Synopses & Reviews
In the garden behind the cottage grows an ancient Oak that hides a secret. The young boy who lives in the cottage couldn’t care less about the tree and certainly doesn’t know it is enchanted. But the Faeries soon change this...
They cast a spell which causes the ancient Oak to swallow the boy whole. As the seasons pass, the boy trapped inside begins to experience the world as a tree, and regret his cruelty towards nature. But the Oak does not let him go. Then a new family with a young girl moves into the cottage. The girl senses magic behind the mystery of the boy who disappeared there many years ago. Will she discover the Faeries and what they’ve done? And, more importantly, will she be able to break the spell?
The attention paid to this book’s design is apparent right from the cover, with elegant, wispy lines set against smooth wood grains and textured bark. Inside, a spare, lightly haunting narrative tells a fairy-talelike story of a lonely boy whose play in the woods was “insensitive and cruel. He trampled flowers. He tore limbs off trees and carved his initials into their trunks.” A group of fairies, not especially nice themselves, trap him inside an ancient “Druidic Oak,” where the boy watches the seasons pass until another young girl arrives. The fairies plot to ensnare her as well, but she is saved by the boy’s hard-earned selflessness. The prose sections alternate with spindly artwork and semitranslucent pages imprinted with close-up photos of nature textures, and the ethereal movement of passing through the book has an eerily calm, palpable atmosphere. A blunt message to respect nature and be good caps off this dreamy tale, but the book draws the most lasting power from its harmonious layers of imagery and handsome bookmaking.
— Ian Chipman
"Boy in the Oak is a picture book that almost can’t be called a picture book. The story is told in full pages of text which are punctuated by black and which drawings and divided by translucent pieces of coloured, patterned paper. The pages of text are pretty full, I would almost be tempted to say that the book was meant for early readers, but the font is too small. Not your average picture book.
The story is about a young boy who was very rough and mean when he played outside. He would scare the animals in his backyard and do not so nice things like cut trees and pull out plants. The fairies in the area took notice and got so angry at the boy that one day they put a curse on him that trapped him inside an ancient oak tree. His parents went sick with worry and finally moved away when they couldn’t find their little boy anymore. A new couple moved into the house. There were rumours that when it was very windy you could hear a boy crying near the house, but the couple ignored the rumours and moved in with their little daughter. The parents took care of the house and planted new flowers, and though the fairies were cautious of people they liked this. They really liked the daughter though. She was kind to all of the plants and animals and the fairies took note of this and appreciated her, especially in comparison with the mean boy. She fell asleep under the oak one day and because the fairies liked her so much, decided that they would put a spell over her so that she would never wake up and leave them. The boy in the oak over heard this and was outraged. He’d spent so much time in the tree that he had more than learned his lesson and had learned about the fairy’s magic in the process, and he pushed both the girl and himself from the fairies.
The story is well told and unique, but the thing that will set this book a part is the presentation. I wouldn’t personally associate that kind of art with a children’s book. It is somewhat abstract and its displayed in the traditional way picture books associate pictures to text. The two translucent sheets that separate each page of text have nothing to do with the story and are there for a purely ornamental purpose and from my experience that is a little too intellectual for the average 3-5 aged child. I still recommend the book however. As I said the story is pretty good and it might be a fun way to introduce new art forms or storybook formats.
Here is the author’s website http://www.jessicaalbarn.co.uk/index.html. She has some book information and has more artwork on display." - Faerie Sight
"A piece of pure escapism. One part a Grimm’s Fairy Tale the other a Guillermo Del Toro labyrinth. But definitely suitable for both children and adults." - Pages of Hackney
"Jessica Albarn's illustrations are beautifully delicate, alluringly fragile and unquestionably belong to the fairy-tale elegance and dreamy myths of childhood fantasy. Her graceful pencil drawings have now been composed into Albarn's first venture into the world of literature by releasing her debute book this month. 'The Boy in the Oak' provides an enchanting and ethereal tale which tells the tale of a young boy’s journey after discovering an ancient oak tree in the garden of his family home. Dazed followed the winding road into a kingdom far, far away to discover more about these beautiful illustrations." - Dazed Digital
"Jessica Albarn’s delicate and fantastical illustrations have earned her collaborations with Helmut Lang, Modus and most recently a solo exhibition at East London’s Nelly Duff Gallery. Now she ventures into literature, matching her enthralling visual style and curious subjects with her own children’s fairy tale.
As much a fable as a fairy tale, The Boy in the Oak blends textured acetates with illustrations for a book to be experienced, not just read. Launched at Liberty this summer, Albarn tells the twisting tale of a young boy’s journey after discovering an ancient oak tree in the garden of his family home-perhaps inspired by the authors’ own childhood growing-up in rural England with her (musical) big brother Damon. Visit Liberty on 16th June for a first hand experience of Albarn’s beautiful drawings and ethereal imagination." - Twin, Clare Louise Acheson, www.twinfactory.co.uk
Physically slender but long on mystical atmosphere, Albarn’s debut features a mix of feathery line portraits and translucent leaves of pale, reworked photos of butterfly-wing and other natural patterns. They illustrate a short, formally told tale of Faerie retribution and redemption. In the first part, a bored, malicious lad tries to set fire to a Druidic Oak near his parents’ cottage and is embedded within the wood by angry sprites. Years later, when the Faeries try to do the same to a young girl whose parents plan to cut the tree down, the boy saves her and is released for showing compassion. The elevated language is nowhere near as polished as the pictures: “The boy awoke with a thud to his heart”; “He twisted with anxiety, wretched with his own memories and shameful of his past.” The special paper adds a misty, magical air to the page turns, however, and the insectile, sharp-tempered Faeries inject a needed thread of animation. Will tempt fans of the Spiderwick series and all things Faerie. (Fantasy. 10-12)
CM Magazine Review
In this haunting fable, a young boy angers the woodland Faeries. The child insensitively "trampled on the flowers. He tore limbs off the trees and carved his initials into their trunk." When he lit a fire in the base of an ancient Oak tree, the flames fizzled, but not the ire of the Faeries. These Faeries are not the delicate Tinkerbell sort - they pack a mean punch. "[S]hould you happen to come across one or trespass their world, ill fate will likely befall you." To put an end to the boy's destruction, the Faeries trapped him inside the tree. There he lingered, "between this world and the next." After a long search, his parents gave up hope of ever finding him.
Years later, a new family moved in and talked of chopping down the oak tree. In retribution, the Faeries made plans to steal their little girl. The boy, not wanting her to suffer his fate, pushed the girl back through the portal. This act of kindness broke the spell he was under and returned him to the human world.
Jessica Albarn's artwork gives this book an ethereal quality. Pencil sketches of faeries, insects and children line the margins. Most notable are the acetate overlays that are interwoven throughout the narrative. These translucent pages feature close-up photographs of butterfly wings, spider webs, flames, tree bark and flowers.
With its slim size, The Boy in the Oak resembles a picture book, but it is for older readers. The text has a formal and gothic tone: "[The tree's] belly stretched taut as it now played host to the boy." Fans of Laura Amy Schlitz'sNight Fairy or Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black's Spiderwick Chronicles will enjoy this sophisticated offering.
Blogger Review - The Daily Duff
Jessica Albarn's line drawings pick out the delicacy of the natural world, juxtaposed with her obsessive observation of an underlying geometric structure that underpins it all. Geniously illustrated via her use of embossing and foiling techniques, these stunning artworks are in constant flux, just as nature itself.
Albarn's 2010 children's book, 'The Boy in the Oak' - the tale of a particularly destructive young boy who is trapped in an oak tree as punishment for his crimes against the wild life in his back garden- reinforces her apparent fascination with the delacy of nature, yet ultimate strength innate within it. Illustrated by Albarn throughout, with a beautifully textured hard cover, these lovely books were clearly a labour of love, and it shows.. lovely stocking filler too!
About the Author
Jessica Albarn is a fine artist having studied sculpture, painting, drawing and printmaking at Middlesex University in London. Inventor of an interactive toy called Brainbow, a finalist at the BFIY awards, Jessica prizes a connection with the magical time of childhood. Experiences and discoveries she made as a child and that of her own children have inspired much of her work.
She has exhibited extensively around London and as far out as a 17th century lookout tower on the cliffs of Essex as well as a show at Marmalade Towers in London, in connection with Marmalade magazine. In 2008 she showed in Stokholm which followed a limited edition book, Bee-headed, published by Cederteg Publishing in Sweden. Recently she has collaborated with Modus Design Co., Helmut Lang in Tokyo and Oasis for their Designer Collective collection.
Fascinated by nature, Jessica has worked closely with insects and spiders in all of her art, finding the beauty in all creatures, dead or alive. As a child she loved old faerie tales. The Butterfly Ball by Alan Aldridge was her favourite illustrated book. The idea of faeries being both delicate and deadly and, like insects, existing in a world we cohabit formed the basis for her first storybook, The Boy in the Oak.
To learn more about Jessica visit www.jessicaalbarn.co.uk.