Step Inside Homes Through History / Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery

Step Inside Homes Through History
Goldie Hawk and Sarah Gibb
Nosy Crow

Most readers of this book will recognise many of the features of the contemporary house illustrated herein, and those who are as old as this reviewer will recognise some of the rather garish décor shown in the sixties home. How many though, unless they are members of the National Trust or have a special interest in the topic, will know what living in a Late Middle Ages manor house or a Tudor mansion was like?

Three double spreads each, explore seven periods in time from the mid 13th century through to the present day.
Intricately detailed laser-cut pages show us not only the particular residence outside

and in, but also the fashions, family life and furniture of the period.

You can have fun tracing the evolution of the bathroom from the medieval gardrobes – ‘a bench over a big hole which went outside the house’

to the Georgian chamber pot beneath the bed, the new Victorian indoor flushing toilet through to the present day en-suite bathrooms that many of us have. Also fun is the ‘spot the artefact’ feature where readers are asked to find a named item of furniture or small object in each house.

Full of interesting snippets of information, this well-illustrated book is worth buying for a classroom collection, or if you intend visiting a stately home or historic house, whether or not it belongs to the National Trust, Nosy Crow’s collaborators for this title.

Darwin’s Voyage of Discovery
Jake Williams
Pavilion Books

Following his Really Remarkable Reptiles, illustrator/designer Jake Williams has created another fascinating, stylishly illustrated book, this time about the naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin famous for his epic voyages of adventure on HMS Beagle and his theory of evolution ‘On the Origin of Species’.

The amazing creatures both large and small that Darwin saw during his explorations (some of which we see larger than life illustrated herein) furnished a wealth of detailed notes and drawings, observation data and fossil specimens; and readers can follow in the footsteps of the famous biologist as he travels the world for five years as the Beagle ship’s biologist sailing from England to the Cape Verde islands, from Brazil to the Galapagos and from Tahiti to Australia and finally, back home.

There’s a wealth of information about such things as the ‘cracker’ butterflies of Brazil;

how Darwin unearthed the skull of a giant ground sloth in Argentina and the steamer ducks he observed in the Falklands,

as well as maps showing the Beagle’s progress.

Recommended for all those with enquiring minds, this is a beautifully produced book that highlights the importance that careful observation makes in the furtherance of scientific discovery.

Really Remarkable Reptiles / Turtles, Snakes and other Reptiles

Really Remarkable Reptiles
Jake Williams
Pavilion Children’s Books

Award winning designer, Jake Williams introduces us to an amazing assortment of reptilian creatures in this his first picture book.
He provides us first with an introductory spread with paragraphs explaining what reptiles are biologically, their evolution, egg laying and habitats. Next come a reptile timeline, which goes back as far as the age of the dinosaurs, and a life cycle.

Thereafter are four sections, one each devoted to – ‘Lizards’, the carnivorous ‘Snakes’, ‘Turtles and Tortoises’ and ‘Crocodiles and Alligators’.

Included in the first group are chameleons and many people probably tend to think of those as just one kind; I was aware of different species but surprised to learn that there are over 200 chameleon species, nearly half of which live only in Madagascar.

I was also fascinated to read that the Sailfin water lizard is a metre in length, has a fin 7cm tall and can be found in a variety of colours – brown, green and yellow, adult males often turning bright blue to attract a potential mate.

Most people shudder at the mere mention of snakes; I’m certainly no snake lover but apart from the poisonous ones, am not frightened of them. I even once had to demonstrate (at the request of the hotel naturalist),their harmlessness to a group of female workers who were scared to go and clean the cottage rooms after one discovered a snake had got into one. Having it wrapped around me was I thought, over and above the cause of nature.

It happened to be a variety of tree snake, not the South American Emerald kind featured here,

as this was in Kerala (south India). I would however have been exceedingly alarmed to come upon a live and highly venomous, Sea snake on the beach or ocean’s edge there (although I did find a number of dead ones).

The domed-shape shelled Turtles and Tortoises form the next section. Did you know their shells have a web of nerve endings and a tortoise or turtle is sensitive on every centimetre of its shell? One fascinating fact I learned about female green sea turtles is that they often choose the same beach on which they were hatched to lay their eggs.
The last section includes the largest of all living reptiles, Saltwater crocodiles that can grow as long as 7m.

Did you know that crocodiles swallow stones as a food grinding aid in their stomachs? Ouch!

The final pages of this absorbing book are devoted to Habitats and environments, (reptiles are found on every one of the continents except Antarctica, residing in such diverse places as deserts, rainforests, mountain parks and cities but sadly some species have been lost or are under threat due to human action. We can all do our bit to help conserve them: using less packaging and recycling can help.

Also on the same theme is a much smaller book:

Turtles, Snakes and other Reptiles
Amy-Jane Beer and Alice Pattullo
Lincoln Children’s Books

This handy Pocket Guide, written by natural history expert, Dr Amy-Jane Beer introduces the four main reptilian groups and after introductory spreads entitled ‘What is a Reptile?’ and ‘Reptile Life’ come several spreads devoted to the different families with representative examples.

Did you know for instances that Sea turtles are able to sleep holding their breath underwater for hours? That Komodo dragons have gums that bleed easily, turning their saliva pink; or that Blind snakes hunt their prey using their sense of smell?

This is a good, get-up-close look, finely illustrated by Alice Pattullo, at the various species and an introduction to a fascinating topic that may well get young readers hooked on biological science.

Need more suggestions for your children’s summer reading? Try Toppsta’s Summer Reading Guide