Emulating its predecessor Creaturepedia (2015) in format and whimsy, Barman’s latest exerts a quirky organization upon more than 600 plants.
In 49 alphabetically arranged sections of three to six pages each, plants are grouped by color, size, habitat, and even smell. “The Confused Fruits”—cucumber, eggplant, and zucchini among them—“think they’re vegetables” (each contains seeds, a characteristic of fruit). Illustrating “The Healers,” people in medieval clothing proffer branches of Saint-John’s-wort (for “mild depression”) or sip lemon-balm tea (for calming nerves). “The Old Timers” groups trees known for their longevity—olive, ginkgo, giant sequoia—inserting tortoises, dinosaurs, and crocs for fun. With a few exceptions (echinacea, for instance) the plants are identified by their common names. The sparse text offers facts, lore, and brief definitions. The focus here is on Barman’s wry, bright, inventive digital compositions, which yield both a stylized fidelity to plant forms and goofy visual jokes. “Garden vegetables” depicts root, leaf, and seed crops along with a mole gleefully terrifying nearby earthworms. With the exception of several ancient Egyptians, two brown-skinned people sniffing fragrant blossoms, and three brown hands reaching toward “prickly” plants, the cartoonish humans appear to be white. There’s little regard for scale or specifically discrete geographical habitats—but that’s not Barman’s intention. In the appendix of leaf shapes, information about the margins and veins of leaves appears, bafflingly, to be missing.
More science-y than scientific, this encyclopedic effort is ideal for quiet browsing and family sharing. (contents, index) (Nonfiction. 5-8)