Wilderness: Earth’s Amazing Habitats

Wilderness: Earth’s Amazing Habitats
Mia Cassany and Marcos Navarro
Prestel Publishing

This large size book showcases earth’s wildernesses that are the ‘habitats of rare animals and plants’.

Readers are taken to sixteen locations around the world, the planet’s wild regions such as Nioko-Koba National Park in Senegal; Kahuzi-Biéga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the Qinling Mountains of China; the Sundarban islands (an Indian national park).

There are forest regions – that of Skihote-Alin National Park in far eastern Russia being a mix of subtropical and taiga and hence contains a mix of animal species not normally found together; the tropical rainforests of Malaysia where it’s estimated that some species are more than 100 million years old – awesome! See how stunning some of its butterfly and moth species are …

The unique Madagascan tropical rainforests wherein live almost 300 species of frogs and huge numbers of geckos, are sadly we read, under enormous threat from human actions.

Happily however, the Sri Lankan Sinharaja Forest Reserve is unspoilt since it’s almost impenetrable to humans and contains numerous rare and endangered animal species including the long-nosed whip snake and the purple-faced langur.

In addition to several other rainforest locations, we visit Tortuguero National Park on the Costa Rican coast that is a mix of beach, freshwater creeks and lagoons and surrounding rainforest. In complete contrast is the boreal (taiga) forest wilderness of north Canada, Alaska and Russia and is the most northerly of the world’s nature reserves.

Each of the landscapes is stunningly illustrated by Marcos Navarro, making each spread a visual delight before one even starts to explore closely, the fauna and flora depicted; or to read Mia Cassany’s informative paragraph(s) giving geographical and biological facts on the native species.

The final pages home in on some of animals, drawing attention to their characteristics and habits in brief paragraphs of text alongside small, labelled pictures of the featured habitats.

The book’s large format serves to draw readers in to each stopping place, making one want to linger long and explore the beauty of every spread.

Horses: Wild & Tame / Home Sweet Home

Horses: Wild & Tame
Iris Volant and Jarom Vogel
Flying Eye Books

My experience of and with horses is decidedly limited, or so I’ve always thought. Certainly my only riding experience was when  aged about twelve, I had gone to find my best friend who lived round the corner in a suburban road like mine. She wasn’t in but suddenly appeared round the corner on horseback. She dismounted and insisted I took her place. Now, never having ridden before I was reluctant but let her persuade me with ‘It’ll be fine, he only goes slowly.’ Next thing I knew the creature had taken off and was, so it felt, bolting up the road while I slid ungracefully down its back and off into the road, landing on my rear.
Having read the Horse Character page in this book however, I can look back and consider the character of that creature: was it a cold blood, a hot blood or a warmblood?

From Volant’s description it certainly wasn’t the first, and was most likely the last ‘strong and agile … perfect for riding’, despite thinking the best fit was ‘hotbloods … bold, spirited character’.
Flicking randomly through, I came across other spreads that particularly resonated. There’s one featuring Black Beauty, Anna Sewell’s classic novel; a book I loved as a voracious child reader. That story, as we’re reminded here, ‘encouraged people to be kinder towards horses, leading to many new laws in England and America’ concerned with the protection of horses.
However, it was the Royal Steed spread that came as an exciting surprise. It tells how in 1576 during the Battle of Haldighati, Rajput warriors made false trunks for their horses to wear, thus confusing the elephants ridden by their Mughal enemies so that they wouldn’t attack what looked to them like baby elephants. We also hear how Chetak, the badly injured horse belonging to the Rajput ruler carried his master to safety.

I’ve visited Haldighati on more than one occasion on trips to India and during my annual holidays in Udaipur am frequently reminded of the creature by an imposing statue of that particular horse in the centre of a roundabout in Udaipur city, aptly named Chetak Circle.
Author, Iris Volant, goes way back further than that though, right to horse evolution. Indeed there’s probably something for everyone in this fascinating book that has artistic references, literary ones, horses in legend, war horses, work horses, horses in sport and more. How fortunate that its illustrator, Jarom Vogel, decided to become an artist rather than pursuing his studies as a dentist; he’s certainly done these beasts proud.

Home Sweet Home
Mia Cassany and Paula Blumen
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Both author and illustrator of this book come from one of my favourite cities, Barcelona. We’re given a look at different homes from around the world from the viewpoint of the pets, mostly dogs and cats, with the occasional bird and even a tortoise, that live in them.
Readers can discover what it’s like to live in say, a waterside house in a Netherlands village;

a tiny apartment in Hong Kong, China; a cabin with a roof of grass in Iceland or a townhouse by the Thames in London.

Cleverly conceived with the animal narrators, in addition to what we’re told in the text, there’s a great deal of visual information about each of the homes and lifestyles packed into every one of the locations we visit. Every one is made to look exciting:

where would you choose to live?
A stylish and fascinating addition to a primary classroom library or topic box.