Out and About: Night Explorer / Animal Homes

Out and About: Night Explorer
Robyn Swift, illustrated by Sara Lynn Cramb
Nosy Crow

Created in collaboration with the National Trust, this is an excellent little book if you’re planning on doing some exploring after dark with youngsters or are off camping somewhere.

It’s packed with information about such things as suitable clothing, creating a night-time den, star gazing, nocturnal creatures – from minibeasts to moths and mammals including bats, plus owls and amphibians; and, it’s good to see several spreads on night-time flowers.

There are lots of helpful hints on such things as tracking animals by means of footprints and poo deposits.

No matter the season there’ll be ideas herein: how about creating a house for creepy-crawlies in your garden during winter; or setting up a hedgehog feeding station?

I especially like the idea of making a sensory map at night, particularly focusing on sounds and smells as you walk and then repeating the same route in the light and comparing what you notice.

There are even suggestions for games, a quiz and a glossary.
All in all, with its plethora of very attractive labelled, coloured illustrations by Sara Lynn Cramb, this is ideal for encouraging young explorers (with an adult or older sibling) to get closer to nature at night.

Animal Homes
Clover Robin and Libby Walden
Caterpillar Books

Wherever we walk there are likely to be animals living either in the earth beneath our feet, at eye level, or high up above our heads. We currently have a bees’ nest in our chimney.

Illustrator Clover Robin and author Libby Walden offer us an insight into six different animal homes, in various parts of the world.

After a general introductory page, we visit a beehive;

a beaver lodge; the nest (eyrie) of a North American Bald Eagle; a rabbit warren; a termite mound and the earth of a Red Fox.

As well as the habitats themselves, each spread (one per home) provides factual snippets about each of the inhabitants and their habits, some of which is hidden beneath flaps.

It’s unlikely that young children will encounter these particular habitats but nevertheless this little book, with its attractive collage style illustrations will encourage them to keep their eyes open for animal homes in the environment. Should they find any it’s important to remember Libby’s final rules: ‘Find, Look, Leave’.

In Focus: Forests

In Focus: Forests
Libby Walden et al
360 Degrees (Little Tiger Group)

Ten exciting illustrators showcase some of the world’s most famous forests in this smashing book that’s been put together under the stewardship of Libby Walden.

Herein is a wealth of information about the natural flora and fauna of these stunning green places as well as associated facts on such things as, in the first and hugely biodiverse location – The Black Forest – things to do, the Brothers Grimm and more. Grace Easton is the illustrator of this place.

Gate fold flaps are employed by each artist, the second being Julie Colombet who explores The Anatomy of Trees;

Suzanne Washington takes us to the Rainforests; with the artistic work of Sol Linereo we visit National Parks.

Stephanie Fizer Coleman dives deep to the Kelp Forests to show us the sea otter and many more amazing inhabitants.

Forest Mythology is the next focus, illustrated by Irene Montano;

the Amazon Rainforest wherein we ‘meet two famous British naturalists, is illustrated by Marc Pattenden;

Alfred Wallace & Henry Bates

Alessandra Santelli portrays peoples of the Forest; Aaron Cushley, Mangrove Forests and the final topic is Produce and Preservation (including the tree hugging, Chipko movement) illustrated by Jenny Wren.

Each spread is totally absorbing and the entire chunky volume is sure to draw you in to what are probably my favourite places – forests – and hold you there for a considerable time.

From Tiny Seeds … / A Walk Through Nature

From Tiny Seeds …
Émilie Vast
Thames & Hudson

Seed dispersal mechanisms and subsequent growth are showcased in Émilie Vast’s series of predominantly visual stories of how plants travel.

Ten different methods are documented, each story being allocated several pages. Some such as flying, that is used by the dandelion (and other composites) will be familiar to many children, since they love to play dandelion clocks.

In contrast, other methods like ‘Being eaten’ as happens to berries including blackberries and elderberries, will be less well known. The berries are food for birds or animals and are passed through the eater’s digestive system.

and excreted partially digested in their droppings, which then nourish the excreted seeds once they’re ready to germinate.

I particularly like her device whereby the respective plants introduce themselves and go on to tell their own stories.

It’s good to see how the important role of humans in distributing seeds to various different parts of the world is documented. Did you know that the green bean was originally only found in Central and South America but now grows all over the world.

Émilie’s love of nature is evident from her beautiful, stylised illustrations for which she uses predominantly black and white with limited bursts of colour on each page.

A Walk Through Nature
Clover Robin and Libby Walden
Caterpillar Books

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare –

So begins W.H.Davies’ famous poem Leisure. Perhaps with these opening lines in mind, as well as concern over the 2015 revelation of some 50 words relating to nature and the countryside, that are no longer included in the Oxford Junior Dictionary, the creators of this book aim to increase young children’s engagement with, and understanding of, the natural world.

The walk takes us through the seasons in addition to a variety of natural landscapes and habitats. We visit a meadow; a tree wherein birds are nesting; a pond with tadpoles, ducks and fishes swimming and water lilies and bulrushes growing.

We home in on minibeasts as they move over, under and sometimes through, an ancient log of wood;

and wander on the sandy beach in the early morning sun noticing the multitude of shells and crabs.

We’re shown seemingly magical changes – the hatching of a blue tit’s eggs, the emergence of a butterfly from its chrysalis,

and in the woods and fields, delve down beneath the earth where burrowing animals live.

We witness the gradual change from summer’s greens to autumnal hues; visit a mountainous region where a fresh spring begins its flow to the sea; and follow the migrating swallows as they depart for warmer climes.

Then back to what looks like the original meadow, snow falls transforming the landscape in ‘winter’s frosted cloak, sparkling, clear and bright.’

Finally as dusk spreads its rosy glow, day and night merge into one …

For each stopping place comprising a double spread with a gatefold perforated by small die-cuts, there’s an introductory poem by Libby, the final verse of which is revealed by opening the flap, beneath which are also small vignettes and accompanying factual snippets.

Clover’s collage style illustrations are gorgeous; each one merits spending time over and I really like the way the poems are each framed by a naturalistic collage that uses elements from the full page illustration.

Let’s hope that this ‘ Peek-through’, ‘first book of nature’ paves the way for youngsters to begin a life-long habit of going outdoors, walking and observing the beauties of the natural world.

Everybunny Dream! / Hop Little Bunnies / This is Owl / Sleep, My Bunny

Everybunny Dream!
Ellie Sandall
Hodder Children’s Books

Ellie Sandall’s latest Everybunny tale is essentially a bedtime story.

Through a gentle rhyming narrative and a sequence of captivating scenes, some frolicsome, others more peaceful, we share in the bedtime ritual of the little bunnies as they respond to their mother’s instructions,

until they’re tucked up cosily under the covers.

Who should appear suddenly though but another creature with a long orange bushy tail, also clad in night attire.

Before long there’s a host of baby fox cubs sitting with the little bunnies – who have now all hopped out of bed – avidly listening to a good night tale

and then it really is time to snuggle down altogether for some shut-eye and perhaps some pleasant dreams.

A lovely way to send your little ones off into the land of nod at the end of a busy day.

Hop Little Bunnies
Martha Mumford and Laura Hughes
Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Based on nursery favourite Sleeping Bunnies, Martha Mumford has written a jaunty text that includes not only the bunnies of the original song but also fluffy lambs, tiny chicks, kittens and ducklings

all of which sleep until noon and wake up and make lots of noise.

They then go on to play for the rest of the day before a bedtime song sends them all off to sleep once more.

With plenty of flaps to investigate and sounds to make, Laura Hughes charming rural illustrations add to the springtime bounce of Martha’s words.

This cheery charmer is likely to become a much requested book for young listeners be that at home or in an early years setting.

After an initial sharing I’d suggest an action packed story session with sleeping, hopping, leaping and swimming, not forgetting baa-ing, cheeping, mewing and quacking.

Another book that invites interaction is:

This is Owl
Libby Walden and Jacqui Lee
Caterpillar Books
The sun is shining, Owl is fast asleep and doesn’t want to wake up but the book has to start so the reader’s help is needed to rouse our feathered friend.

Tummy tickling is only partially successful so the sun needs to be extinguished and replaced by a moon.

Hurrah Owl now has both eyes open but Beetle further along the branch is causing a distraction.

A considerable amount of page flapping is required to help Owl reach Beetle but then they both disappear. Oops! Where can Owl be?

With the help of several more birds Owl is eventually located and it seems one has become two for alongside is Other Owl.

Strangely the pair of them are doing a little uncharacteristic nest building so a bit of twig collecting from reader’s won’t come amiss.

Sometime later, once that threatening raincloud has gone, Owl has something in the nest to show off to readers.

By the time the sun starts to come up once again, two owls have become three and it’s time to bid them all farewell.

Feathery fun with a tad of scientific learning included, Libby Walden’s gently humorous, guiding words, in tandem with Jacqui Lee’s eye-catching, funny illustrations will certainly make for an active animal shared book experience.

Sleep, My Bunny
Rosemary Wells
Walker Books

Here’s a lovely way to wind down with your little one(s) at the end of the day.

Rosemary Wells’ gently flowing text reads like a lullaby as it talks of the sounds of evening: the simultaneous song of owls and crickets; the night wind that has ‘taken the moon for a ride’, the first soft summer rain.

Alongside we see, in Van Gogh-like impressionist style, a sunlit tree outside and then as the sun goes down, a series of gradually darkening skies shown through the window, foregrounded by scenes of a little bunny going through his night-time routine with his mother and father.

On each spread the textual border mirrors the sky seen outside.

There’s obvious love and tenderness in this bunny family so adorably depicted in this lovely bedtime book.

Happy / As We Grow / We Are Together

Here’s a trio of books from Caterpillar Books one of the Little Tiger Group imprints that I was excited by on my return  home after three weeks away in India.

Happy
Nicola Edwards and Katie Hickey
Caterpillar Books

Mindfulness is a popular theme at present and we’ve had several books on the subject for children in recent months, possibly as a response to the growing concern about the pressures even very young children are under in their everyday lives both in school and at home.

I know from experience that offering youngsters a brief period of quiet, calm time each day when they can be in the here and now away from the stresses and strains of life leads to a happier, more relaxed classroom or home atmosphere.

This beautiful book encourages children to become mindful, offering them some ways to be in the moment, to explore their emotions by tuning in to their senses in a meditative manner. They can listen to the natural sounds around them; or tune in to and focus on their feelings. Tension can be released not only from our minds but also our bodies in a manner similar to that at the end of a yoga session when participants are encouraged to tense and relax the muscles in their bodies one by one until the whole body is completely relaxed.

How many of us really pay attention to what we eat, to savour every mouthful noticing the texture and flavour as we chew: it’s a really great way of being mindful and perhaps more appreciative of our food.

Touch too is a way of connecting and calming, particularly when outdoors in natural surroundings; looking with awareness too works to calm and connect as do smelling and deep slow breathing.

The gorgeous illustrations and gentle, rhyming text herein will surely encourage children to slow down and become mindful, to discover that place of peace that’s deep within us all.

As We Grow
Libby Walden and Richard Jones
Caterpillar Books

This Walden/Jones collaboration is a great way to look at life as a journey full of changes, challenges and joy, that begins as a very tiny babe totally unaware of what is to come as we grow and travel through the years. What we can be sure of though, is that each stage will be different, full of excitement and new adventures. There’s that toddling stage that opens up a myriad of new experiences and quickly gives way to the more assured young child full of imaginative ideas, when language develops rapidly and words are a toy and a tool. Fuelled (one hopes) by mind-opening books a plenty that help with those ‘hows’, whys’ and whats’.

The transformation into a teen is a dramatic one when times are unsettled, restless and confusing, a time of self-discovery prior to adulthood; in the early stages of which independence and challenge go hand in hand before perhaps settling down and maybe even becoming the parent of a new little one.

Like life, this entire book is full of beautiful, memorable stopping points

richly portrayed in Richard Jones gorgeous scenes and Libby Walden’s lyrical text.

We Are Together
Britta Teckentrup
Caterpillar Books

Britta Teckentrup celebrates human diversity through a rhyming text and her inimitable vibrant style illustrations with their peep through cut out pages.

What better way to encourage young children to value togetherness than these opening lines: ‘On our own we’re special, / and we can chase our dream, / But when we join up, hand in hand, / together, we’re a team.’

Readers are then presented with a sequence of gorgeous scenes of children out together in the natural world that will surely encourage positive feelings in youngsters both about themselves and others.

Perfect for sharing in foundation stage settings and a great starting point for a circle time discussion.

Foods of the World / Transport and Travel

Foods of the World
Libby Walden and Jocelyn Kao
Transport and Travel
Sandra Lawrence and Jem Maybank
360 Degrees

Aimed primarily at KS2 (7-11) readers these are two of the Mini Hardback series, neatly packaged, alluringly illustrated with spreads playfully subtitled..
In the first book Libby Walden takes a broad view of what we eat, rummaging around in kitchens around the world and unearthing all manner of diverse and delicious dishes and tasty treats, from tagines

to turnips – albeit ones used as lanterns in Richterswil near Zurich in November,  shark meat (served in Iceland as Hákarl) to strudel, cannali to chewing gum and bubble gum – yes even those are included, despite having no nutritional value, on account of needing to be chewed.

In addition to the vast array of culinary delights, readers can find out about unusual utensils and absorb a range of fascinating food-related facts.
Cooking techniques too are covered, (my favourite of those here is the tandoor used in Indian cuisine).

So too are food terms, in particular those coming from the French language.
There’s also a look at the notion of ‘good manners’: not finishing everything on your plate is impolite in China, while Middle Eastern (and also in my experience, on the Indian sub-continent) people often eat with their fingers, but it has to be the correct (right) hand; to use the left hand would be a faux pas.
When you travel abroad are you a person who relishes the thought of sampling the cuisine of the country you’re visiting or do you seek out places to eat that serve as nearly as possible what you’re used to at home.
I’m one of the former although in some places it’s less easy to find suitable eating places since I’m a vegetarian who also tries to avoid anything dairy so I eagerly devoured this book. So too will young readers who enjoy a good nosh.

Fascinating factual Transport and Travel related snippets are presented in the second title, some historic, some present day and one or two. looking to the future.

Moving around on land, through water, in the air, under ground and undersea are all covered though the book is divided into four main parts: travel on wheels, on rails, through the air and water.

We’re given a look at the great lengths people all over the world have gone to in order to get from one place to another as effectively as is humanly possible. Inviting illustrations offer readers a passenger’s eye view of such diverse modes of transport as tuk-tuks,

a gondola, a life boat, a bi-plane and a bicycle. What’s your favourite means of travelling?

Secrets of the Mountain / Rock Explorer: Minerals & Rock Explorer: Fossils

Secrets of the Mountain
Libby Walden and Richard Jones
Caterpillar Books

The mountain referred to in the title of this breathtakingly beautiful book is I think, part of the Rocky Mountain Range.

Libby Walden’s narrative takes readers to spend a day on the mountain observing the plethora of animals that make it their home be that on the plains, the slopes or the mountaintop.

It begins as the sun rises and starting at the summit, day dawns. A breeze moves down the mountainside waking the furry pikas to look for their morning food.

At midday, the forest erupts with birdsong and sunlight glows among the trees.

Animals large and small are on the move.
Then come sundown, the air is cool: night is drawing in and the bears can sense it …

Then is the time to seek a place to sleep and let the nocturnal hunters take over in the shadows of the night-time forest while, watched by the patrolling wolf, the moon illuminates the rolling plains and the mountain lion stands waiting for yet another dawn to awaken the chorus of birdsong.

Everything has changed, yet everything is the same: evolving and ever constant, both.

From gorgeous front endpaper to back endpaper (the final one comprises 48 small named pictures of the mountain fauna), every one of Richard Jones’ spreads is simply stunning in its beauty.

Rock Explorer: Minerals
Rock Explorer: Fossils

Claudia Martin
QED

These are two titles of the four in a series of very visual books that introduce aspects of geology to younger readers. This is an under represented topic and yet once children are introduced to it, they are often fascinated.
Minerals looks at their formation, location and use. Did you know for instance, that fluorite is used in toothpaste and feldspar is used in making glass and pottery?

Fossils explains what a fossil is, outlines how they form, where to hunt for fossils and what we can learn from them. I was intrigued to discover that the Victorians first discovered fossilised Dinosaur poo – hmm.
Clearly and invitingly presented with good quality photographs, both are worthwhile additions to a primary classroom or school library.