They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But whoever coined said epithet obviously hadn’t encountered The Birds and the Bees: a beautiful collection of five contemporary novels published with special covers illustrated by esteemed creative design studio, Timorous Beasties. Leading Vintage Classics’ collection of nature-themed books is the multi-award-winning H is for Hawk: Helen McDonald’s wonderful, sensitively-observed account of a year spent training a goshawk following her father’s death.

the birds and the bees books

The other birds are Mark Cocker’s Crow Country and The Running Sky by Tim Dee, while bees come courtesy of Dave Goulson’s A Sting in the Tale and Sean Borodale’s Bee Journal. Each of the books has been deftly and individually designed, with Timorous Beasties keen eye for detail and love of nature ensuring that the cover illustrations are every bit as captivating as the stories themselves. Yes, of course they’d make a perfect gift, but the hand-drawn art works do really succeed in bringing the covers to life.

a sting in the tale

The Birds and the Bees isn’t the creative duo’s first book project, but it is their most extensive. Of the process, Timorous Beasties’ Paul Simmons explains: “I could say it was quite easy, but that might undermine the amount of work that went into them. Initially I had designed a wallpaper called ‘Birds and the Bees’, which became the inspiration for the covers, and fitted the brief perfectly. I then had to draw the ‘hero’ images for each book, and fit them within the pattern, work out the repeats, and colour them.”

bee journal birds and the bees

The level of detail and careful craftsmanship in the intricate designs makes these novels you’ll love to show off on your bookshelves too – they really are works of art. Timorous Beasties capture the glorious majesty and fascination of the animal kingdom perfectly – but also its darker side. Bestseller H is for Hawk happens to be Simmons’ favourite of the series: “I do love a bird of prey, and the goshawk is also grasping a dead bird which gives it that slightly sinister message that although nature is beautiful, it is also cruel.”

The Birds and The Bees Vintage Classics

For more information, see the Penguin Vintage Classics website. Further detail on the design process is also available on the publisher’s Tumblr.