Wild Summer: Life in the Heat

Wild Summer: Life in the Heat
Sean Taylor & Alex Morss, illustrated by Cinyee Chiu
Happy Yak

Like many of us, the little girl character in this narrative non-fiction book, is eagerly anticipating the summer. It’s coming, her nature-loving Grandpa tells her, mentioning some of the signs of seasonal change. He also says that close to his new abode is something exciting he wants to show his granddaughter, who acts as narrator.

Grandpa is right: summer with its blue skies and warmer days, does come. The girl reminds him of the thing he mentioned and together they pack a bag and set out along the track.

As they walk the girl notices the abundance of plants and minibeasts, wondering aloud if they want summer to last forever. Grandpa doesn’t supply an immediate answer but responds by suggesting they continue looking and then decide, although he does mention water as being a factor to consider.
Stopping by a stream Grandpa points out a golden-ringed dragonfly and tells his granddaughter a little about the insect. He also points out the mere trickle of water suggesting this could be a result of climate change, a topic the girl has learned about in school.

Further on in the increasing heat, the child expresses a wish to find some shade, and Grandpa likens her to many of the wild flora and fauna, explaining how some respond. They reach a place with trees blackened due to a fire the previous summer, talking of the pros and cons of such events.

Eventually they reach a spot at the edge of the seashore where they find what they’d come for.

Then they continue walking, on the beach now; Grandpa draws attention to some summer-loving Arctic terns, before with the ‘summer forever’ question duly answered, they cool off in the sea.

A companionable walk, and for the little girl, a wonderful learning journey with her Grandpa who educates her in the best possible way, never forcing, merely gently guiding.

Straightforward back-matter comprises an explanatory spread explaining “What is summer?, another giving facts relating to ways some land animals have adapted to better cope with heat. There’s one looking at the evolutionary changes of plants to cope with hot, dry summers and the final one looks at ocean life and how climate change is taking effect while the last page suggests some ways to get involved in wildlife protection.

With its wealth of ecological information and bright, detailed illustrations bursting with wonderful plants and animals to explore and enjoy. this is a terrific book to share either before or after a walk in nature, whether or not it ends on the beach. There’s lots to inspire awe and wonder here.

Busy Spring: Nature Wakes Up

Busy Spring: Nature Wakes Up
Sean Taylor , Alex Morss and Cinyee Chiu
Words & Pictures

If you live in the northern hemisphere, like me you have probably been noticing beautiful wild flowers – snowdrops, daisies, celandines and primroses springing up, an abundance of catkins, blossom starting to open on trees, pussy willow buds bursting; as well as the occasional bee and butterfly. We even saw frogspawn a couple of times last week (the end of February). Definitely spring, with its promise of so much, is my favourite season and this year it seems even more important than ever to celebrate its arrival.

That is exactly what the two children in this beautiful book (written by children’s author Sean Taylor and ecologist Alex Morss) are doing. The older girl acting as narrator, tells us how what starts out as a hunt for Dad’s fork so he can plant some carrots turns into an exploration of the family’s garden. ’Everything smelled like wet earth and sunshine.”

“The spring sunlight is nature’s alarm clock,” Dad says, taking the opportunity to mention pollination.
Both girls are observant, asking lots of questions and noticing signs of new life all around – tadpoles,

a bird building its nest and a wealth of minibeasts – ants, woodlice, worms and beetles and several species of butterfly, as well as playfully emulating some of the creatures they discover.
Throughout, Dad subtly provides snippets of relevant information concerning life cycles, habitats

and what causes the seasons; and throughout the children’s sense of excitement is palpable.

Cinyee Chiu’s illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, beautifully composed and carefully observed.

At the back of the book are several pages of more detailed information about spring and how it affects the flora and fauna, as well as some suggestions for ways children can get involved in helping nature in its struggle against climate change.

A must have book for families with young children, as well as foundation stage settings and KS1 classrooms.

Funny Bums, Freaky Beaks

Funny Bums, Freaky Beaks
Alex Morss & Sean Taylor, illustrated by Sarah Edmonds
Welbeck Publishing

Here’s a clever idea for presenting animals to youngsters: the authors of this alluringly titled book have grouped them by their distinguishing features. In addition to bums and beaks however, there are plenty of other creatures with something special that makes them stand out from the crowd. Moreover those strange features all have a purpose and a story behind them. Those are recounted herein.

Facial features – noses – of the odd kind, extraordinary eyes, ears – weird ones, terrific teeth, so chosen for their size, shape or function, as well as tongues (the stranger the better) are explored. Sun bears, ( they’re the smallest of all bears), have dangly tongues the length of which is a quarter of the creatures’ height. Why? you might wonder. As well as it being essential for obtaining food, a sun bear uses its tongue for grooming purposes.

So what do a blue bird of paradise, a luna moth, a scorpion rattlesnake, a Willani sea slug and a young hoverfly have in common? They all have ‘stunning tails’ – I certainly would never have guessed that. Strictly speaking though, the baby hoverflies’ ‘tails’ are actually breathing tubes used during their early underwater lives.

Necks (perplexing) and toes (puzzling) are also presented. We probably all know about the very long neck a giraffe has but I was amazed to know that it has the same number of neck bones as a mouse; and imagine having toes that you can stretch wider and longer than your entire body like a jacana – very useful if you want to appear to be walking over water.

The authors have found at least ten creatures to include in each of their ten groups and every one has an explanatory paragraph and a gently humorous illustration – some of them are downright alarming-looking.

Compelling reading for wild animal enthusiasts, as well as for budding zoologists and celebrators of difference.