I wasn’t really sure how to tag Lost Worlds by John Howe: Middle Grade? Picture Book? Illustration? Crossover? Adult? Nonfiction? Bottom line? This book will appeal to all sorts of readers.
I can tell you one thing, whatever category you slide it into, it’s one beautiful looking book. It is shouting, “Give me to someone this holiday season! Give me to someone!” Especially give me to someone who has a hankering for history or fantasy or outstanding artwork.
Lost worlds is a collection of research, theories, photographs and illustrations about numerous worlds “abandoned in time, buried and forgotten… and the ones that live in the imagination” (from Howe’s introduction). You’ll find pages on Eden, Thebes, Pompeii, Persepolis, Teotihuacan, Camelot, Faerie and many more. Then there’s an appendix of more lost worlds at the end. For those non-Tolkien types, Howe was one of two lead concept artists for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The guy knows fantasy. He even managed to snag Sir Ian McKellen (aka Gandalf from the LOTR movies), to write a foreward to this book.
The illustrations inspire spine-tingles in their epic style, strong sense of mood, and their dramatic detail and colouring. (I’m not kidding. I have goosebumps right now as I’m staring at the illustration of Morgan Le Fay holding Arthur on the boat bearing his body to the isle of Avalon. Wow). In fact, the artwork is so strong, that it’s kind of hard to even take your focus away for long enough to read the text. This is the kind of book I would look at first, and then read. The text is packed with history and legend, and I liked the way that photographs of actual landscapes, sites, and ancient relics are blended with Howe’s pictures. This really adds to the overall richness of the content.
Here’s John Howe, talking about the book:
I must mention that the design of the cover is, in a word, awesome. It will bring to mind the “ology” books (Dragonology, Egyptology etc), which will certainly pull in fans of those titles. The window reveals only a glimpse of the stunning illustration of Atlantis that you see when you open the book. So dramatic. You’ll stare at it for a long time before you even want to head into the rest of the text. That’s exactly what this book will do to a reader: stop you in your tracks, again and again. This is one to linger over, to browse through for hours. Give this to a fantasy-loving kid (or grown up) this holiday and you probably won’t see him/her for the rest of the day. They’ll be lost – in a good way.
Lost Worlds is published by Kingfisher.