Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Romantic Country: A Fantasy Coloring Book is published by St Martin’s Griffin and is from my personal collection. This book has been on my radar for months and it’s been absolute torture waiting for it to arrive, especially as it was published in the US at the beginning of March and not until the 12th of April here in the UK. You can imagine my disappointment when my copy arrived damaged on Tuesday and I had to wait another day for my new copy to arrive and to finally be able to break out my pencils and get colouring. However, it was worth the wait! This book is genuinely stunning and I think it might even be my favourite book! Eriy, the illustrator is Japanese and creates her work using a toothpick dipped in ink. This whole book took approximately 700 toothpicks and because of the way the lines are created they’re not a uniform thickness and aren’t a stark black colour (more on this later). This is the book I’ve been hoping would be made, with its childlike charm but with adult levels of intricacy, it’s what I always felt was missing for me in JB’s books, don’t get me wrong, hers are stunningly beautiful, I really love them, but they’re a little too perfect for my imagined perfect book. Eriy’s book is utterly charming, not quite perfect, and is truly heart-warming and that’s what makes it so wonderful.
This book is square, the same size as the bestsellers, paperback, with a removable paper dust jacket with partially coloured images from the book on the front and back. The book itself has brown card covers with a wraparound line drawing from inside the book and blank covers on the inside. The paper is a lovely rich creamy colour (it’s hard to describe but it’s a little warmer in colour than the paper in Johanna’s first two books but not yellowy), and it’s thick and doesn’t bleed or shadow with water-based pens when used carefully. The paper is lightly textured and while you can’t get loads of layers, pencils do lay down well on it and it’s perfectly possible to get some lovely blending and layering. The spine is glue and stitch-bound so it’s durable but a little difficult to get to the centre of each spread, however, spines of this type do ease up with use so do persevere. The images are printed double-sided and borderless and are a mixture of single and double-page spreads so a little of each image is lost into the spine. The images themselves are beautiful, charming, and begging to be coloured and are split into the following 5 chapters: 1. Hill and Town Overlooking a Clock Tower; 2. Stories of Castles; 3. A Villagescape with Beautiful Forests and Lakes; 4. A Town Where Genial People Live; 5. Windmills are a Symbol of This Village. The book starts with 3 double-page spreads of maps of Cocot, the name of the land in which the book is set, which was dreamt up in the imagination of Eriy when she was a child. She has created 3 books, all depicting Cocot, the other two of which are only currently available on Amazon Japan (links at the end of this review) but hopefully they’ll be picked up and published in English editions soon. Following the maps, the images show beautiful scenes of shop-filled streets, cakes and pastries, tea rooms, luxurious castle interiors, magical castle exteriors, walks through the woods, hilly scenes, farms, windmills and just so much more! Each image is shown as a thumbnail at the back of the book too with a short description telling you more about each place and life in Cocot, you will truly want to move there and never leave! At the back of the book is a removable fold-out poster featuring the main character who is followed through the book (a little girl called Elena) and her duck friend Joset, which is fully colourable and can be cut out and glued together to create a beautiful 3D scene.
In terms of mental health, I doubt there’s a book that’s better for it in all honesty! Certainly for mine anyway! The illustrations are so charming and because they have a beautiful childlike quality to them they really have a nostalgic aspect which will remind you of colouring books you used as a child but with so much more detail and intricacy that it’s still very entertaining as an adult. The content is wonderful because it whisks you off to a simpler, happier, gentler place where there is a slower pace of life and cakes are probably calorie-free, food is simple and delicious, and horse-drawn carriages are the only method of transport. The line thickness varies throughout because Eriy draws with a toothpick and so it naturally varies however the majority of the lines are thin but not spindly so they’re perfectly colourable with moderate vision and fine motor control. The lines themselves are not a stark black, they’re an uneven brown because they’re drawn in dipping ink and while this may not sound great and does take a little getting used to, it truly adds so much charm to the drawings and these illustrations just wouldn’t look right drawn in harsh, black, perfect lines. The images range in intricacy and detail from large open spaces of pine trees and buildings to small delicate flowers in window boxes and everything in between, it’s a wide range but almost all of the images would be suitable for anyone who doesn’t have poor vision or fine motor control so this is a great book for nearly anybody! The images are detailed and contain lots of things to look at and colour but they’re not so overwhelming that you don’t know where or how to start and because they’re all depicting real things like buildings, plants, and food, they’re easy to work out colour schemes for whether that be subtle pastels, realistic browns and greys, or bright fantastical colours, this book isn’t so perfect that you don’t want to touch it which is part of its huge appeal. The images are really cohesive and almost tell a story as you walk through the streets, castles, countryside and shops, by the end of the book you really feel like you’ve visited Cocot and you’ll be planning your next visit as soon as you can!
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to colour scenes, landscapes, food and flowers. This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen and I’m pretty sure it’s my favourite with its charming illustrations and beautiful thick paper. This book is cute, pretty, whimsical, magical and charming and it truly is the book of my dreams, and hopefully of yours!
If you’d like to purchase a copy of this gorgeous book then it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Romantic Country: A Fantasy Coloring Book
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Romantic-Country-Fantasy-Coloring-Book-Eriy/9781250094469/?a_aid=colouringitmom
The image below was coloured using Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils.