The Magic of Seasons

The Magic of Seasons
Vicky Woodgate
Dorling Kindersley

From this veritable cornucopia of a book about the changing seasons in our world, with Mimi the cat for company, readers can experience seasons- related science, history, geography, myths and legends.

First comes a scientific explanation about what exactly is meant by the seasons, after which is a quick generalised look at in turn, spring, summer, autumn and winter, as well as a spread explaining how for many places in the tropics, there are just the wet and the dry seasons, (these seem to be getting a bit blurred though for, according to my friends in Udaipur city in India, it’s rained every single month in the last year.)

My favourite part was the ‘Seasons in Nature’ section that gives more detailed information about the incredible changes and different delights that characterise each of the seasons – be they the four we have in temperate climes or the tropical two, rainy and dry.

This part also encompasses information relating to animal migrations by land, sea and air as well as seasonal effects on the world’s ocean life.

Throughout, Vicky Woodgate’s text uses language appropriate for most key stage two children, and visuals – illustrations, maps and charts that make every spread enticing, so that readers never feel overwhelmed. There are also occasional quizzes, tips and activities.

A book for classroom use as well as one parents and children can enjoy browsing together.

The Extraordinary World of Birds

The Extraordinary World of Birds
David Lindo and Claire McElfatrick
Dorling Kindersley

Did you know that ‘birds are dinosaurs in the same way that humans are mammals’? So says David Lindo, aka the Urban Birder, at the start of this engaging look at birds from all over the globe.

The book is divided into five main parts: What is a bird?; Bird families; Bird behaviour; Bird habitats and finally, Birds and me. The author takes readers on a journey through the avian world providing information on fundamentals, through to the enormous variety of incredible adaptations of species in different locations.

The Bird families section presents different groups – the flightless kind, game birds, parrots – I was astonished to find there are as many as 350 species; the only ones I’m familiar with are those Ring-Necked Parakeet tree wreckers in Bushy Park. I was equally fascinated to learn in the behaviour section that songbirds are able to breathe through one lung at a time so they don’t need to pause for breath when singing.

The habitats we visit range from tropical forests that are rich in species, to deserts where, in the most extreme conditions, highly specialised birds such as the difficult to detect, Crowned sandgrouse live. Amazingly the males’ belly feathers have become adapted to soak up and hold water.

In the final part, we encounter some of the birds that are now at risk of extinction on account of human action and the author stresses the importance of nature reserves as well as describing ways in which all of us can help our neighbourhood birds.

By the time readers reach the ‘Birding’ spread, some will need little encouragement to become birders themselves and David gives some helpful tips about so doing.

No matter the section, Claire McElfatrick’s alluring, detailed, often dramatic illustrations, in combination with photographs, really bring each spread to life.
(Backmatter comprises a list of the national birds of over 100 countries, a glossary and index.)

Given the broad scope of its content, I see this as a book for school collections, either for dipping in and out of, or to use as a project resource, rather than for budding ornithologists who would require something with a more specific geographic focus.

Timelines From Black History

Timelines from Black History
Dorling Kindersley
illustrated by Lauren Quinn

In her foreword to this powerful and important book, Mireille Harper states, ‘Black history has been overlooked and minimised in every area of society, and even worse often erased. Yet, the contributions of Black people to society influence every part of how we live, from the art and culture we consume,

to the rights we have.’ How true and how shameful that our society has allowed the continuing hostility, racism and discrimination to continue; thank goodness then for the Black Lives Matter movement and for all the awesome people featured and celebrated in this book. Now more than ever it’s time for change and we can all be a part of that change.

What an absolute wealth of information is packed between the covers of this inspiring book that features both the people and the vital events that have shaped and embody, Black History.

We start right back at the origins of the human race with information explaining how the whole human story began in Africa and the journey takes us from this prehistory through to modern times.

Did you know for example that, thanks to the exceptionally brave empress, Taytu Betul, Ethopia was one of only two African countries not colonised? Or that inventor, engineer and writer, Lewis Howard Latimer invented and patented a carbon filament that allows a light bulb to last much longer than did the paper one used in Edison’s design? (That was something I learned from this book).

There are more than thirty visual biographical timelines that present writers, scientists, activists, royalty, singers and musicians, sportsmen and sportswomen some famous, others less so, as well as those explaining the experiences of black people in the United States and in Africa through to post-colonial times. You can find out about some of the achievements of ancient African kingdoms as well as those of the Civil Rights movement in the United States including the father of that movement, Frederick Douglass. Some of my all-time heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama

and Wangari Maathai are included.

This is a book that should be used in all KS2 classrooms and secondary school history departments.

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.

The Secret Explorers

The Secret Explorers and the Comet Collision
The Secret Explorers and the Lost Whale
The Secret Explorers and the Tomb Robbers
The Secret Explorers and the Jurassic Rescue

S J King, illustrated by Ellie O’Shea
DK (Penguin Random House)

These four books, ideal for newly independent readers, feature seven children from different parts of the world, each with a special interest and expertise in a particular STEAM subject. Whenever their help is required, they receive a signal alerting them that they’re needed for a mission.
In The Comet Collision it’s space expert Roshni with Ollie (his expertise is the rainforest) who are called to the Exploration Station to undertake a mission and it’s truly out of this world. Tasked with fixing the space probe that’s orbiting Jupiter before it’s hit by a comet in less than two hours, the chosen two whizz off in a spaceship leaving the other team members to monitor the mission and communicate via control monitors. As the clock ticks Roshni prepares to undertake her first spacewalk – but that is only part of the story …

With a South Pacific Ocean setting, The Lost Whale sees Connor (marine expert) teamed with Roshni, a seeming unlikely partner but as in all the stories, the role of the less expected one is revealed during the course of the mission. Connor and Roshni set out in a submarine in an attempt to save a pod of humpback whales that have lost their way by steering them back onto the right track. However, those whales need air every 45 minutes and there are lots of boats in the waters likely to make things difficult. And difficult it soon is particularly when one of the whale calves gets separated from the pod. Will the Secret Explorers’ mission end in success?

Once again there’s plenty of action (love the rap) and a wealth of information is given in the course of the story – here it relates to marine life, threats to ocean ecology and climate change; and like the other books, after the story are further facts and diagrams relating to the themes, plus a quiz and a glossary.

It’s Gustavo with his expertise in history and engineering expert Kiki who pool their skills in The Tomb Robbers adventure. They find themselves travelling back in time to ancient Egypt on a mission to save the Cairo museum in their own time from having to close on account of lack of treasures to attract sufficient visitors. That entails preventing tomb robbers from plundering the Great Pyramid for artefacts. As ever teamwork is key though it’s not easy for Kiki and Gustavo to work out who is and who isn’t to be trusted. This time, readers will learn a fair bit about life in ancient Egypt during and after the story.

Paleontology expert Tamiko, together with geology expert Cheng already have a fair bit in common and it’s they who undertake The Jurassic Rescue, going back in time 150 million years. There’s a precious Archaeopteryx egg to be rescued but in order to do so the two must hold off a group of predatory allosauruses. What with an earthquake, a landslide and the unexpected hatching of that egg, things are anything but easy, especially as so another of the team informs them, if they look too long at the hatchling, it might think Cheng and Tamiko are its parents. Will they ever manage to reunite it with its mother?

Dinosaur addicts in particular will love this one and enjoy the relevant back matter after the exciting adventure.

If you know or teach readers who are starting out on chapter books and like a good, well-illustrated story but want some facts too, then this series is a great starting point.

Action and Reaction: Fish / Yawn

Brendan Kearney
Dorling Kindersley Penguin Random House

Softly spoken yes, but, inspired by personal experience, Brendan Kearney’s picture book about the perils of polluting the ocean with plastic, and how we can all help to improve the situation for the endangered fish and other marine flora and fauna is clear and to the point.

Finn and his dog Skip set out one morning in their little boat, hoping to catch a tasty fish or two for their supper.

After a while when not a single fish has given so much as a tug at Finn’s line, Skip spies something in the waves. Down to the depths he swims and the sight that meets his eyes is horrifying.

Rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish. Back to show Finn with some evidence he goes.

Equally concerned, the man goes on fishing for a while but before long all he has on board is a collection of weird objects.

Fortunately, once back on dry land the two encounter a group of young beach cleaners who are equally alarmed at the load of rubbish brought out of the sea.

Finn explains how he came by it and about the complete lack of fish. What follows are a number of pertinent comments from the young eco-warriors and the following day Finn heeds their words – re-use and recycle – and goes on to join the beach cleaners.

With his engaging narrative, visual and verbal – Brendan Kearney focuses on the crucial environmental issues in the hope – his, mine and countless others – that young children will become part of the movement to clean up our polluted oceans and beaches and of course, it’s never to soon to teach them about the importance of recycling.

Patricia Hegarty and Teresa Bellón
Little Tiger

A yawn can be highly infectious as this fun story shows.
Starting with a single feeling from deep inside the little boy narrator, a single yawn quickly becomes unstoppable, passing from the boy to all – every neighbourhood inhabitant, human and animal, until the entire street have gaping mouths.

From here it moves to the countryside and eventually all over the world, not content until every single person and every single creature has the yawns. It even heads off out into space

– it’s ‘gone viral ‘we read. Does that remind you of anything?

Fortunately though, on this occasion the outcome is that when bedtime comes, so does a great big YAAAAAAWN! to send us off into the land of slumbers.
Happy dreams.

It’s is definitely a book to share at bedtime unless that is you want to induce sleepiness at some other time in your home or classroom. Patricia’s rhyming narrative has that soporific feel to it, and if you happen to pause just a little too long on any of Teresa Bellon’s spreads (love those cutaway pages) to enjoy all the funky details, you might just find yourself the next recipient of that repeat refrain ‘YAAAAAAWN! Pass it on!’ Snore …