listed as even younger than the previous publication’s. With the fragility of the diecut pages, three to five year olds may need supervision to protect the book, yet they are very much the target of the unnecessary rhyming and simple storyline.

Here again, Garden Jungle as a piece of art is original and noteworthy. The challenge is to pair it up with a story of the same high caliber.