From time to time when the owner is out of town and all the other employees don't feel like working, I get the chance to work at this little gem of a comic book shop we have here in Vancouver. I'm the 'holiday help' so to speak. It's called "Lucky's Comics", but really it should be called "Lucky's Books", because there are many great books, half of which aren't comics at all. Every time I get to be the 'holiday help' I leave with a heap of books and this time- it was just before Christmas- I picked up a book by the title of WildWood.
The cover of the book was enough to draw me in but I have to say that the whole story itself was really pretty great and somehow reminded me of books I used to read when I was little, and that's a very good thing in my book. No pun intended. Just by picking it up and leaving through it you can tell that the whole thing is a labor of love. The design is perfect from the beautiful cover and endpaper map illustrations by Carson Ellis to the actual paper used for the pages and the way they are left uncut. There is something about a book that is so beautiful and so well made that let's you know almost immediately that there is pretty much no way the writing is going to disappoint you. If the book was just so so this kind of effort and attention to the overall book would be very unlikely.
The story is a modern fairly tale that start of pretty light hearted and then gets surprisingly darker and darker. The story is illustrated by Carson Ellis (illustrator of all the Decemberists flyers, etc) and written by her husband who also happens to be the lead singer of said band The Decemberists. I would have liked this book a lot already but there is something so so special about the fact that they made it together. That part of it is the part that makes it perfect. It's already really great, but add the husband and wife aspect and I almost wanna puke it's so cute. (But I don't puke and just totally love it) Yay for cool people making stuff together!
Ok. bla bla bla when are you going to talk about the illustration more Lisa?
Well, I think that the reason this book reminds me of the books of my childhood is that a) it's overall good craftsman ship and writing, b) it's a good story and c) the illustrations are perfect for the text and the book as a whole. They help draw you in, and piece together this magical forest that the story takes place in. But they don't take OVER your imagination. They are simple enough to leave you imagine and detailed enough to help you along. It's hard to put a finger on exactly how but they do. It's something that's hard for an illustration to do. Perhaps they do this most by immediately emitting a certain kind of mood. They seem to say, " You're inside of a world of magic and it can be very beautiful, but be careful, it can also be very very dangerous".
If you're interested in illustrated books (not picture books/ they are different) I really suggest picking this one up. Ellis employs various different illustration techniques, throughout the book. Some are black and white only, a few are full colour, some are drawn to resemble old scissor cuts and some are mere line drawings to grace the beginnings of chapters and foreshadow of what might come. The effect is a varied and yet cohesive look and feel of the book.
In closing I just wanted to say that never before have I read a book where every once in a while I felt as though I was already watching the movie for it. It is written very much like a movie and though sometimes this can be a not so good thing when reading in my opinion, in this case it was really pretty cool. The only trouble I guess would be if they were to make a movie out of it(and I'm preeety sure they will) since I feel as though I have already seen it. Unless they would let Carson Ellis animate it with a team. That would be amazing!!!
Last but not least. Here are some pics from the book and some that did not make it into the book too.
Here is a really great blog post on Carson in her studio. Jealous much? ;)
Pic cred from above. Got the first pic from Lay-Luh's photostream on flickr. thx!