The Secret Life of Birds

The Secret Life of Birds
Moira Butterfield and Vivian Mineker
Happy Yak

Following The Secret Life of Trees and The Secret Life of Bees, the same author and illustrator bring us a book on the world of birds. Readers are in the hands or rather wings, of Speedy the swift, that acts as guide and narrator on this varied glimpse into the world of our feathered friends.

Did you know – well so Speedy says – swift chicks do press-ups on their wingtips to make themselves stronger. This is just one of the cool facts Moira includes herein, along with some stories and Vivian Mineker’s splendid illustrations that really help bring both information and folk tales to life. One of the latter comes from India and is called How the Peacock got his Colours. We read how one peacock, full of self-importance despite his plain, dull feathers was tricked into paying a visit to the sky goddess and in so doing acquired not only his stunning tail plumage, but also some kindness and humility.

There’s information relating to avian anatomy, growth and development, feathers and their functions, survival, a close up on beaks;

we meet some nocturnal hunters, find out about bird calls and bird song, visit a variety of nests – swifts return to the same one each year repairing it if necessary, look at the stages in the development of a chick from egg to fledgling, there’s a spread on journeys on the wing, are introduced to some record breakers and discover sadly, that all over the world there are endangered birds and finally are some tips on how to help the birds that live close to our homes.

There’s something for everybody here; it’s a good introduction to the topic and a book to add to family shelves and primary classroom collections.

Sing Like a Whale

Sing Like a Whale
Moira Butterfield and Gwen Millward
Welbeck Publishing

Previously Moira Butterfield invited youngsters to lessons that would help them Dance Like a Flamingo. Now in this spirited book their voices are the focus as they take delight in joining in with this exploration of the variety of sounds made by creatures large and small.

First to perform its song is the male humpback whale as he swims through the ocean with a long low Hoooooooo Hoooooooo.

Back on land we meet shaggy maned father lion ready and waiting to make his loudest Roar! Roar! – the ideal sound for little ones to stand proud and tall ready to give vent to their feelings.

Next to use its vocal organ is an owl Hoot, hoot! it goes as it perches on a branch. Make sure youngsters are ready to emulate its turning head movements as well as its hooting before spreading their wings and gliding off.

Also enjoying a moonlit singing session are a pack of wolves, each one A-woooooooo-ing and waiting for little humans to creep, sit and create an echoing A-woo! A-woo!

A further eight creatures, some feathered, others furry and one scaly are all eager to give renditions and encourage children to copy them

and then it’s the turn to the children to issue an invitation to “Sing with me!”

Whether you share this book with one, several or an entire foundation stage class prepare yourself for a very noisy and thoroughly enjoyable story/movement session. Make sure you allow time to let your audience see Gwen Millward’s humorous illustrations of the various animals, and the animated child mimickers clearly enjoying themselves.

Let’s Go For a Walk / Look What I Found at the Seaside

Let’s Go For a Walk
Ranger Hamza and Kate Kronreif
Ivy Kids

In the company of Ranger Hamza, any walk will be an experience that engages all the senses. No matter where or when you go there’s sure to be a wealth of interesting sights, sounds, smells and exciting tactile things to feel with our hands. Best to do as Ranger Hamza advises though and take a copy of this book along, then suitably attired and with eyes and ears open, everyone is ready to sally forth.

The first focus is colour and youngsters are encouraged to spot red things and of course, what is found will depend on the season and to some extent the surroundings.
Then what about trying to spy things tall, wide or small; or feeling various things like these walkers are doing on the sea shore.

Not all smells are to be savoured; we all enjoy different ones. I for instance would not want to be in close proximity of fresh fish or chimney smoke but would love to inhale the aroma of lavender or baking bread. The important thing is to do as the ranger suggests and ‘use our noses’.

Each double spread has a new focus: there are shapes, minibeasts, sounds,

letters and numbers, pairs of objects, different materials that things are made of. The dark makes everything look different, shadowy perhaps, or you might spot some nocturnal creatures or star patterns if you walk at night.
To see other things up high though, it’s better to walk in the daytime when the clouds sometimes look amazing; while focussing on the ground can be equally rewarding with plants popping up in unexpected places and all kinds of patterns created either by humans or by nature.

With wildlife photographer and CBeebies Ranger Manza as guide and Kate Kronreif as illustrator, this guided book walk is sure to make youngsters want to undertake the real thing. Nature and being able to get outdoors are what have kept so many of us – young and not so young – sane over the past year and now I’m pretty sure that henceforward, none of us will take these things for granted. Are you ready, ‘Let’s Go For a Walk’ …

Look What I Found at the Seaside
Moira Butterfield and Jesús Verona
Nosy Crow

There are wonders aplenty waiting to be found if you take a stroll on the seashore with the characters in this smashing book (a companion to Look What I Found in the Woods), also published in collaboration with the National Trust).

Every spread is packed with exciting things to discover, the first being the wealth of different shaped seashells, be they curly and shining bright ‘like a pearl’,

long and curly, opening like a pair of wings or perhaps a purse.

The rock pools too are full of exciting patterned pebbles, fish and other small sea creatures; among the seaweed too are more treasures and sometimes foraging seagulls. Watch out for crabs scuttling among the fronds or peeping out of shells.

It’s interesting to imagine what a mermaid might keep in one of those mermaid’s purses close to the cave mouth …

There’s much more too if you follow the cliff path; maybe some fossils, butterflies, bees and seaside flowers; and if you are quiet you just might come upon some wonderful sea birds tucked away among the rocks.

Yes, the seaside is a veritable treasure trove but it’s important to collect thoughtfully, doing no harm and leaving nothing but your footprints behind.

Told through a gentle rhyming narrative and also bursting with fascinating facts, and illustrated with alluring scenes of the children investigating the natural world, this will surely get youngsters enthused to get out and explore nature.

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees
Moira Butterfield and Vivian Mineker
Words & Pictures

In this large format book you can learn all about the life of the domesticated honey bee and much more. The bee’s life cycle, anatomy,

life in a hive including the tasks undertaken by workers – cleaning, care of the bee nursery, making honey and wax, guard duty and finally, foraging for nectar and pollen outside; plus facts and figures about other species at home and abroad, honey thieves,

pollination, what bee keepers do and how to create a bee-friendly environment are all explained by our narrator worker guide, Buzzwing the honeybee.

There are also five bee tales from various parts of the world including Greece, India and Australia.

Vivian Mincer’s enticingly colourful, gently humorous child-friendly illustrations with Buzzwing’s invitation to spot various creatures hiding within many of the scenes, are likely to be pored over at length by young readers. Author, Moira Butterfield even invites budding poets to write their own bee poetry as did the character in the Indian tale she retells. Indeed, there are activities relating to each of the tales included.

The health of our natural ecosystems is intrinsically linked to the health of our bees (and other pollinators) but their numbers are in decline. Let’s hope this fascinating book will enthuse youngsters to do whatever they can to halt this potential catastrophe.

Altogether a super introduction to the world of bees.

Look What I Found in the Woods

Look What I Found in the Woods
Moira Butterfield and Jesús Verona
Nosy Crow

‘Follow me. I know the way. / We’re walking in the woods today.’ So says the child narrator of this book.
The woods are my favourite place to walk and during the pandemic I’ve spent a lot of time so doing in woodlands close to my home, always returning home feeling considerably uplifted. Consequently I was more than happy to take up the invitation to participate in this woodland foray with the three child adventurers shown on the first spread.

Readers are immediately engaged by means of an insert in the bottom right-hand corner that asks us to find one signpost, two butterflies and three bright yellow flowers.
The second spread shows the children making observations while the text provides facts about the trees and a sidebar showing labelled tree shapes.

The subsequent spreads alternate between these two styles of layout

as readers learn about leaves, bark,

fruits and seeds, fir cones and shells while the children continue their exploration discovering exciting ‘treasure’ throughout their walk; treasure that they present on the final spread once back indoors.

This highly engaging nature book published in collaboration with the National Trust, successfully mixes story, non-fiction and search-and-find. Jesús Verona’s illustrations are an absolute delight. Each one offers an immersive scene to linger over and wonder at the fine detail included; and the final endpaper shows the children’s creative efforts with some of their findings.

The Secret Life of Trees

The Secret Life of Trees
Moira Butterfield and Vivian Mineker
Words & Pictures

Oakheart the Brave, oldest tree in the forest wherein it stands, acts as narrator of this revealing look at what happens beneath the bark and ‘neath the branches, below the roots even, of trees –arguably THE most important life form on our planet. Some of what we read contains truth in the form of fiction, some is fact.

To begin this fascinating book, Oakheart tells of how a marauding mouse seizes the acorn containing the very seed from which emerges the little shoot that is to become our enormous narrator.

He goes on to regale readers with arboreal tales including a version of an Indian one, The Banyan Tree, as well as The Sky-High Tree from Hungary

and some season-related stories: from Scotland comes The Fairy Tree, from Norway, The Summer Storm and with its autumnal setting we have The Tree of Life from Persia, while the final tree tale Magic in the Forest comes from Britain and is a legend about the wizard , Merlin.

There’s plenty of science too, relating to photosynthesis;

facts and figures about the oak’s growth; information about its animal inhabitants – small and very small; how trees communicate; seasonal change is discussed and much more, concluding with the all-important How to be Tree-Happy that explains briefly how to care for our precious trees and how you might grow one yourself.

Moira’s mix of information and story works wonderfully so the book should have a wide appeal; every spread offers an exciting visual experience too. I love the different viewpoints and clever ways of presenting information such as that of Secrets Inside Us.

Thank you Oakheart for your special gift.

The Journey / Sounds of the Wild

Here are two books from Little Tiger featuring amazing wildlife from different parts of the world

The Journey
Jonny Marx and Hanako Clulow

Nature’s greatest journey begins on the parched Serengeti plains and follows the herd of zebras as they make the arduous, annual migration across the dusty, sandy terrain. It’s a long trek, battered sometimes by wind, before they reach the waterhole where they stop to quench their thirst.

The zebras are not the only animals to undertake the journey; there are elephants, boars, birds and giraffes too, all bound for the watering place eager to drink their fill.

Ahead though, lie green pastures and that is where these animals are heading. but first there’s a swim ahead across crocodile infested waters.

Once safely on dry land again the verdant grasslands stretch as far as the eye can see and then down comes the rain – in huge torrents. Ahhhh!

There (so the author’s note on the title spread tells us) they remain for two months feasting on the abundant grass before it’s time to make that long, long journey back once again.

After his rhyming narrative that really conjures up the landscape of the journey, Jonny provides more information about plains zebras. I was amazed to learn that each zebra’s striped pattern is unique and that a zebra’s kick is so strong it can kill a lion. Hanaka Clulow’s illustrations too capture the sandy plains and the animal inhabitants, and have an almost photographic quality.

Sounds of the Wild
Moira Butterfield and Stephanie Fizer Coleman

Immerse yourself in the pages of this book and you can visit nine island locations where you can see and listen to a variety of their animal inhabitants.

Each double spread introduces a different habitat and its wildlife be that a jungle in Madagascar with ring-tailed lemurs, its predator if it catches one, the fossa, tomato frogs and stunningly coloured birds. By pushing the ‘Press Here’ button readers can hear the lemur’s call.

You can also hear an elephant seal (South Georgia Island),

a bellbird (Isla Escudoo de Veraguas), sooty terns (Ascension Island), a Komodo dragon (Flores), polar bears on Svalbard, a humpback whale (around the Azores), marine iguanas,(Galapagos)

and a tiger (Sumatra).

After the eco-system island tour, there’s a world map showing each habitat’s location., an index and finally, an ‘animals under threat’ page mentioning the endandered status and threats to six of the animals whose sounds were heard. Warning cries indeed.

Each spread is beautifully and brightly illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman and Moira Butterflied provides short factual paragraphs on each of the animals shown. Those who love wild animals will enjoy this and doubtless wear out the battery, leaving the animals voiceless until it’s replaced.

Dance Like a Flamingo

Dance Like a Flamingo
Moira Butterfield and Claudia Boldt
Welbeck Publishing

Little ones can receive a dozen dance lessons courtesy of the host of willing animal teachers in this lively picture book.

Whether they prefer to fly circle-wise, wiggle waggle their bottoms, point and fly like the bees, as they show fellow bees the way to their flower findings;

strut proudly as the peacock shows; or emulate the show-off crab, flexing claws and scuttling sideways in both directions, the instructions are here.

On the other hand (or tentacles) perhaps something a little more gentle in parts like the jellyfish offers, with floaty arm movements and slow, calm drifting might suit the mood: it does get faster though at the end.

I suspect the baby elephant dance will go down well – in more ways than one: make sure you have plenty of space and a soft landing if you do this with a nursery class.

Then after all the fun learning I’d suggest handing the finale over
to the group and letting them choose their moves, as the example on the final spread shows in the celebratory ‘wonderful world’ extravaganza.

With its step-by-step actions and Claudia Boldt’s gorgeous, funky illustrations, this book is terrific fun whether you choose to use it in an education setting or at home: an absolute joy from cover to cover.

I am a Bird / Colours of the World: Green Planet

Here are two recent books about the natural world from the Little Tiger Group

I am a Bird
Isabel Otter and Fernando Martin

Through a text narrated for the most part by an eponymous bird and illustrated throughout in a vibrant colour palette, readers share in the world of birds, large and small from various parts of the globe.

We discover some intricately built nests;

find out why birds sing, what they eat and how they obtain their food. We learn why migration happens and read something about the process with reference to specific birds as well as discovering that not all birds including kiwis, kakapos and penguins are unable to fly.

There’s a spread about birds that live near water; one about the ostrich – the world’s largest bird and another about the bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world.

The text is written in a chatty, highly readable manner and is accompanied by stylised, simplified yet totally recognisable images of the avians featured.

Colours of the World: Green Planet
Moira Butterfield and Jonathan Woodward

This is a companion volume to Blue Planet and is subtitled ‘Life in our Woods and Forests’.

Having shown on a world map the forested areas and explained briefly the different kinds of forests, (did you know that forests are home to more than 50 % of the world’s plants and animals?) the book goes on to explain the anatomy of trees and to discuss their importance.

Double-page spreads discuss Extreme Trees – the widest, tallest, oldest, fastest growing and smallest; how trees obtain nutrition from their leaves as well as how they provide food and hiding places for certain animals.

Much of the rest of the book then focuses on the kinds of forests starting with boreal forests with their moose, eagles, cats, wolves, hares, minibeasts and of course, bears.

We then move to the hot steamy rainforests and in particular, Amazonia with its wealth of incredible fauna both large and small.

Third are the temperate forests where the trees lose their leaves in autumn and grow new ones in the spring. These places are home to deer, mice, squirrels, foxes, woodpeckers and hunters such as pine martens and owls.

The final pages look at forests as sources of materials for human homes; as well as some of the uses of wood and a brief mention of sustainability.

With Jonathan Woodward’s visually appealing graphics and Moira Butterfield’s succinct paragraphs, this book like Blue Planet offers a good, highly readable introduction to a vital aspect of our planet. It’s one to add to classroom libraries and family book collections.

Colours of the World: Blue Planet / Sounds of the Skies

Colours of the World: Blue Planet
Moira Butterfield and Jonathan Woodward
Little Tiger

Author Moira Butterfield provides both an introductory look at the water cycle and then an exploration that takes young readers to a variety of watery environments, both fresh and salty, to look at some of the life forms therein.

We visit the planet’s five oceans and the marine biomes where can be found such creatures as great white sharks, blue whales, pygmy seahorses and ocean sunfish; and deeper down among the corals we view clownfish, lobsters and eels as well as scary-looking anglerfish and viperfish,

whilst much nearer the shore whelks, mussels and hermit crabs lurk among the various seaweeds.

Next comes a look at various water-craft from container ships to rescue boats. That and a later spread on different kinds of aquatic homes including houseboats in Kerala and houses built on stilts by the Bajau people of Malaysia; and another showing a reservoir, a water-treatment plant and a communal well recognise human usage of this precious ‘sparkling treasure’.

In between we visit rivers, including the world’s four biggest,

and then half a dozen lakes, surprisingly two of those included are in the UK.

Throughout the text, in simple language is presented in single or two-sentence blocks around which are Jonathan Woodward’s mostly close-up, collage style illustrations, appropriately patterned and textured.

This book would make a useful addition to a primary topic box with a watery theme or as an introduction to a class water topic.

From the same team comes:

Sounds of the Skies
Moira Butterfield and Jonathan Woodward
Little Tiger

32 amazing creatures from nine different locations around the world are presented in this book as well as 13 birds, the calls of 9 of which readers can hear at the press of a button on each double spread vibrantly illustrated by Jonathan Woodward.

From the Amazon rainforest comes the noisy call of a fast flying scarlet macaw, while in the eucalyptus forest of eastern Australia, sounding similar to a human laugh, comes the kookaburra’s call.

For each bird soloist, Moira Butterfield has written a short verse.
Here’s the one for the Chinese nightingale in the Black Mountains of Bhutan:
A Chinese nightingale / sings for his love, / and sweet notes / float up / between the trees. / Up and up into the sky.’ In addition there’s a short paragraph giving information about each of the animals featured.

Other locations include British Columbia where bobcats and bald eagles roam; the Sonoran Desert of North America where the Gila woodpecker that makes a drumming sound in the sizzling environment it shares with such creatures as coyotes and rattlesnakes.

The last stop is Serengeti in Tanzania where among the lions, zebras, giraffes and gazelles can be heard the booming sounds of ostriches.

There’s a final map of the world showing each of the locations, a list of the birds and other animals mentioned; and inside the back cover we discover which of the birds featured are under threat in our changing world.

A Trip to the Future

A Trip to the Future
Moira Butterfield and Fagostudio
Templar Publishing

The future is coming no matter what we do, and most of us are presently looking forward to the near future when things get closer to normal. But what role will science and technology play in tomorrow’s world?

Author Moira Butterfield takes readers on a virtual sci-fi odyssey to look at some of the future possibilities, as well as showing us some of the incredible things scientists and technologists have already achieved.

We start in the home – a smart home of course – where voice command technology will be pretty commonplace.

Each spread thereafter moves further afield and the next stop is the catwalk for a look at Powered Dressing. Imagine being able to charge your mobile with your trousers.

On a more serious note, the prospect of biodegradeable clothing is surely to be welcomed.

So too are the possibilities offered at this recycling centre

where bacteria-munching technology could be used to help break down much of what we presently call rubbish.

In spite of being vegetarian – vegan almost – I don’t think the notion of eating a meal made wholly from algae really appeals and a pondweed burger on an edible plate sounds gross!

A holiday of any kind away from home feels like a dream right now but did you know that already there are plans afoot for a space station hotel that will orbit Earth. I don’t think I’ll be reserving my ticket no matter how awesome the views might be.

And as for holidaying on Mars, I’m not an enthusiastic stargazer so I think I’d give that one a miss too, no matter how successful scientists might be at ‘terraforming’ the red planet.

I do find the notion of a space garden fascinating though. On the Space Garden spread I was interested to learn that already researchers from the University of London have altered the DNA of a lettuce to produce a drug that can treat bone weakening.
The book ends with a look at ethical considerations and the author puts forward 4 ‘future science rules’ for readers’ consideration.

Every one of the 27 Fagostudio designed spreads has its own allure, though it depends on a readers’ predilections which ones they find truly immersive, but the entire book is certainly fascinating, particularly for those with a scientific or technological bent.

Welcome to Our World

Welcome to Our World
Moira Butterfield and Harriet Lynas
Nosy Crow

To open this book is to get lost in a world of children, children from 97 different countries and when you finally emerge having spent a considerable time immersed in its riches, you’ll be a whole lot wiser and probably happier too. I certainly was!

Covering such topics – I love the choice of headings – as greetings, homes, food, drinks, transport, animals, family names, school uniforms & classrooms, clothes, play – games …

and toys, musical instruments, as well as specific words for ‘happy’, ‘hooray’ …

and sneezing, customs (relating on one page, to losing a tooth), this book truly celebrates children, human diversity, language and world cultures

I was amused to learn that both in Brazil and Hungary children celebrating birthdays get their earlobes pulled. Ow! In Brazil it’s one pull for every year of the person’s life. Ow, ow, ow! … and in Hungary it’s customary to say ‘May your earlobes grow to your ankles’, in other words, ‘May you have a long life.’

Equally I was fascinated to find out about the different sounds animals make according to where they’re found: apparently in Germany, rather than buzzing, bees go ‘sum sum’, whereas in South Korea, it’s ‘wing wing’, ‘bun bun’ in Japan and ‘zoum zoum’ in Greece.

You too might laugh out loud at some of the sayings from various parts of the world: ‘Stop ironing my head’ means ‘Stop annoying me’ in Armenian and ‘There is no cow on the ice’ said in Swedish means ‘There’s no need to worry.’

The absorbing text by Moira Butterfield, in combination with Harriet Lynas’s captivating illustrations, make for a read that is both joyous and informative.