The Season of the Giraffes / Wild Animals of the World

The Season of Giraffes
Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton
Walker Books

This the first of the publishers new Protecting the Planet series looks at the effects of climate change on the much loved giraffes of Niger; its inspiration was the work of climate activist and film maker, Kisilu Musya.

Once some time back giraffes were very much a part of everyday life in Niger: and considered a blessing in the same way as the birds, the trees and the rain. The children saw them browsing the trees on their morning walk to school or when they brought home the cattle at night; the giraffes had a strange fighting regime and communicated in a language of grunts and snorts.

However the number of these graceful animals sadly started to decline as more and more buildings, roads and farms filled the land and then on account of climate change the rains began to fail too. The result was terrible droughts that parched the land causing much suffering to both animals and humans.

Soon very few giraffes were left in Africa but in the country of Niger, there was still time to save the few that remained. The humans stopped hunting, protected the trees giraffes fed on as well as the creatures’ favoured places and gradually, then more rapidly, the giraffe population increased. So much so that some have been transported by truck to other parts where they live under the watchful eye and care of wildlife rangers and scientists. The hope is that one day these beautiful animals might be able to return to the places they once roamed.

Nicola’s story of optimism shows how with resolve, we humans can change things for the better; it’s gorgeously illustrated by Emily Sutton who captures both the grace of the animals and their homeland, and the lifestyle of some of the people of Niger.
(There’s additional information about giraffes, climate change and what we can all do to help both causes.)

Wild Animals of the World
Dieter Braun
Flying Eye Books

This sumptuous volume brings together Braun’s Wild Animals of the North and Wild Animals of the South taking us on a world tour that begins in North America, moving in turn to South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and finally, Antarctica.

Magnificent art takes the forefront in an awe-inspiring introduction to an array of creatures great

and small of the land, sea and air. Sadly some – the Asian elephant, the Emperor penguin for instance – are on the endangered list, others are threatened, though this isn’t stated in the book.

Dieter Braun manages to encapsulate the very essence and spirit of every one of the hundred and thirty plus animals portrayed. Some have an accompanying factual paragraph, others leave the labelled illustration to speak for itself. (Both scientific and common names are given.) A great gift for young wildlife lovers.

Whisper on the Wind / Iceberg

These are two picture books from Allen & Unwin – thanks to the publishers for sending them for review.

Whisper on the Wind
Claire Saxby and Jess Racklyeft

A gorgeous, lyrical cumulative tale celebrating the ocean and its wonders with equally gorgeous watercolour illustrations that perfectly capture the words and spirit of Claire’s writing.
Young Ren lies asleep dreaming in her lighthouse bedroom: ‘This is the whisper / in Ren’s dream’ we read, as the wind captures that whisper whisking it across a moonbeam lit dreamscape filled with playful fish and dolphins diving in the swirling sea.

It reaches a small sailing boat whereon a sailor with a net catches the whisper, fathoms its message and knows just where she must go. And so she does in good time for a perfect start to the day for two people, for love has a special power of its own.

Childhood magic is encapsulated in both Claire Saxby’s multi-layered text and Jess Racklyeft’s powerfully evocative illustrations that together gently pull you into the ocean’s depths and back to safety on land once more.

By the same creators, and now in paperback is

Iceberg
Claire Saxby and Jess Racklyeft

In a poetic text sophisticated and yet accessible, Claire presents the life story of an iceberg through the changing seasons of its Antarctic location. To read it aloud is music to the ear; to gaze at each richly layered illustration is to immerse oneself in the natural beauty of an awe-inspiring landscape. To experience the two together is artistic richness indeed.

As you open the first page prepare to be taken on a journey above and below the ocean: you will see penguin tracks, orcas’ shadowy shapes and spy seals and seabirds – terns and cormorants – and a multitude of other life forms that are all part and parcel of an environment that is at the same time seemingly endless, full of life, capable of renewing itself, yet frighteningly fragile.

Such a brilliant gatefold illustration

This stunning book draws our attention to the melting Antarctic snows, suggesting subtly during the journey and asking much more strongly in an afterword, that we humans do everything within our power to address the effects climate change is having and will increasingly have, and thus protect and preserve the fauna and flora of an environment that is unlike any other.

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.

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth

One World: 24 Hours on Planet Earth
Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jenni Desmond
Walker Books

With the clock striking midnight, a little girl and her even littler sister leave their bedroom and take a round the world trip visiting animals large and small. 

They see elephants and lions in Zambia, baby turtles on Gahirmatha Beach in Odisha, India, 

gibbons in a Chinese nature reserve, sharks in the warm waters around the Philippines, kangaroos in one of Australia’s national parks, emperor penguins on Antarctica’s Ross Island and encounter a humpback whale near a Hawaiian island. At the same time California’s Pinnacles National Park is a-buzz with bees and hummingbirds, 

owl monkeys wake up in a forest of Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park, jaguars hunt their prey in Pantanal Brazil where it’s 8pm and finally, in Southern Georgia an albatross sits huddled on her nest. 

The last stroke of midnight is the signal for the sisters to traverse land and sea while beneath them are numerous warning signs of global warming. As the first hour of Earth Day, 22nd April begins in London it’s time to reflect upon the amazing wonders the girls have seen and contemplate the multitudes of others they haven’t, in preparation to issue a rallying cry to the world; it’s time to make a difference before it’s too late. We can all help to halt climate change but the clock is ticking …

As well as celebrating our awesome planet, author Nicola and artist Jenni show the way actions of we humans are adversely affecting different ecosystems worldwide. 

Powerful words and stunning illustrations make this a must have book for families and primary school classrooms: Celebrate Earth Day 2022 by sharing it.

Let’s Save Antarctica

Let’s Save Antarctica: Why We Must Protect Our Planet
Catherine Barr and Jean Claude
Walker Books

This book is an urgent plea from author Catherine Barr and illustrator Jean Claude for readers and listeners to help in the vital task of protecting our precious planet, in particular Antarctica from climate change and plastic pollution, and all that means.

That vast white continent covering the South Pole – the most extreme environment on earth – is home to millions of Emperor penguins as well as safe waters for the enormous whales that live in the depths of the surrounding Southern Ocean. Losing these, thus far tough survivors just doesn’t bear thinking about, but think about it we must.

Penguins though are just some of the awesome inhabitants of the vast icy wilderness, for eons ago it was home to dinosaurs, and fossils, footprints, teeth and ginormous bones have been discovered by scientists investigating the ancient volcanic ash of the Antarctic sea floor.

Other scientists have and still are investigating what Antarctica can reveal about how earth’s climate – the temperatures and wind patterns – have changed over hundreds and thousands of years.

But what are the secrets to the survival of the flora and fauna of this extreme environment? Yes they are all protected in this our last great wilderness.

However, it’s something biologists are studying while others are looking at what allows deep sea life to survive.

So too is the crucial work that scientists are doing to monitor the effects and speed of climate change, Antarctica’s greatest risk of all, and something that will also have a huge impact on all of our lives.

You don’t have to be a scientist to contribute to the saving of Antarctica and the final spread comprises things that we can all do to stop plastic pollution in the ocean and help slow down climate change. What Catherine has written will surely spark action to protect this incredible place; it’s up to us …

How to Change the World / Climate Rebels

How to Change the World
Rashmi Sirdeshpande, illustrated by Annabel Tempest
Puffin Books

In her follow up to How to be Extraordinary, Rashmi Sirdeshpande presents a companion book in which she shows what a large impact can be made by people working together. There are fifteen stories of teamwork that start way back in sixth century BCE Athens with the origins of the very first democracy and is followed by a look at the incredible human engineering collaboration involved in the building of the Great Pyramid in the desert of ancient Egypt.

Then come the campaigns for change – well known and less so – in various parts of the world. Thus among environmental campaigners we have not only the universally known Greenpeace and the Montreal Protocol banning CFCs, but also the Treeplanters of Piplantri that I know of only because a friend took me to visit the village in Rajasthan a few years back. (Every time a girl is born 111 trees are planted in honour of the chief’s daughter who died during a drought around fifteen years ago).

Then, as well as the Montgomery Bus Boycott triggered by Rosa Parks’ action, there is the Singing Revolution in Estonia where people used song to tell the world that this small country had always been a free nation.

Following the spread about the abolition of slavery campaign in the British Empire is one about the 1965 Freedom Ride campaigning for justice for the indigenous people of Australia.

Alluringly illustrated by Annabel Tempest and attractively laid out, each spread with its well-written text offers an example of high quality narrative non-fiction for primary readers.

The same is true of

Climate Rebels
Ben Lerwill
Puffin Books

‘The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it’. Robert Swan’s quote at the beginning of this book is a powerful reminder that the terrible effects of climate change can only be arrested through our individual and collective actions.

Award winning writer Ben Lerwill presents twenty five inspiring and fascinating stories of individuals (and some groups) who have worked tirelessly and continue to do so for the causes in which they believe so passionately.

Among those featured are Dr Jane Goodall (who wrote the book’s introduction), Sir David Attenborough, the Greenpeace founders, Rachel Carson and Greta Thunberg. Alongside those are accounts of less famous names – The Guajajara Guardians –

who often risk their lives while working to protect the Amazon Rainforest; and William Kamkwamba who built a windmill in a small village in Malawi and went on to build more that pump water to the crops in the fields, thus improving the life of his entire community through renewable energy.

Not only is this book a powerful call to action; it’s also a reminder that we need to stand together – there might just be time to make those crucial changes to the climate change story.

Compellingly written in a lively style and illustrated by Masha Ukhova, Stephanie Son, Chellie Carroll, Hannah Peck and Iratxe Lopez de Munain, this book is strongly recommended for home and school reading.

The Bear in the Stars

The Bear in the Stars
Alexis Snell
Puffin Books

Accompanied by a series of stunning lino-cut prints, Alexis Snell tells the story of a polar bear, forced to leave the ‘cold, glistening place’ that is her home, on account of climate change.

In this fable we learn how over the years as the ice gradually disappeared, one by one, other animals have had no choice but to move on and seek new places to live. Now it’s the turn of the Great Bear to leave her natural abode and search for another safe location.

Swept across a raging sea, she finds a likely-seeming place

but it’s only temporary and then she’s swept on again down a rushing river upon the banks of which she encounters another bear – black and kindly – that tells her of a cool lake with fish aplenty.

Off she goes again and having sated her appetite, is briefly happy, but then the sun comes and off she goes to look for somewhere cooler. Now over-hot in her thick white fur, all she can find are lemon trees – no food for Bear these sour fruits. Her only solace is the stars in this changed world and with the morning a troop of monkeys come to her aid guiding her towards a ‘place that may help you’. Many hours later they reach a ‘human town’ and there, having settled her in a cool building, the monkeys leave her to sleep – long and deep.

On waking however, it’s not long before she learns that in this increasingly hot human world, it’s only the temperature that is growing ever warmer: human hearts remain cold and unwelcoming … until one single, small act of kindness changes everything … most certainly for our ursine traveller;

but what about those humans? One can but remember, wish and hope … and …

Using a changing colour palette from blues to reds, and then as the world recovers, to greens, Alexis’s is a tale of hope for a future that is better. That’s the vital message that one wants youngsters to take from this beautiful book. That and the determination to be part of the change that MUST be made by every single one of us.

A book for all, everywhere.

Climate Emergency Atlas

Climate Emergency Atlas
Dan Hooke et al.
DK (Penguin Random House)

There is no getting away from it: Planet Earth is facing a horrifying climate emergency and we humans have only a few years in which to act before the destruction we are wreaking is irreparable.

Divided into four sections, it’s first explained to readers How Earth’s climate works, this is followed by a look at the causes of climate change; then comes the impacts of climate change. This part really is a wake-up call with pages such as those on the Burning of fossil fuels (though it’s good to read that Germany’s emissions of greenhouse gases have decreased over the last 30 years).

We also see the effects of extreme weather in both humans and the natural world where sea levels are rising, and with the oceans getting warmer there’s devastating coral bleaching and danger to enormous numbers of marine fauna and flora.

There’s a spread on the Australian bushfires, another looking at and locating endangered ecosystems the world over, while Livelihoods in peril explores the impact of climate change on countless numbers of people who are forced to leave their homes on account of storms, drought, rising sea levels and fires.

The final section, Action on climate change, demonstrates that there is much we can do to halt this catastrophic climate change, stressing that we have to act quickly to cut greenhouse emissions, not only at a government level but also as individual humans. We can all play our part by becoming activists, changing to diets that help reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint, (there’s a Planet-friendly eating spread) by recycling and reusing rather than buying new unnecessarily, by planting more trees (the right kinds) and much more.

I was awed by reading about what the city of Copenhagen has done and is doing as part of it mission to be the first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. The book ends with a look at how by saving energy, growing green, and other acts we can all play our part. All is not lost; it’s both our individual and our collective responsibility; with a foreword by environmental scientist, Liz Bonnin, this book is surely another rallying cry to ACT and keep on acting today, tomorrow and every day …

Both primary and secondary schools need at least one copy.

Like the Ocean We Rise

Like the Ocean We Rise
Nicola Edwards and Sarah Wilkins
Little Tiger

Our planet is vast and it’s beautiful too,
But it needs our help; it needs me, it needs you.

Assuredly it does. I was absolutely astonished and horrified to read in the paper apropos World Oceans Day about the large percentage of microfibres in our oceans that are a result of washing synthetic clothing.

It’s never too early for young children to begin thinking about some of the ways they can help to reduce the negative impact we have on our planet and consider how everybody can help to prevent climate change.

A good place to start is with this smashing rhyming picture book.

Most of us know of the impact Greta Thunberg has had in galvanising what has become a global movement involving student protesters from over 120 countries; and Nicola Edwards’ narrative celebrates the contribution of young people; but there is a lot still to be done.

No matter where in the world we are,

we can all in our own way become eco-warriors

just like those children portrayed in Sarah Wilkins’ vibrant peek-through illustrations that use the ripple effect of a single raindrop to add to the impact of the text’s simile.

I love her final scene that shows this wave-making movement really is a global one in which we all can, indeed MUST, play our part.

The final spreadsheet provides  a brief explanation of  climate change and why it matters and some ‘What Can We Do?’ suggestions .

AstroNuts

AstroNuts
Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg
Chronicle Books

In this, the first book of what is to be a series, our narrator is planet Earth, yes that’s right Earth and it starts by taking readers back thirty one years to 1988 when, so we hear, in a secret lab. within Mount Rushmore two scientists working for NNASA (Not the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) built four super-powered animal astronauts designed to become activated should humans ever come near to destroying their home planet. Their role would be to travel through outer space in search of a new ‘Goldilocks Planet’ (not too hot, not too cold, but just right for human habitation).

That catastrophic time now has come, so let’s meet the AstroNuts – fearless leader AlphaWolf, along with SmartHawk the super-organised planner, electromagnetic LaserShark – protector and food finder, and StinkBug -as they blast off in their secret craft.

Having travelled 39 light-years in less than 3½ hours they crash land their rocket on Plant Planet.

This place certainly does have a super-abundance of lush vegetation. But it turns out that these plants aren’t the mindless flora the AstroNuts first thought. And yes, there’s food aplenty; shelter building potential – well maybe,

but a balanced ecosystem? Seemingly not. But are those inhabitants actually friend or foe? Don’t miss the fold-out feature.

This is a clever mix of science and laugh-out loud bonkerness.

What better way to put across the climate change message and along the way impart a considerable amount of biological and chemical information, than with this heady concoction of Scieszka’s irresistible verbal playfulness and Weinberg’s clever digital collages constructed in part from images from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.