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Johanna’s Christmas was released in the UK and US last week and after the huge online debates surrounding the differences between the UK and US editions of her previous books I thought I’d do a comparison of them both as my previous comparisons of Lost Ocean and Magical Jungle were very successful. I was unable to get review copies so I have purchased the US edition from Book Depository and the UK edition from Amazon UK (purchase links below). I have heard that there are issues with some UK editions which have been printed in China, my copy was printed in Italy (more info below).
This is a long post because there are so many pictures included to illustrate each point but please bear with me because a lot of time and effort has gone into being as thorough as possible. Most of the things I’ve noticed don’t affect the enjoyment or use of the book, they’re just differences but there are a few items that are fundamentally different and do affect use so keep an eye out for those, they’re summarised at the bottom. Some of the very noticeable differences include size and paper type so here goes with the most comprehensive list of similarities and differences that you’re likely to find online!
- Dust Jacket – This is usually one of the biggest differences between the editions, with the UK version usually having a removable dust jacket and the US edition having it attached. This time we have a break in convention and both the UK and US edition have attached covers, with no removable dust jacket. I think this is a shame as I’ve loved the removable dust jackets but there you go, neither has them.
- French Flaps – The inside flaps of the cover are larger in the UK edition. Both editions have a white line-drawn bauble pattern but the UK edition has more baubles printed smaller, the US edition has them cut off a little and printed larger, and the image on the UK front flap is on the back one in the US and vice versa.
- Spine – The UK edition has a black spine with white writing (the same as Secret Garden and UK Lost Ocean and Magical Jungle) and the Virgin books symbol. The US edition has a white spine with black writing and the Penguin books symbol (the same as US Lost Ocean and Magical Jungle).
- Book size – The UK edition is exactly the same size as Johanna Basford’s first two titles (and the same as the UK editions of Lost Ocean and Magical Jungle) – 25cm square, the US edition is slightly larger at around 25.5cm square making it about half a centimetre taller and wider (this is the same size as the US editions of Lost Ocean and Magical Jungle).
- Cover colour – The UK cover is bright white, the US cover is ever so slightly off-white though this is only noticeable when placed next to something truly white.
- Foiling – This is one of the most noticeable differences. The UK edition has stuck with tradition and has gold foiling accents, these are smooth and very shiny and a yellower gold than the UK Magical Jungle foil (this didn’t show up well in photos). Most of the title and lots of aspects of the cover design are foiled. The sheer amount of foiling on the UK edition means that I feel it looks quite tacky and gaudy. The US edition is much more subtle and classy and has a fully foiled title in gold but brand new red and green foiling on the wreath which looks really beautiful!
- Spelling differences – As you’d expect, the UK edition has the British spellings throughout of colour etc, the US edition has color (always check your cover as it’s the easiest way of telling if you have a UK or US edition by the spelling of “colouring book”).
- Cover design – The image on the cover of the UK edition is ever so slightly smaller and shows a little less all the way around than the US edition, it is not shifted at all like previous covers have been.
- Blurb – The UK and US editions have completely different blurbs.
- Back cover design – The back of the UK edition is identical to the front, minus the foiling. The US edition also has no foiling on the back but the design is printed in a mirror image compared to the front.
- Inside covers – On opening out the French flaps, both editions have the same bauble design printed front and back, however the baubles are printed much larger in the UK edition.
- Paper quality – This is one of the biggest differences between the two editions. The paper in each edition is the same as the paper used in that edition of Magical Jungle but they’re not the same as each other, despite assurances from Johanna Basford herself that the paper in the UK and US editions would be identical; I can categorically state that it is NOT. The colour is different, the thickness is different and the surface texture is different. The UK paper is ivory and a much whiter hue, it is a little thinner but feels equally thick as Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest and significantly thicker than Lost Ocean. There is a little tooth but the paper does burnish after a few layers when tested with Polychromos and Prismacolor pencils. The US paper is ivory but a more cream colour though it’s still paler than the cream colour of Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest. The paper is the thickest yet and has a more visible tooth, it took far more layers for blending (see direct comparison below with identical numbers of layers with two polychromos pencils on the red and yellow leaf) and still isn’t totally burnished. In both editions water-based pens behave the same way and the paper in both is beautiful to colour on with pens as they glide really well with no feathering or spreading at all. The UK paper seems like it will shadow faster and more easily than the US edition and while I didn’t experience any shadowing in either, the UK paper did seem like it might with very dark colours if not using a light touch. From what I have read online the official Johanna Basford paper is the one used in the US edition, I personally prefer the colour of the UK edition but the US paper is much easier to use pencils on and is less likely to bleed with water-based pens so I have to recommend that one.
- Page ink quality – Both books have equally permanent ink when tested with Derwent blender and burnishing pencils. Both smudged ever so slightly but I was pressing hard. I haven’t coloured an image in each with pencil yet to be able to state much about ink transfer, however, my US copy arrived with little bits of print transferred onto the opposite page, presumably just from the weight of being in a stack of books so I’d guess it’s not hugely permanent, my suggestion would be to use a scrap piece of paper behind your colouring in either edition of the book just to be safe, especially between the double page spreads.
- Image size – The images in the UK edition are printed a fair bit smaller than the US edition (up to 1.5cm overall and yes I measured a number of them with a ruler to check) meaning there is a larger white border around the images in the UK book compared to the US book. This difference hasn’t been especially noticeable in previous books but is visibly different in most images in these editions. Those of you with poorer vision or fine motor control would be best purchasing the US edition as the images are larger throughout, those who prefer intricacy should opt for the UK edition.
- Printing – The UK edition is printed in Italy (predominantly, some much whiter versions seem to be appearing and these have apparently been published in China) and the US edition is printed in the US.
- Image Quality – There was a major issue with pixelation in the UK edition of Magical Jungle, I’m pleased to state that at least in my copy there are no printing issues at all and image quality is equally good in the UK and US editions.
- Introduction page – The text on both editions is laid out and justified differently.
- Binding – The UK edition is stitched and lightly glue-bound whereas the US edition is only glue-bound which will make it less durable and can lead to pages falling out.
- Thickness – The UK edition is noticeably thinner than the US edition, this will be because the paper is thinner in the UK edition. This also makes the UK edition much bendier than the US edition.
- Weight – The UK edition is also lighter in weight than the US edition. I have weighed them both and the UK edition weighs 488g and the US edition 514g.
- Backing wallpaper colour – Each single-sided design has one of three festive wallpaper designs on the back because Johanna didn’t want the pages to just be blank. In the UK edition these are printed in a darker grey line than the fainter US edition.
- Backing wallpaper order – The images are single-sided but 5 are arranged into double-page spreads meaning that the preceding double-page is wallpaper. In the UK edition both sides of the spread are the same wallpaper pattern, in the US edition they are each different though the order throughout on the single pages is the same.
- Perforations – The perforations are better cut and more obvious in the UK edition and the pages are easier to tear out, they are less visible in the US edition and harder to pull out the pages. Both editions are quite difficult to remove the pages from and the section of the page that is left tends to rip as you’re pulling it out so do be very careful when removing pages to avoid any rips to the pages themselves.
- Page size – The size of the perforated section of the page is different in each edition and actually neither are square which will making framing them a little bit challenging as they’re not a standard shape or size. You’ll either have to matt and layer in a larger frame or cut off some of the edge of the page on the centralised images to make them a standard size. The UK pages measure approximately 23.4cm x 24.9cm. The US pages measure approximately 24.1cm x 25.2cm.
To sum up, if you’ve managed to make it this far, the two biggest factors affecting your decisions are these:
- Matching set – If you want your copy of Johanna’s Christmas to match Secret Garden, Enchanted Forest and the UK editions of Lost Ocean and Magical Jungle as much as is currently possible (bearing in mind the difference in paper colour, thickness and level of intricacy), then you want the UK edition because it is exactly the same size but it doesn’t have a removable dust jacket. This is also the best copy to purchase if you prefer higher levels of intricacy or more space to add your own drawings and backgrounds.
- Larger, easier to colour images and thicker paper– If your vision or fine motor control aren’t perfect then I’d definitely advise purchasing the US edition of Johanna’s Christmas because the extra (up to) 1.5cm in the images will be useful. The paper is thicker and toothier making it best for pen and pencil users, the US edition is superior in almost every way.
Everything else I’ve listed is not a criticism and doesn’t impact use or enjoyment, I’ve just listed all of the differences to make people aware of what they are and to make it easy to identify which copy is which when looking at pictures of it online and elsewhere. In my opinion, the US edition offers a superior colouring experience to the UK edition and if you’re going to purchase just one copy then I’d suggest it be that one. If you notice any other differences then please do get in touch and I’ll add them to the list! Happy Colouring – You’ve definitely earnt it!
You can read my review of the contents of Johanna’s Christmas, including my mental health recommendations here for the UK and here for the US edition. My comparisons of the UK and US editions of Johanna’s other books can be found here – Lost Ocean & Magical Jungle.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of Johanna’s Christmas it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Johanna’s Christmas
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Johanns-Christmas-Johann-Basford/9780753557563/?a_aid=colouringitmom
Amazon UK – Johanna’s Christmas
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Johanns-Christmas-Johann-Basford/9780143129301/?a_aid=colouringitmom