Beneath the Waves

Beneath the Waves
Helen Ahpornsiri and Lily Murray
Big Picture Press

Ocean life is a relatively popular STEM topic for authors/illustrators but if you are looking for a book with that extra wow factor then Helen Ahpornsiri’s Beneath the Waves has just that.

In four chapters we visit various watery locations – Coast,

Tropics, Open Ocean and Polar Waters

and for each one Helen has collected the natural materials to press and then create magnificent, intricately designed collage illustrations of the weird and wonderful creatures that live in the four habitats.

Sometimes books that are so beautifully illustrated as Helen’s are let down by a mediocre text, not so this one though. Lily Murray’s text is highly engaging and informative with each topic or marine animal being given two, or sometimes three paragraphs that include facts relating to size, feeding habits, breeding and more.

So for instance we read of sea krait ‘… Large lungs mean it can stay underwater for up to two hours at a time, and its flattened tail works like a paddle, powering the snake through the water. When the sea krait finds its prey, (eels) it strikes with deadly venom, swallowing it whole.’ Fascinating indeed.

With its clever fusion of art and science, this is a superb STEAM book that will delight and inform readers of a wide age range. I can envisage a fair number of them collecting a variety of flora and getting creative themselves.
It’s definitely one to add to your home bookshelves and to school collections, both primary and secondary.

There are Bugs Everywhere

There are Bugs Everywhere
Lily Murray and Britta Teckentrup
Big Picture Press

The title of this book proved all too true for this reviewer – an elephant hawk moth caterpillar crawled past my foot as I sat outside my favourite café this morning. This insect …

is one of over 100 ‘bugs’ Britta Teckentrup has illustrated in this colourful and fascinating book.

The term bugs is here used as a catchall to include six legged insects, eight legged arachnids and multi legged myriapods and collectively there are, we’re told, millions of different species.
With spreads devoted to bug anatomy,

feeding habits, survival techniques, social insects, the life cycle of the Madagascan Sunset moth and much more, there is a mine of information for the curious reader.

Did you know that Chan’s megastick which inhabits the Borneo rainforest is the largest bug in the world, growing up to 56cm.

There’s even a ‘can you find?’ challenge posed on the final end paper to track down the golden tortoise beetle from North America hidden somewhere in the book. This will surely encourage further close perusal of every one of Britta’s already inviting spreads.

Once Upon A Magic Book

Once Upon A Magic Book
Lily Murray and Katie Hickey
Lincoln Children’s Books

Entering out of the rain a toyshop that seems to have appeared from nowhere, best friends Sophie and Jack embark on an adventure that takes them, once they’ve located and turned the golden key, through the pages of a purple book.
Their journey takes them to all kinds of locations: a fairytale forest wherein a wicked witch might be lurking; a pirate island;

a city they reach on a flying carpet and a frozen mountainous region where the witch is at work on an avalanche-creating spell.
From there it’s on to a medieval castle where Sophie falls under that witch’s spell; then they dive beneath the sea to an underwater world.

The next magic door leads them to a jungle city from where they enter the land of sweets before stepping back in time to a cobbled city wherein the witch has let loose animals from a zoo.

At the fairground an old woman tempts Sophie with an apple and they spot a familiar-looking cottage.

Surely they haven’t been tricked by that wicked witch after all that? They’d better hurry up and find, with readers’ help, all the vital ingredients that will enable them to escape her clutches.

Intricately detailed illustrations of the various locations from debut picture book artist Katie Hickey, together with a story that draws readers in from the very start and holds them spellbound through to the final spread with so many items to search for and clues to solve, it will be a considerable time before not only Jack and Sophie, but those accompanying them on their journey, finally emerge from its pages.

The People Awards

The People Awards
Lily Murray and Ana Albero
Lincoln Children’s Books

Here’s yet another book celebrating people whose achievements have made a significant contribution towards making the world a better place. This one however, unlike many of the other recent titles, includes both women and men.

It contains a lot of information served up in digestible portions about a wide variety of people from all over the globe and through history, from Sappho (a creativity award winner) to Malala Yousafzai, Pakastani human rights activist and youngest Nobel Prize winner (2014).

In total there are 50 awardees, twenty-nine winners who have been allocated an individual award and who each have a double spread devoted to them. These include Trischa Zorn, blind, Paralympic swimmer who won seven gold medals; she gets the Amazing Athlete Award;

Olaudah Equiano from Nigeria who wins The Kidnapped Hero Award;

David Bowie gets The Express Yourself Award; Frida Kahlo has The Painting Through Pain Award, my all time hero, Nelson Mandela wins The Fight For Freedom Award, creator of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee has ‘The Dot Com Award and – as a teacher/ educator, I have to mention Maria Montessori, who promoted learning through play and gets The Children’s Champion Award.

Then there are a further five awards categories: The Trailblazer Awards given to four people;

The Brilliant Ideas Award has four winners; The Creativity Awards: these go to a further four – Mozart, Gaudi, Sappho and Hans Christian Andersen; Bravery Awards are made to Antónia Rodrigues, Rigoberta Menchú, Muhammad Ali, Simón Bolivar and Rosa Parks; Inspiration Award winners are Ana Nzinga, Donald Bradman, Eva Perón and Joan of Arc.

There is SO much to like about Lily Murray (author) and Ana Albero, (illustrator)’s collaboration – the range of winners, the imaginative presentation, the names of the awards, the final Lap of Honour time line whereon all the winners take a bow; and I absolutely love the illustrative style and Ana Alberos’ chosen colour palette.

Hello Hot Dog!

Hello Hot Dog!
Lily Murray and Jarvis
Lincoln Children’s Books

There’s been a fair sprinkling of food-centred picture books of late – pizza and sausages immediately spring to mind and now comes this tasty offering which takes the form of a conversation seemingly between a busy bee and an indolent hot dog.

We first encounter the latter as it languishes on some “comfy bread, with some corn and a couple of fries” apparently totally oblivious of the approaching ketchup bottle nozzle.

Suddenly as splodges of the red stuff splatter in his direction the lazybones realises what his fate is, at any second, to be. It’s time to ‘Run, Hot Dog, run!’.

Lack of limbs forces the fellow to come up with a somewhat complicated escape plan only to realise almost immediately that triple backflips are not his forte and that his demise is looming ever closer …

As a set of human gnashers close over the bun Hot Dog makes a desperate roll, extricating himself from the bread and flying through the air…

Freedom at last or dog’s dinner? Which is it to be?

Totally ridiculous but this will make you splutter with delight – it’s certainly been the case with every one of my readers, along with cries of AGAIN!

With its spare conversational text and hilarious Jarvis illustrations, in addition to being a terrific read aloud, this is a great book to share with those in the early stages of reading, with the adult acting as Hot Dog and the child as his aid to escape.

Dinosaurium

Dinosaurium
Chris Wormell and Lily Murray
Big Picture Press

Dinosaur books seem to be coming thick and fast at the moment. This one is the latest in the ‘Welcome to the Museum’ series that includes Botanicum and Animalium, and, illustrated by Chris Wormell, it’s truly awesome: serious stuff in fact.
Like others in the series, the whole thing is presented as a museum, the author and illustrator being billed as its curators and the chapters, after the ‘Entrance’ that houses an extremely useful dinosaur evolutionary tree, as a series of galleries, six in all with a final index, some information about the book’s curators and a list of further sources should readers want to learn more.
Gallery 1 is Sauropodomorpha. Don’t worry, the meaning of this is explained at the outset. Every spread has a large full-colour plate, which even has a numbered key in addition to the informative paragraphs relating to what is shown in the plate. I should mention here that these are splendid digital engravings, each illustration being in predominantly earthy tones.

The galleries proceed through Theropoda, Ornithopoda, Thyreophora, (these include the well-known to children, Stegosauria and Ankylosauria);

then on to Marginocephalia and to the final ‘Non-Dinosaurs’, which includes petrosaurs, marine repliles, Mesozoic mammals and lastly, survivors; (those that escaped the catastrophe that wiped out the ‘non-bird dinosaurs’).
Going back to Maginocephalia, take a look at this stunning plate of Diabloceratops eatoni (yes the full scientific name is given).

This creature from the late cretaceous era is thought to have been a primitive ancestor of Triceratops and would, so we’re told, have used its beaked mouth to feed on low-growing plants in areas covered by lakes, floodplains and rivers.
In addition to the amazing exhibits of the galleries, each gallery is prefaced with a beautiful botanical plate featuring an original wood-cut of typical plants from the age of the dinosaurs featured.
A short review doesn’t really do justice to this outstanding book: it’s perhaps not, despite the ‘Admit All’ on the front cover ticket, for the very youngest dinosaur discoverers; although once any child has been inside, it’s likely to be a place that they’ll want to return to over and over, gradually taking in more of Lily Murray’s detailed text,  from each visit, perhaps early on, sharing their ticket with an adult who, I’m sure, will be more than willing to act as a guide.