Around the World in 80 Trees / Around the World in 80 Musical Instruments

Here are two titles in a Welbeck Publishing series – thanks to the publisher for sending them for review

Around the World in 80 Trees
Ben Lerwill and Kaja Kajfež

Trees are crucial to life on Earth: they release oxygen. They also provide food, medicine, materials and shelter and since Stone Age times have been prized by humans, some cultures even seeing certain of them as holy. So says Ben Lerwill in his introductory spread for this book.

Then having explained the different kinds of trees (coniferous and broadleaf) and their various parts, with the help of Kaja Kajfež’s gorgeous, detailed illustrations, he takes readers, around the globe to find out about some of 60,000 plus species that are found in the Americas, followed in turn by Africa, Europe and Asia, and finally Oceania. Between each main geographical section are spreads on more general topics – leaves,

roots, pollination, flowers and seeds, and the importance of trees.
Do you know what the oldest tree in the world is, or where it grows? I knew that it’s been named Methuselah but not that it’s the bristlecone pine and has been growing in the White Mountains of California for over 4850 years. In the same state is another record breaker, the coast redwood, the tallest known tree. Other locations visited in this section are the tropical Amazon rainforest and the Andes.
Growing in several parts of the African continent is the mighty baobab, six of the seven species of which I read, can only be found on Madagascar.

Such is the strength of baobab bark that it can be used to make nets, ropes, bags, homes even; and happily the bark that’s ripped off is always replaced by new growth.
Whether you dip in and out of this book or read it straight through, you’ll likely learn something new and exciting; but in conclusion, the author provides a stark reminder that it’s important we all play our part in helping the future health of these wonderful plants.

Around the World in 80 Musical Instruments
Nancy Dickman and Sue Downing

No matter where on earth you might go, you’ll always come across people making music; we might call music-making a universal phenomenon. There are many hundreds of different musical instruments to be found all over the world and they are used for many purposes including for concerts, alongside dancers, in celebrations, for religious ceremonies, and even unfortunately, as a form of intimidation or aggression.

In her account for this book, author Nancy Dickman groups eighty of them under four main headings based on how the instruments make their sounds: percussion instruments, stringed instruments, wind instruments

and a miscellaneous assortment she calls ‘weird and wonderful instruments’. She’s also created a very helpful musical family tree discovered by opening a central gatefold.

We read about the various materials used in the making of the instruments featured in each of the four sections as well as the places in which they are played. Although I’ve seen and heard hundreds of instruments and collected a good many in my travels, I encountered many new to me in this fascinating book with Sue Dowling’s bold illustrations large and small; I’m sure other readers will too.

For school collections and interested individuals from around seven.

Sunshine at Bedtime / Let’s Go Outside

Sunshine at Bedtime
Clare Helen Welsh and Sally Soweol Han
Storyhouse Publishing

When inquisitive young Miki realises that despite being told it’s time for bed, the evening is still light and the sun shining. she’s puzzled. As her mum sees her to bed, she begins to explain and the two of them then embark on a journey of discovery that takes them soaring off into the sky far from Miki’s bedroom across land and sea and out into space.

As they travel Mummy explains how the earth spins on its axis once every 24 hours and slowly slowly orbits the sun during the four seasons that comprise a year. Miki notices Earth leaning towards the Sun giving summer to the people residing in the north and Mum fills in that in the south at this time, it’s winter and thus less sunshine and longer, darker nights.
They then watch as the north leans away from the Sun, which is then sharing its light with the south 

and after flying over all the places the sun shines, it’s time to return and for Miki to got to bed.

Told in Clare Helen Walsh’s poetic prose and shown through Sally Soweol Han’s illustrations – a mix of double page spreads, strip sequences and occasional vignettes showing views of earth and space, this story is one to share and discuss now as the days begin to draw out, for UK audiences at least. (More details about the earth and its tilt and the sun are given at the end of the story.)

Let’s Go Outside!
Ben Lerwill and Marina Ruiz
Welbeck Publishing

What joys there are waiting for those who venture outdoors suitably clad of course, no matter the weather. That’s what author Ben Lerwill and illustrator Marina Ruiz make evident in this foray through the seasons as we join the group of friends who make the most of every opportunity. There are hills to climb, forests with their wealth of wildlife to explore and if you venture close to the sea, then you’ll certainly notice the wind in your hair and face. 

It’s always great to feel the warm sun on your face, especially if like the children here you take a rest, lie back and just breathe. Minibeasts in abundance are there for the finding especially if like one or two of the nature detectives herein, you’ve remembered to take along a magnifying glass on your walk.
The gently sloping hills are great places for some roly poly romping and who can resist a chance for
dam making like these young co-operators.

I have to admit I often need to make myself go out when it’s raining hard: not so the group of friends herein. They’re quick to find lots of sploshy puddles to jump in. Whereas a snowy day means snow angels, creating snow sculptures and of course, a game of snowballs.

Whatever the season, there’s plenty to relish and most likely by the end of the day, as it is with the friends in the book who go their separate ways, a cosy home awaits.

The last two double spreads are devoted to some starting points for discussion and questions to tempt young readers, no matter where they live, to leave their screens and embrace the exciting outdoors.

One World Many Colours

One World Many Colours
Ben Lerwill and Alette Straathof
Words & Pictures

Award winning travel writer Ben Lerwill takes readers on a journey to celebrate the wonderful colours to be discovered all over the world, demonstrating his opening line ‘We share one world. We share many colours.’

We travel from the desert of Oman with its white Arabian oryx, to icy white Antarctica whose ‘frozen land furls out forever’ and the Sydney Opera House glowing in the morning light,

all the way to the pyramids of Egypt glowing at the day’s end as the final rays of the sun bathe the ancient stones in a beautiful red light.

In between, the journey takes us to see the soft pink blossoms of the cherry trees in Japan and the lakes of Kenya with their pink hued flamingos.

Yellow stands out glowing and gleaming in a football stadium in Brazil, on the New York streets with their numerous taxi cabs and in the sunflower fields of Spain – silent save only for the wind’s whisper.

Blue is found not only in the deepest oceans and in the sky above Mount Everest but also on the beautiful feathers of the Canadian blue jay.

The wilds of South Africa, the countryside of Vietnam with its ripening rice fields and the Amazon Rainforest all glow with their gorgeous greens.

Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong are alive with red but equally bright is the London double-decker bus driving over Westminster Bridge during the rush hour.

Our magical journey shows that the same vibrant colours are found in nature, in culture and in our cities. Both Lerwill and illustrator Alette Straathof will surely open the eyes of young readers to the wonders of our world while also linking us all together through a shared colour spectrum. Connectivity indeed.

Alette’s colour palette is rich and vibrant; Ben’s writing lyrical and a breath of fresh air; together they’ve created a captivating book that is uplifting, and gently educational.

Wild Lives

Wild Lives
Ben Lerwill, illustrated by Sarah Walsh
Nosy Crow

Subtitled 50 Extraordinary Animals that Made History, this large book celebrates animals large and small that deserve to be remembered for all time.

They are grouped together under category headings: Rescue & Protect, Adventure & Explore, Change & Solve, Discover & Pioneer and Inspire & Influence.

I’m ashamed to say that many of these amazing animals and their feats have passed me by. Not though, thanks to Michael Morpurgo’s book Running Wild based on their escape, Ning Nong the elephant that saved the life of a little girl staying in Phuket in the 2004 tsunami.

The first creature in the same opening section is Cher Ami a homing pigeon that towards the end of the First World War managed to withstand bullet injuries to her breast, leg and eye to deliver a crucial message about a battalion of American soldiers who were unknowingly being attacked by their own men. In the same section is Wojtek, an ursine member of the Polish army during WW2 when, standing on his hind legs he carried onto the battlefield vital heavy boxes of bullets and bombs.

Many people know about Laika the space dog but how many know of Montauciel the sheep that also took flight, in a hot-air balloon no less? I certainly didn’t.

Because of Dianne Hofmeyr’s picture book Zeraffa Giraffa, I was familiar with the story of Zaraffa the giraffe that was sent from Egypt in the early C19th to Paris as a gift for the King of France. These animals are remembered in the Adventure & Explore section.

Again on account of a picture book, My Name is Bob, by James Bowen whose life was changed by the stray feline that befriended him, I knew of Streetcat Bob, celebrated in the Change & Solve section. It’s thanks to this fascinating section too that I learnt about another dog that changed a life forever. Endal, became an assistance dog to a wounded naval officer, Allen, and subsequently won a gold medal for bravery when Allen was hit by a car and knocked out of his wheelchair. The dog was able to move him to a safe position, run to a hotel close by and raise the alarm. Incredible.

Other animals whose stories are part of this fascinating book have had an influence on how we relate to the natural world, or have enhanced our understanding of social interaction and behaviour. Some including the dog Hackiko, Keiko the orca whale (Free Willy), Elsa the Lioness and Seabiscuit the champion racehorse have become film stars.

Every spread includes Sarah Walsh’s empathetic illustrations along with archive photos and sometimes, relevant documents; and each has a  quotation from a person, a press cutting or perhaps a TV programme.

The book ends with a world map showing where each of the fifty animals was born, annotated with a postage stamp size portrait  and a glossary.

Engrossing and enlightening Ben Lerwill’s first book for children will delight animal lovers of all ages.