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Books about animals, birds and all living things, their habitat and our world
A wonderful introduction to how a modern place somewhere in the UK will have been created over the centuries, this beautiful picture book cleverly records the history of a place as it would look from the perspective of an oak tree. Oaks are famous for the exceptional number of years that they live and their permanence makes an interesting contrast to how frequently humans change the landscape. “I first was an acorn, so tiny and round,/I fell from a branch and sank into the ground./ Then as I grew up, I turned into a tree…/ over hundreds of years! So, what did I see?” Taken together, the simple rhyming text matched by beautiful and carefully detailed illustrations offer a delightful history lesson. The book ends with a useful timeline: "What was happening in the world while the oak tree grew?". It comes right up to the present with the spreading of the Covid-19 virus!
Discover all there is to love about our Blue Planet, the stories of its inhabitants, and realise how you can help protect this wilderness beneath the waves. In collaboration with BBC Earth, this illustrated non-fiction book captures the wonder, beauty, and emotion of the landmark Blue Planet II TV series. Find out more about Blue Planet II in this interview with Leisa Stewart-Sharpe and Emily Dove
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2020 | Nature is full of record-breaking adventures which are brought to life in the detailed and dramatic illustrations that fill every inch of the large scale book. Global in its reach, it is a gold mine of information as it takes readers on a world tour of astonishing achievements. There’s the fastest land animal – the cheetah from Botswana, the hottest place on Earth – Ethiopia, The Longest-erupting Volcano – Italy and many more. Across thirty gloriously bold spreads readers will discover wonderful and surprising facts about all kinds of aspects of the planet.
The duo that produced the cultural phenomenon that took the publishing world by storm in 2017, winning awards and sparking dozens of fundraising campaigns to get The Lost Words into every primary school, have now produced a book very different in form, but absolutely kindred in spirit and every bit as essential a purchase. This is a pocket-sized treasure containing twenty-one new ‘spells’- poems inspired by the natural world around us. These animals, birds, trees and flowers may be relatively common but are often underappreciated and ignored. Whereas The Lost Words had a formal triptych structure to its spells, this collection is freer and ranges from celebratory to elegiac and sorrowful. As the introduction says “Loss is the tune of our age, hard to miss and hard to bear.... But there has always been singing in dark times—and wonder is needed now more than ever.” Acrostic poems with the letters picked out in gold, feature most in this collection, as does the poet’s amazing facility with kennings and descriptive word play shown to great comic effect in Woodpecker “Chisel-gouger, head-banger, bark-stripper, nerve-shredder” Structured as a dialogue with badger one can see how much this lends itself to reading and performing aloud as indeed is the author’s intention with all the collection. The lyrical consonant tones or staccato beats of these beautiful spells is absolutely matched by the harmonious fluidity of the watercolour images that grace each page. From the challenging gaze of the red fox to the eyelike whorls of silver birch bark to the balletic wings of the swift wrapping around the words, the images fix the words indelibly into your mind. Lockdown saw a widespread recognition of the necessity for contact with the natural world to maintain health and well-being. This book is the perfect walking companion with a glossary identifying each species depicted, allowing this small but powerful book to do double-duty as an artful field guide. As Macfarlane writes In Goldfinch, apparently composed while sitting at his grandmother’s deathbed, "God knows the world needs all the good it can get right now“.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2020 | Have you ever wondered how a forest gets started? With huge trees growing up close and dense undergrowth covering the ground, their scale is so mighty that it is hard to think that they could ever have been small. Are they man made? Did an enormous giant or a massive business enterprise put them there? In a gentle and elegant story matched by simple, evocative illustrations Who Makes a Forest? helps children explore the multi-faceted ecosystem that sustains the many forests that cover so much of the earth’s surface. From the soil, made from the decay left by tiny clinging plants such as lichen and the insects that feed on them, through the first flowers that grow in that soil and the butterflies and bees and birds that feed off them to the massive trees and shrubs that we see today all stages of forest growth are covered. The book ends with 5 pages of useful facts about forests.
A Circle of Life Story | Life is everywhere, we read at the close of this exceptional picture information book, and every page prior is brimming with it, so vividly depicted in Daniel Egnéus’ illustrations that you can almost hear the yapping and gekkering of the fox cubs, their mother’s barks, and all the constant bustle and hum of the natural world. Even in death we see there is life: the mother fox is hit and killed by a car but immediately tiny creatures get to work. As the seasons roll round and winter turns to spring, new life grows again and the particles that made up the fox become something else. Text and illustration together explain the circle of life with an extraordinary clarity while retaining a sense of the sheer wonder of it all. Share this with children who want to know what happens when something dies, or who just want to understand our world better. You can find more wintry & festive stories in our Best Books for Kids this Christmas collection!
October 2020 Debut of the Month | What a roar-some romp this is! With its read-along rhymes, fun flaps to lift and energetic animals, toddlers will adore grrr-ing, snapping, ooo-ing, hissing and ROARING their way through this jamboree of jungle dwellers. It’s a joy to read aloud, ideally with exuberant accompaniment from little animal lovers. The rhythmic, rhyming text invites readers to engage with larger-than-life animals in their natural habitats - a tiger hiding in tall bamboo, a crocodile lurking in a lilypond, a snake slithering through leaves, a monkey curled in a tree, a lion prowling a plain - while sharing information about their physical characteristics and - of course - the sounds they make. It’s a beautiful book to behold, too - Katerina Kerouli’s style is both bold and understated. Her palette has an elegant mid-century feel, and her animals are oh-so chicly expressive.
September 2020 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | This is a non-fiction book with a difference! Using his amazing ‘tranimalator’ machine, which, he tells us, translates animals’ sounds into words, author Andy Seed ‘interviews’ a horde or scary animals, including a tiger, a fierce honey badger and a snow leopard. He asks them some really interesting questions too and we learn all sorts of things – why humans are scared of wolves, how a massive animal like a giant anteater survives eating teeny little insects, what lionesses think of male lions (not much actually!). It’s quirky and lots of fun – some of these animal celebs have wicked senses of humour – but genuinely informative (I had no idea that jaguars eat caimans, or that giant armadillos build new dens every couple of days, or that sloths have mould growing on them!). It reminds us how many of these animals are threatened too and what we can do to help. The illustrations match the tone and it’s bright and engaging throughout. This is a book that children will be keen to share and to return to.
Radiating warmth through words and pictures as it lays bare wonders of the world, this extended picture book was inspired by the author’s meetings with children from around the globe as a supporter of UNICEF and Save the Children. Framed as a letter to interplanetary guests (“Dear visitor from Outer Space, if you come to Earth, here’s what you need to know”), it takes in the big and the small with huge heart and wisdom. The whole of life is here, from recognising and celebrating human difference (“Each of us is different. But all of us are amazing. And, together, we share one beautiful planet”), to portraying the animals of the sea, land and air that grace Earth. It also shows how we communicate through words, signs, music and art, and gently points out that while we sometimes hurt each other, “it’s better when we help each other.” And the mysteries of existence are touched on too - “There are lots of things we don’t know. We don’t know where we were before we were born, or where we go when we die. But right this minute we are here together on this beautiful planet.” What a wonderful gift-to-treasure this will make - a delight to read aloud and share thoughts about.
The brilliant picture book artist Marion Deuchars passes on painting and drawing tips in this inspiring how-to book and makes it easy and fun to create your own crowd of colourful animals from greyhounds to giraffes. Techniques include collage and print alongside regular sketching and painting, but most fun probably are her tips for hand and finger painting – you can make so many different, characterful animals out of simple fingerprints by copying her examples, though the blow-painting pages are just as tempting. This will bring out the inner artist in anyone and lead to hours of creative fun.
Rob Ramsden is an exciting new arrival on the picture book scene and We Planted a Pumpkin is a really lovely book, just the thing to get young children excited about nature, eager to plant seeds and see them grow. It stars two very young gardeners and follows them through the process of planting a pumpkin seed, from watching and impatiently waiting for it to grow as the seasons change. The children bring liveliness and action to every scene, but there’s always lots going on – new shoots appearing, mini-beasts flying in and out. Though it feels beautifully simple, it’s actually chockful of information and opportunities for learning. A gorgeous book to share with the young and likely to be the start of many adventures in the garden.
With a short, simple but often lyrical text, and through striking, beautiful illustrations, Moth tells the story of the peppered moth, and through that explains evolution and describes the changing landscapes of our world. The peppered moth provides a perfect example of natural selection: some moths are born with speckled wings, some are charcoal black. The speckled markings are most effective as camouflage when moths are resting on pale tree branches, but as the Industrial Revolution begins and trees are covered in sooty deposits from factories and chimneys, suddenly the black moths do better and their numbers rise. Then, as laws are passed to reduce pollution and the air clears, the situation is reversed again, and the number of speckled moths increases. Not only does this encapsulate natural evolution, it also reminds us of nature’s resilience and offers hope for the future. The final line encourages children to go out and observe moths for themselves, something this book will surely inspire them to do.