By Jo Brown


Secrets of a Devon Wood is appropriately named: this book is a hidden gem. Its dust jacket is underwhelming and blends into the shelves of other nature books, but if you take it off the olive-coloured cloth-bound hardback covered in ink drawings of fungi gives you an indication of what you’re about to discover…

Open the book and you’ve opened an artist’s drawing book. Laid out exactly as if you’re reading the original – complete with Tippex corrections and minor crossed-out mistakes – is the nature diary of Jo Brown.

Clearly a labour of love, the pages are filled with stunningly beautiful, coloured illustrations along with interesting facts and common and Latin names. This is my new favourite way to learn.

Hayley Kinsey Secrets of a Devon Wood 2

As I read this book, I found myself wondering why we don’t have more ID books and learning resources like this. What do you think? Perhaps convention? Printing cost? Whatever the reason I hope we get over it and print more books like this. My favourite way to learn is by reading, and yet I still found looking at the pictures and diagrams in this book an incredibly engaging and effective way to learn; I imagine this book will be treasured by visual learners as a rare example of a resource focused on their learning preference.

I feel like Secrets of a Devon Wood will become something I get on a soap box about. I can already feel myself talking about it after two drinks and demanding to know why we don’t learn like this more often, why we’re missing this fantastic way to convey information.

Hayley Kinsey Secrets of a Devon Wood 3

The pages are so beautiful that this book would make a great bedside or coffee table book, if only it were possible to put it down. I’d say it’s a great book to dip in and out of, but you’re more likely to avidly read it in one session than to put it back down.

Hayley Kinsey Secrets of a Devon Wood 4

My one disappointment with this book was that there are only 89 pages of drawings – the pages are thick and there are 18 blank pages at the end for you to start your own nature journal. I can only hope that Brown releases many more wonderful books like this.

Hayley Kinsey Secrets of a Devon Wood 5

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