It turns out you really can't trust a faerie. Or, at least, not the ones that appear in illustrator Jessica Albarn's first book, The Boy in the Oak. Meant for adults and children alike, it's the story of a lonely, destructive boy who is cruel to nature, trampling on flowers, carving his initials into trees and frightening creatures. In return, a group of faeries – who take on the guise of the insect that reflects their personality, from dragonflies and butterflies to wasps and ladybirds – trap him in a magical oak.
Illustrated by Albarn, who often focuses on insects on her work, the story is a mix of close-ups such as butterfly wings, spider webs, leaves and fire, each overlaid with delicate pencil drawings. "The idea originated from a tree in my friend's garden which has what always looked to me like the strange face of a boy in the bark, and the story begins in a cottage in the woods that I used to visit as a child," says Albarn, whose brother is Blur's Damon, and who based the faces of the children in the book on her son Rudy and daughter Lola.
To coincide with the launch of the book at London's Liberty store (it will be available exclusively at Liberty until September), there will also be an exhibition of her work (from 17 June to 11 July) and a window display which she's dedicating to her latest obsession, bees.
"I'm fascinated by nature so began collecting dead bumble-bees," she explains. "The thing about insects is that they retain their shape and they don't deteriorate if you look after them. The bee population is in threat and the consequences for the food chain are dire, so it's a homage to bees and their plight. Plus, in the book, it's the Queen Bee who helps the boy."
'The Boy in the Oak' will be published by Simply Read at £12.99 (jessicaalbarn.co.uk)Reuse content