What’s Hidden in the Woods?

posted in: Aina Bestard | 3

whathiddenfrontcoverWhat’s Hidden in the Woods by Aina Bestard (@ainab) is a playful, curiosity-creating picture book with a difference.

At first glance, it’s a simple walk through the woods, but as you slow down and look closely, using a set of special lenses which come packaged with the book, all sorts of hidden stories are revealed. Animals and plants magically appear where there were none before. Gentle prompts on each page draw in readers / listeners / viewers to look again and let themselves be surprised and enchanted by the magic.

Bestard’s illustrative technique makes use of the fact that different coloured lenses filter out different colours printed on the page, disguising some, allowing others to suddenly appear clearly. This approach makes for stylish images also when viewed without any lenses; her limited palette, her highly decorative use of patterns and the clarity of her line all add up to fresh and eye-catching illustrations.

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The experience of reading the book is also very interesting. It becomes something slower and more deliberate, not a race to the end, but rather an invitation to look, and look and look again. Such close observation is sometimes hard to encourage, but here it comes naturally and is hugely enjoyable. My kids both kept checking that they’d not missed any small detail and were truly fascinated by how something so simple as the lenses changed everything.

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We just had to explore the technique used by Bestard ourselves and so we set up a creation station, with lots of different shades of red, yellow, blue and green markers, plus homemade acetate visors in each of the colours. The visors (made from acetate sheets rather than cellophane because acetate is a bit thicker and sturdier) meant that the kids could put them on and draw hands-free (so to say) i.e. without having to hold the magic lenses from the book in one hand.

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There was a real frisson of excitement in the air as we saw how our drawings appeared to reveal hidden secrets as we viewed them through different coloured filters. I’ve tried to show how it looked to us by making this short animation:

Whilst making our own magic images we listened to:

  • These Are My Glasses by Laurie Berkner – this is a very short song with actions that you could use in class or storytime.
  • The Red and Yellow Blues by Greg Percy. This one is for tapping your toes to (or air-guitaring along to….).
  • Little Magic Glasses by Johnny Cash. Long-time blog readers will know I have a serious weakness for anything sung by Johnny Cash.



  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading What’s Hidden in the Woods include:

  • Making actual goggles instead of visors. We liked the look of these toilet roll glasses from Krokotak, and these egg carton spy glasses from Crafts by Amanda.
  • Going for a walk in some nearby woods and seeing what you can spot (with or without magic glasses). For folk in the the UK, The Woodland Trust has a great site with lots of resources and tips for getting out into a forest near you and having a great time. Perhaps you could join in with their ancient tree hunt? Did you know that you can use the HUG method to identify ancient trees?
  • Exploring patterns. Bestard’s illustrations are highly patterned, full of repeating motifs. If you’re unsure where to start, this tutorial gives one way in to exploring repeating patterns made up from several individually very simple motifs. I think kids might enjoy creating such patterns on scratchboard.

  • Once you’ve enjoyed What’s Hidden in the Woods I’d recommend you look out for The Great Journey by Agathe Demois (which makes use of the same technique), and also for the books published by PatrickGeorge. The latter make very clever use of coloured acetate but in a completely different way to Bestard.

    If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • A review of Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson along with our self-adhesive sandwich boards for outdoor collectors!
  • A review of Tree by Britta Teckentrup plus how we made our own seasonally spectacular tree collage.
  • Exploring outdoors and becoming a museum curator.
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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

    3 Responses

    1. What a fantastic way of exploring without going outside! This is such a fascinating concept for a book and your follow up activity looks really fun 🙂 Would you say that this is a picture book for older children or can younger ones enjoy it too?
      Catherine recently posted..Story Snug’s Advent Calendar 2015

      • Catherine, the illustrations are quite detailed and the concept of looking through the lenses to see what has changed I think would be difficult for toddlers so I wouldn’t say it was for the very youngest. My 7 and 10 year old both got a lot out of it. I’d probably say best from 5….. although i always find this very difficult to pinpoint!
        Zoe recently posted..What’s Hidden in the Woods?

    2. […] brilliantly on children’s literature and devises amazing hands-on activities for kids, like this post on activities to tie in with Aina Bestard’s What’s Hidden In The Woods, which also manages to sneak a New Year’s appropriate Johnny Cash song into the […]

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