In The Forest by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud (Tate Publishing, £12.99)
If you had to sum up In The Forest in just three words, it would be “all about perspective”. Thankfully, we don’t have do, as such a dry perfunctory summation cannot do justice to the absolute visual treat that is Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud’s pop-up, painterly collaboration. Ostensibly an environmental yarn, our tale begins as an abundance of vibrant 3D trees spring forth, accompanied by simple prose evoking the sights and sounds of the rainforest. “Everything is green, everything is full of life, birds sing on the branches,” trills the jubilant narrator in retro plain text typeface. “Big cats lounge in the shade, anteaters dig for food in the tree trunks and a sloth – can you see it? – sways gently in the leaves.”
Then, by way of clever cut-outs, the foliage thins with each page, making way for “metal monsters”, danger-red mechanical aggressors, disturbing the pleasant curves of the landscape with spiky saws and spewing brittle twigs. Eventually, all that remains is a sparse white page and a sense of foreboding swelling from the lone standing tree, over which a pincer tightens his grip on our beloved sloth’s branch. The forest is “destroyed” and, most heartbreakingly, the sloth has disappeared. Feeling fretful about a children’s tale painting quite such a merciless picture? Well, then you’d be missing the wood for the trees, as the final pages erupt with renewed life and a jubilant call-to-arms celebrating the power of the individual.
Taking the sizeable issue of deforestation and packaging it into a children’s book requires a deft hand in scaling-down too, with Boisrobert and Rigaud choosing to distil a vast problem into the plight of one of its inhabitants. “The sloth appears to be a very good symbol of the passivity of men in front of the destruction of the rain forest,” says Boisrobert, refocusing your child’s fertile mind from sweeping devastation to spotting an animal and following his individual story. The polygonal illustrated forest offers a range of visual perspectives, too – pick the book up and spin it around for a different take on every scene. This clever book tells an important lesson with youthful joie de vivre, as well as matching preach and practice by printing from environmentally responsible paper and soy ink. Ultimately, the message here is not of worthy handwringing but optimistic hope and possibility. “We were looking for an original subject and someone made a joke about deforestation,” says Rigaud. “It was challenging to make a story for children about it. We finally found the idea of a pull-tab to make the plants grow and give a touch of hope at the end.”