Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim have done it again. Their first collaboration, 2012’s You Are Stardust, was a breath of fresh air, inventive in its theme and gorgeous diorama-based illustration. Wild Ideas is equally delightful and thought-provoking.
The book’s subtitle is Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking, and this is just what Kelsey advises her readers to do, as she celebrates the myriad creative ways in which animals solve problems. When faced with a challenge, animals can get frustrated, but they watch, think, and persevere, and we can do this, too. Problems may be bothersome, but they can also act as a springboard to amazing discoveries.
Kelsey, an environmental scientist with numerous books to her credit, manages to convey a lot of science in few words. She explains various animals’ behaviour – including how chimpanzees use leaves to make drinking cups and how the mimic octopus pretends to be other creatures – with just enough detail to render them understandable without weighing down the text. This, combined with the odd “zzzip!” or “pop,” makes Wild Ideas a great book to read out loud. Kelsey also hints at how much more is waiting to be explored and discovered.
Enveloping all of these wonderful ideas is Kim’s striking artwork – the eye can’t help but be entranced by her sublime dioramas. Just as Kelsey addresses her readers directly, Kim invites them into her illustrations. In each scene, children take part in the adventure. They spy through binoculars, catch a ride on a bird in flight, or swim with whales. The mingling of delicate but detailed illustrations with bits of felt, string, and other materials creates pure magic on the page.