Tag Archive for Scott Katie

How Botanicum Came to Life by Katie Scott


I am delighted to host Katie Scott on the blog today. She previously illustrated Animalium, which was published to high acclaim in 2014. It was one of the new heavily illustrated and gorgeously presented non-fiction titles for children that have come to dominate this particular market. And now, Katie has returned with Botanicum, a glorious plant museum with 100 full colour pages, which brings Kew gardens into a child’s own bedroom – wherever it may be. 

Working on Botanicum has been such a wonderful process. When I first spoke to the publishers about the idea I couldn’t have been happier with the subject matter. Even though Animalium was an incredible book to work on, it’s the plant kingdom that has always been my strongest source of inspiration.


Just before we started to plan out the book, I heard the news that Kew would like to be involved. And shortly after that, more good news that their Director of Science, Kathy Willis, would be interested in writing it! The association with Kew has brought the book to a different level than we could have achieved on our own. The resources there are incomparable to any others.

On my first day visiting I was shown a fern specimen, collected by Charles Darwin, in their Herbarium, which houses over seven million plant specimens. Their rare book and art archivist presented me with a selection of botanical prints and handwritten manuscripts, the earliest of which dates back to the 13th century. I’m fascinated by early science, and to see some of the earliest botany books on record was possibly the most inspiring way to start the Botanicum journey.

Many more days were spent in the gardens, and the nurseries, wandering around and collecting names of specimens I thought we should include. I like that the Botanicum cover refers to Kathy and myself as ‘curators’. I feel that’s an accurate description of how the project came together. The list of plants we included were very much curated, and in a very collaborative way. Some I would insist on having, others were ‘must haves’ for Kathy . And in this way I think we have made a collection that includes the most visually fascinating, scientifically interesting and historically important.


In total I think the book took about six months for me to illustrate. Which is nearly double the time it took to create Animalium. There is so much more detail and I think plants as a subject simply take me longer to draw. I wanted the book to show the diversity of shapes and colours in the plant / fungi kingdoms, and for each page to feel different from the last: whether that’s the twisting and flowing composition of Creepers and Vines, or the linear and structured layout of Bulbs. We were also quite keen to give a few plants the space to sit alone, which was granted to Ginkgo (genetically quite isolated) and the Giant Water Lily, which seemed to warrant a solo page to highlight the incredible size and beauty of its leaf.

With thanks to Katie for her insight. You can buy the book here

Animalium by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott


An absolute colossus of a book, Animalium screams ‘gift purchase’ and fittingly was published in time for Christmas. In fact that’s how it came through our front door – a hefty £20 present for a child, in a format that would make any bookseller weep (where to display/where to shelve?)

For all the hype, Animalium does not disappoint. In fact, it delights. Fights in our household over who was reading it first resulted in a compromise of reading aloud, and luckily it’s large enough that all three children could fit round the book. The aesthetic beauty of the book is apparent straight away – its huge smooth matt pages, with intricate and luxurious illustrations – some cut away skeletons, some full animal drawings.

The book invites the reader into the ‘museum’ that’s open 365 days a year and 24 hours a day – and the illustrations really do seem resplendent and yet muted – as if they are behind glass – and the accompanying text gives the impression of being the information board lying alongside.

The strength of the illustrations and the friendliness of the text make this a most warm and inviting museum. Jenny Broom’s tidbits of text provide copious detail in breathtaking conciseness. The information isn’t run of the mill either – but carefully picked out facts:

“[Crocodiles’] ears are so sensitive that they can hear calls from their unborn young still inside their eggs.”

The layout guides you through the book in a sensible manner – if you can drag yourself away from the opening illustration of the Tree of Animal Life! It is aimed at 8+ yrs, although any child or adult would happily meander the pages of this fine museum.