The Big Book of Blooms

The Big Book of Blooms
Yuval Zommer
Thames & Hudson

How much joy can be packed between the covers of a book? An infinite amount when it comes to Yuval Zommer’s splendiferous botanical offering. I put my hand up to being a botany enthusiast having studied the subject at A-level and spending a gap year working in the herbarium at Kew so have an abiding interest in the subject but I defy anyone not to be bowled over by this visual stunner.

Topically organised the basics are covered in the first few spreads – floral families, plant anatomy,

pollination and reproduction, followed by a look at some of the useful things flowers provide.

Next is a zoom in to some specific kinds of flora: the carnivorous Venus flytrap (there’s just a single species and it grows wild in swamps and bogs on the East coast of the USA); roses – I was astonished to read that it takes 15.4 litres of water to produce a single flower; the ancient proteas that could be found as long ago as 90 million years when dinosaurs roamed the earth; cherry blossom trees with their delicate pink and white flowers that delight so many of us in the springtime; tulips, giant water lilies and another carnivore– the Pitcher plants.

Some flowers, despite their striking, sometimes beautiful appearance, smell something rotten. That’s to attract carnivorous pollinators such as carrion flies; but to my vegetarian sensibilities, their ‘rotting meat smell’ would be a huge turn off: the ‘Stinking Flowers’ spread was the only one I didn’t linger long over: I could almost smell the odour emanating from that parasitic corpse lily that lacks roots, shoots, stems and leaves.

Despite the exotic nature of a number of the flowers featured I think my favourite spread of all is that devoted to wild flowers, some of which are flowering abundantly very close to my home as I write.

The final few pages are allocated to seed dispersal, plant defence, there’s a spread devoted to Kew Gardens and some of the work that goes on there both inside and out; a plea for the protection of vital habitats and some suggestions for becoming a gardener without a garden.

There’s also a final glossary and index.

With the wealth of fauna on every spread, Yuval injects just the right amount of mischievous humour into his illustrations.

To add further interest and to ensure that readers study every page with the close attention it merits, he’s planted a golden bulb to search for on fifteen of the spreads .

Written in consultation with experts from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. this is a must have for family bookshelves, classroom collections and anywhere that budding botanists might be taking root.

Absolutely BLOOMING BRILLIANT!

Natural World

DSCN8020

Curiositree Natural World
Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and Owen Davey
Wide Eyed Editions
This is a weighty tome chock full of wonder: ‘ Visual Compendium of Wonders from Nature’ is how it’s billed and it most definitely is: essentially, almost a visit to the Natural History Museum in a book.
And what better way to begin than with this Albert Einstein quotation: “I HAVE NO SPECIAL TALENTS. I AM ONLY PASSIONATELY CURIOUS.” That sets the scene for an amazing investigative odyssey based on sixty-seven colour-coded wall charts. This is indicative of the subject matter: yellow informs about habitats; orange focuses on particular plant or animal species; blue charts look at animal behaviour or adaptations. The first spread introduces the seven characteristics of all living things be they animal or plant.

DSCN8039

This is followed by a look at the classification of organisms with an example of the Grey Wolf broken down into the seven levels from kingdom through to species.

%0A

There is a natural flow through the chart topics: groups lead into habitats, and thence into ‘The fight for Survival’. Thereafter a loose logical organisational path is followed: Life in Tropical Rainforests leads to ‘Who Lives Here?’ (yes, there are specific questions for consideration every so often), followed by a close look at one specific rare creature, The Curious Aye-Aye.

%0A

Then follows a look at ‘Living in the Dark

DSCN8024

Insects have always held a particular fascination for me so I flipped through and came upon a spread entitled Interesting Insects:

DSCN8025

after which came – entirely logically – this one:

DSCN8026

followed by Life in the Honeybee Hive.
Most spreads are landscape though an occasional one has a portrait orientation like here in On Top of the World:

DSCN8028

that allows the animals found at different levels from forest floor to Snow Zone to be shown to greater effect.
In the final spread, The Changing Planet, the mood shifts from celebratory to solemn as we see a polluted landscape with belching chimneys, aircraft and much more, harming air, land and water and threatening the survival of a whole host of species, plant and animal. It’s up to we humans – Homo Sapiens (wise man) to take responsibility and protect our precious planet for those who come after: a compelling message we ignore at our peril.
Owen Daveys’ art work is stupendous: a fusion of retro-style and ultra mod. computer graphics that is perfect for this book.
Every possible consideration is given to design, right down to the dust jacket which, when removed opens out into a large poster to display on your wall. There are even three marker ribbons, one orange, one yellow and one blue, in keeping with the colour-coding of the charts.
A must buy for the family bookshelf, the school or college library; in fact for any organisation that cares about life and the interconnectedness of everything.
WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2