On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna review – alive to the power of nature

A ramble in the woods proves transformative in this award-winning celebratory tale

Anyone keen to pass on a love of the great outdoors will welcome the latest picture book from Italian-French talent Beatrice Alemagna, about a child lured away from technology to find fun in a forest. Using a beautiful earthy palette and intricate lines, loops and curls, the author/illustrator evokes a woodland world so full of textures and sights you can almost feel the shafts of sunlight on your back.

It’s a wet day and, in a scene familiar to most parents, a mum (herself glued to a laptop, presumably working) snaps at her offspring to do something other than play computer games all day. The child, whose gender seems ambiguous (great for little readers who can decide for themselves), skulks off into the woods in a neon orange raincoat that dazzles against the foliage – the child is outdoors and out of place. But, having lost the computer console, the child grows captivated by the forest’s sensuous delights – from stroking slimy snails to slurping icy rainwater.

Alemagna’s illustrations start to lighten as the child’s heart lifts. In the tale’s turning point, the child appears to morph into the landscape, the bulbous raincoat suddenly resembling a magical toadstool, while we’re told “I knew that there was something special close by”.

In its celebration of the sights, sounds and squelchiness of the outdoors, On a Magical Do-Nothing Day is reminiscent of Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, but it goes a step further, highlighting the transformational potential of nature. Great fun and never preachy, it’s already picked up one award (France’s Prix Landerneau); others ought to follow.

• On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna is published by Thames & Hudson (£12.95). To order a copy for £11.01 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

Contributor

Imogen Carter

The GuardianTramp

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